Most of the commercials that I saw during the Super Bowl fell into what I’d call the “meh” category. They weren’t terrible, but they didn’t blow my socks off either. But there are a few that I’ve got squarely in the “bad” and “ugly” categories for you, and based on some of the YouTube comments, they may surprise you.

Let’s take a look at what these spots are, and what we can learn from them.

Verizon | The Coach Who Wouldn’t Be Here

I’ve got this one first, because I know it’s going to be a controversial pick for the “bad” list – but I’ll explain. It’s a GREAT ad. It pulls on the heart strings, and I love the message. Who doesn’t love the idea of thanking our first responders, especially in a way that is so personal? It’s got storytelling and heart – it’s a really great commercial.

So how can it be on the bad list?

After it aired, one of my friends pointed out that for all of Verizon’s good feeling and kudos in their ads, their real world actions with first responders leave a bit more to be desired. During the massive Mendocino fire in Northern California, Verizon slowed their internet access to a crawl, access that firefighters were using to coordinate their response to the fire. The response to firefighters begging them to work with them was for an accounts manager to suggest they get an upgrade. They ultimately resolved the issue, but only after requiring the firefighters to upgrade to a more expensive plan.

So how does this make the ad bad? Well, when a company doesn’t live their values, and yet promotes them through their branding, there’s a huge disconnect there. You can be as touchy feely as you want, but when a client’s experience with you doesn’t match up with what you’re saying, they immediately lose trust in you.

What are the lessons for lawyers and law firms?

  • Always match your words with your actions. If you say you’re the type of firm or lawyer who always gets back to his/her clients within 24 hours, then you have to do that. If you say that you’re innovative, but you’re only offering discounted fees, then there’s a disconnect. It’s okay NOT to be all things to all people, but you should know who you are as a firm and as a lawyer, and ensure your actions match what you say you’ll do.
  • Empower everyone in your firm. Verizon ultimately solved this slowdown issue, though critical time was lost, and said that it was a “customer support mistake.” To me, that clearly says that their customer support wasn’t empowered to take action to ensure that Verizon’s supposed company values of supporting crisis situations were honored. It doesn’t have to be a crisis situation for you to know that every member of your firm, from your receptionist through your managing partner, is empowered to help get your clients to the person and/or answers that they need. Make sure that each person is encouraged to think for themselves, to know who to go to for answers and assistance when needed, and that each person is responsible for ultimate client happiness and satisfaction, regardless of their role.

WeatherTech | Scout

I really wanted to like this commercial, but it had a couple of red flags for me. First, it’s a huge pet peeve of mine when companies diversify into products that don’t seem to make sense. WeatherTech is well-known for their car products, and now suddenly they’re making dog bowls? There’s no connection for me.

Secondly, I suppose they needed to try to draw the connection between the two by starting with the dog and factory worker together. But wouldn’t the commercial have been funnier and more clever had the dogs and cats just been alone in their own factory/office space? That’s the type of Super Bowl commercial I’m here for. Minor point, but it bugged me a bit that they tried to edge over into something humorous, but didn’t take it quite far enough.

What are the lessons for lawyers and law firms?

  • Know your market and stick with it. These days, more and more firms are focusing on niche practice areas (unless they’re monolithic firms), and finding a great deal of success. Serving your clients is about knowing them inside and out, and supplying them with the services they need – in a strategic and laser-focused way. Throwing in a random practice area or industry group, or even a new innovation tool, doesn’t make much sense unless it is done because it is essential to serving your clients. Do I think there’s crossover between people who have floor liners in their cars and people who have dogs? Sure. Do I think it’s a smart move for WeatherTech to try to break into the pet market? Not necessarily (it may be strategic on their part, but this ad doesn’t bear that out).

Mint Mobile | Chunky Style Milk? That’s Not Right

Uh, it’s NOT right. And either is this ad.

I was so focused on how disgusting chunky style milk is (I can barely type that), that I can’t even think about what the ad is really selling.

Also, are they really trying to tell us that their product is cheap in a way that’s as “not right” as chunky-style milk? Isn’t that a bad thing?

Can lawyers and law firms learn something from this? Of course.

  • Think your analogies all the way through. When you’re comparing yourself to something, make sure it’s a positive comparison, so that when people are reminded of you, it’s favorably. Thinking of chunky style milk doesn’t make me want to buy mint mobile, no matter how cheap or good they are. That’s a branding issue, of course, but still one worth considering.
  • Along those lines, be careful who you align yourself with. We all partner with vendors, suppliers, organizations, and people, for various reasons and projects. For the most part, we also do a lot of due diligence before signing our names to anything. And that’s always a good idea, because we never know when something that seems like a good idea, that will be beneficial to both sides, may come back to bite us. Just a general caution to remind you that we’re all the sum of the people that we spend the most time with, and that applies just as much to business and our firms as it does in our personal lives.

I’ve got some honorable mentions in the “bad” category too:

  • Bon & Viv | Spiked Seltzer: So yes, they were embodying the brand logo and discussing the beverage. But what WAS this ad? I wasn’t sure if it was a partial Finding Nemo crossover, or some sort of siren call analogy, but it felt like a weird mess from start to finish.
  • Pringles | Sad Device: I felt this ad could have gotten its message across without the “sad device.” They were trying to fame jack the Alexas and Google Homes of the world, but ended up coming off as a bit desperate and missing the mark. They should have focused more on what might make people want to try the flavor combos of various Pringles.

What were some other ads that made your “bad” list and what are your takeaways? Share them in the comments!