Super Bowl Commercials

It’s the post I know you’ve all been waiting for – as ads have gotten milder the last few years, each season, I wonder whether there will be any commercials worthy of the “ugly” moniker. This year, we had three!

Before we dive into the ugly commercials, there is one interesting choice I want to discuss – Skittles’ decision this year to forego a Super Bowl commercial in favor of a one-time only, thirty minute live show in Times Square to 1,500 people, with proceeds going to the nonprofit organization, Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Mars Wrigley also planned to donate up to $50,000.

In an industry where companies are spending obscene amounts of money on (for the most part) lackluster commercials, this is really a standout. I generally don’t like Skittles commercials, I’ll admit. They’re a bit on the weird side (and I’m a bit on the weird side, so that’s saying something). So to instead create buzz around an event starring a celebrity (C. Michael Hall), make it exclusive, donate the proceeds to charity, and in the end, spend less than you would on a Super Bowl commercial, while probably getting more views and interest for it, is really brilliant. Hats off to them. What can lawyers and law firms learn from that?

  • You don’t have to follow the crowd. I know the running joke in the legal industry is that lawyers love to be first to be second, but what if you DIDN’T do what everyone else was doing? A crowded playing field is just that – crowded. What if you found the way to stand out and did it?
  • Be true to your brand. This is definitely unusual for a brand, to have a Broadway-type show instead of a Super Bowl commercial. But Skittles is an unusual brand, so it fits with who they are. Unlike what Verizon did, trying to shore up their image with first responders, Skittles stuck with their brand message. Who are you as a firm? Don’t just say that with your marketing – DO it with your actions. The projects that you engage in, the charities that you supports, the innovations you embrace – let them all reflect who you are as a firm.


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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.


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Most of us can agree that the Super Bowl this year was a bit of a dud. In a similar theme, most of the ads were a bit uninspiring too, though there were some notable exceptions to that. Considering how much money is being invested in these ads, I’m wishing for much more creative, exciting, and inspiring results than we’re getting – even the controversial ones aren’t that controversial.

But despite that, there are some things to discuss (and I don’t mean Tom Brady’s sixth Super Bowl win – but HOW ABOUT THOSE PATRIOTS?).

That’s right, it’s time for my annual review of Super Bowl Commercials.

In my book, there are a couple of clear winners, with lessons for lawyers and law firms, to share with you. You may think I’ve omitted some important spots, but you’ll understand why when we get to those next week. Stay tuned…


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Here we go, folks, it’s the post you’ve all been waiting for. What are the truly ugly commercials from this year’s crop of Super Bowl ads?

Before we dive into this year’s, I wanted to take a look back at some of the ugly commercials from previous years. Which made me realize that we’ve been doing this annual round up for seven years. WOW. Looking back shows me that we really have improved in the “ugly” category. In this year’s group, we have two, where we used to have 5 or more! If you’d like to enjoy a trip down advertising memory lane, here you go:

Some other interesting observations strike me from looking back:

  • It’s been a few years since we’ve seen a Go Daddy Super Bowl commercial. Historically they haven’t been overly well-received, and that’s probably why they’re not investing in the Super Bowl anymore. But they certainly got a lot of name recognition from it. Does that mean the adage “there’s no such thing as bad press” doesn’t hold true here? Have you even thought about Go Daddy recently?
  • Where has Snickers gone? They’re another disappearing brand from the Super Bowl radar. I don’t think Snickers are in any danger of disappearing any time soon, but give some thought to the idea of what might happen if you’re not regularly reaching out to your clients, and especially not reaching out to them in the big moments. Looking back, I realized that Snickers is missing. But otherwise, I wouldn’t have thought about it. Would your clients even notice you were missing if they didn’t hear from you?
  • Historically, I’ve apparently really disliked Coca Cola commercials. But this year, they really came around. That shows that you CAN turn around someone’s opinion on your message, and that messaging is an important factor. Although, interestingly, I had to look back to remember feeling that way about Coca-Cola. So also worth considering is the idea that when your BRAND is incredibly strong (is it?), you can withstand some messaging mishaps. Doritos has also improved, but I was WELL aware that I usually don’t like their commercials when their ad started. I was pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed their commercial so much. It shouldn’t be a surprise to a client to have a good interaction with your messaging, even if they generally like working with you.


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Last week, we took some time to review my top spots from this year’s crop of Super Bowl ads. And now it’s time to take a look at where things got a little…yucky. While we were fortunate to be overwhelmed with good commercials the last two years, there are still a few brands that are missing the mark for one reason or another. And those spots leave us with something to think about. Let’s take a look.

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All right kids, it’s that time again! Whether your team won or lost or you don’t care about sportsball at all, you might have spared a moment or two for the secondary contest of Sunday evening…and I’m not talking about the highly contested puppy bowl (everyone wins there).

That’s right, it’s time for my annual review of Super Bowl Commercials.

As we did last year, we’re seeing a positive upward trend. Brands are spending a lot of money, and they’re doing it wisely for a change, with mostly good, solid commercials. We saw a lot of themes on social justice and togetherness, along with some clever humor. There were a couple of truly ugly spots, including some local ads that only ran in the tri-state area (you’ll have to wait for next week for those!). But overall, it was a solid crop of advertising wins. Pat yourselves on the back for a change, agencies!

One overall trend I saw on a couple of spots that I think we’ll see more of is the overlaying of the brand watermark on the ad. We have been seeing hashtags for the last few years, which I think will continue to be the case, but with so many brands focusing on more social messages, and delivering on stories rather than pushing their product in your face (something I embrace, by the way), we’ll also see more of this brand watermarking so that there’s no mistaking who is delivering the message.

Of course, that makes it a little bit difficult to choose the top spots, but there were a couple of clear winners, with lessons for lawyers and law firms, to share with you here. Let’s relive those.
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We are finally here at the “ugly” of the 2017 Super Bowl commercials – do you already have your list is mind? The first couple were really easy for me to come up with, and the last few were late additions after some extra thought was given to the crop of ads this year.

No need for extreme measures just Switch to Sprint!

https://youtu.be/w_8ms2RzSYk

Sprint, seriously?

The best that you could come up with after spending all of that money on this spot was the idea to fake your own death to get out of your phone contract?

Seriously icky and disturbing.

And while his family watches no less? Really? Just a no, all around.

We get it. You want to give us the message that it’s hard to get out of your phone contract. But is that really the reason you should switch to Sprint? Because it’s so hard to get out of your phone contract that you need to fake your own death? That’s the best you have to offer us?

Huh.
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Now that we’ve seen our lackluster list of “good” Super Bowl commercials for 2017, let’s dive into the ones that I thought weren’t so hot. The majority of spots made it into my “mediocre” category, so it’s harder to choose “bad” and “ugly” ads this year than you might think – but I’ve buckled down and come up with a few for you!

CURE Auto Insurance 2017 Super Bowl Commercial: Don’t Follow Too Closely

https://youtu.be/HrHpVdgynAA

CURE Auto Insurance has never made an ad I’ve liked, and this year is no exception. But I find this one to be especially disturbing. The message in this spot is the idea that you shouldn’t “follow too closely” – they’re an auto insurance company, so they’re banking on a double entendre. They literally mean that you shouldn’t follow people too closely in your cars (though they’ll protect you from people that do, is the brand claim), but the metaphor in the spot is people who “follow” you too closely on social media.

However, the ad comes off as really creepy and stalker-esque. Which real-life following mishaps can cause too. Differently executed, this commercial might have been funny. But instead, it’s a bit traumatizing – for anyone who has ever been harassed online and off, cyber- or in-person stalked, this ad isn’t funny in the least. And they’re an auto insurance company, whose message also gets lost in there somewhere too. Not only is it a big miss on the messaging, it leaves me with a negative feeling about the company, which is really not something you want to achieve with your marketing.
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Gratuitous photo of me with the winningest Super Bowl QB of all time
Gratuitous photo of me with the winningest Super Bowl QB of all time

It’s that time of year again – the time when football fans mourn the end of another season with the pigskin and marketing fans rejoice because the best and brightest (usually) bring out the year’s highlights for strong ad campaigns. Also, guacamole tends to abound, and when is that ever a bad thing?

2017 was a little bit different, and definitely in a bad way. We had a little bit of a warning, because advertising was down – Tim Calkins, Clinical Professor of Marketing at the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University talked about some of the reasons for it in his post “Why Super Bowl Ads Are a Tough Sell in 2017.” And it makes sense. In seven years, ad buys for the Super Bowl have at least doubled in cost (really, NFL?), and that doesn’t take into account that companies now must create an entire social campaign around their 15-60 second spots. Where they used to have to draw only on their creativity for the ad, and perhaps a fully branded campaign around it (depending on the brand), they now have to consider both the social impact and the social engagement that the spots will generate – before, during and after they air.

This year’s crop of spots also saw some big names absent too – no Doritos or Butterfingers meant that we were already lacking some traditionally funny giants right off the bat. The tense political climate of the moment had a lot of people asking whether brands would play it safe, or take risks. In some cases, it had fans misreading the intentions of brands’ ads, because of the context of the environment. Overall, it was a ho-hum crop of spots – both on the good side AND on the ugly side. While I still have a few for you in the “ugly” category for next week, I felt like I was missing both the highs and lows of previous Super Bowl ads.

But without further ado, let’s look at my top five commercials for this year, and what lawyers can learn from these spots.
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What good would looking at commercials from Super Bowl 50 be without looking at the worst of the worst? That’s right, today’s post is all about the UGLY commercials of 2016. And boy, did we have some ugly ones.

While this ad still managed to get some good press and actually (if you can believe it) immediately started trending when it aired during the game, for me, this commercial was the WORST of this year’s crop:

Mountain Dew: Puppy Monkey Baby

https://youtu.be/ql7uY36-LwA

I know, I’m sorry, I have to include it again for you to appreciate why I chose this ad for the ugly list.

So, why is this one so terrible? First of all, it’s creepy. The Huffington Post said:

#PuppyMonkeyBaby quickly became a trending Twitter topic, and most agreed on one thing: there’s a line between cute and horrifying.”

I particularly loved when they said “Mountain Dew? How about Mountain DON’T.”
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