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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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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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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We’ve seen the great commercials from 2016, and we’ve seen the pretty good ones, but now it’s time to get into the fun stuff – the bad commercials from Super Bowl 2016.

There are five strong candidates for “bad” commercials this year, because we had such strong contenders for the “ugly” category – but we’ll get to those next week. I’m sure you can guess what they are. With so many mediocre commercials this year, the biggest issue is that many of the spots were just flat out forgettable. I took notes on every commercials, and for the most part, it was the name of the spot, followed by “eh.” As I said on Monday, if you’re spending Super Bowl-sized money on your advertising spots, you should be spending Super Bowl sized money on the advertising itself – and that means at least evoking *some* reaction from the viewing public.

The following commercials did just that. They weren’t the worst of the worst, but they were fairly terrible. Let’s take a look at each of them, and discuss why they failed.

LG Man from the Future

https://youtu.be/PzLfPx-8OuM

Oh boy, did I want to love this commercial. I mean, it’s Liam Neeson. And, for you eagle-eyed viewers out there, yes, that’s his son appearing with him in the spot.
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On Monday, we discussed what I saw as the “best” of this year’s crop of Super Bowl commercials (which my sister tells me is two words – “Super Bowl”), and although the general consensus seemed to be that most of the commercials this year were mediocre, we did find some to love. A few people even privately asked me why other commercials weren’t included on that list (and they’re included on today’s), so there were more than those eight mentioned that hit as favorites.

Today, we’ll look at the ones that made my “good” list for 2016; surprisingly, there were more on here than I thought. I worked to narrow it down to five, with a few honorable mentions, and I had trouble knocking some off the list. So see what you ultimately think of this list, and whether there are some that you were fond of that I missed altogether.

Audi: Commander

https://youtu.be/yB8tgVqmKzw

Audi does several smart things here – they liken their car to a space ship, touching on many kids’ dreams to fly into space (Hey! You can do that just by driving our car! This former astronaut even thinks so!); and they tug at your heartstrings not once, but twice – first by having the son make his father feel like a young space commander again, at the helm of his space ship, and again by playing a David Bowie favorite, calling to mind the recently lost musician. I’m not even a fan of David Bowie, and this commercial choked me up.
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Picture, if you will, the Staples commercials that aired a few years ago, with the parents sailing through the aisles as they got ready for their kids to go back to school as “It’s the most wonderful time of the year” played jubilantly in the background. For me, that’s what Super Bowl commercials are like.

While football is all right (these days, I’d much prefer to watch the Six Nations, where it seems that the men are men), to me, the Super Bowl is really about the ads. If a company is going to spend up to $5 million for 30 seconds of ad time (yes, you read that right), then they should really be bringing their A game to the ad game.

Unfortunately, I’d have to say that this year overall was a bit of a letdown. While I did have some standouts and so will be able to do a “best of” as well as my “good, bad and ugly,” in general, the commercials were at best, mediocre. And that’s just not okay.

Companies (and firms, this goes for you, too): if you’re going to be investing in a marketing project, invest in it. Don’t spend the money on the advertising dollars, only to go cheap on the ad itself. Some of the ads were misses for me, but at least I could tell that the agencies tried. Most of them felt like an afterthought. And I see more and more of that in legal marketing these days too – we have some brilliant and talented people in our industry, who are, unfortunately, being asked to do more and more and are spread very thin. As a result, there’s less and less creativity being seen because there’s only so much time in the day.

But I’d love to see more from all of us. Bring back the days of thoughtful, smart marketing that gets people excited about what they’re going to see. We don’t need the budgets of these big companies to learn and apply the lessons that their commercials can teach us!

So with that in mind, let’s take a look at my five favorites from this year’s crop of Super Bowl ads – along with a couple of Honorable Mentions:

Prius: The Longest Chase

https://youtube.com/watch?v=MYeM-8hO3hM


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