Super Bowl Ads: Receptions and Incomplete Passes
I'm a Cleveland Browns fan. That means I watch The Super Bowl for The Commercials. I've had a lifelong love affair with advertising, and I look at ads differently than others. Was it memorable? Was I entertained? Did I receive information about the product that was useful? Yeah, I know, pretty boring to most, but, again, I'm a Browns' fan -- I have a high tolerance for “boring.” Were 2019's ads during the Patriots/Rams snoozer pitch-passes or Hail Mary's? Was there a "Cat Herders" to be remembered 19 years later, or did most circle the drain in a slow, agonizing death that fell on deaf ears? As a rule, even in the age of analytics, consumers not in a company's demographic or target audience won't be attracted to some ads. Exceptions to this rule -- the brilliantly creative, cognitively engaging and funny ads. These spots tend to stand out for everyone. For instance, Electronic Data Systems' entry from Y2K entitled "Cat Herders" has been embedded in my mind. Eye-catching imagery and an absurd premise makes this spot memorable. I don't reminisce about this ad because I was in their demographic, or I was in the market for whatever that company provided, but because I like cats; and cowboys herding throngs of felines is funny — it sticks with me. Full disclosure, I did have to look up the company and what they were selling -- but I remembered the commercial. Mountain Dew Kickstart had the highly memorable and awkward "I can't stop watching" entry during 2016's NFL finale with "Puppymonkeybaby." The CGI stylized mashup of a (you guessed it) puppy, monkey and baby that mesmerized, hypnotized and garnered the attention of consumers well beyond Kickstart's teen-aged and 20-39 year old male demographic. Did I buy the product? No, but I’ve never forgotten the ad. Another blast from the advertising past that has stuck with me was the 1998 FedEx offering "We Apologize." This was a test pattern with a crawl about someone at the agency not sending their spot via FedEx. It wasn’t delivered in time and now the agency is fired. Don't get fired, use FedEx "when it absolutely positively has to be there overnight." Why do I remember this one? Because in 1998 I worked for an advertising agency in Toledo, Ohio. My job was to send the commercials to the television stations using FedEx. Did the 2019 ads have an EDS or FedEx that "spoke" to me? Yes, but it was more of a whisper. There was a cringe-worthy Kickstart moment. But, while there were cute commercials I have my doubts that any were truly "spot" on. Most of them I couldn't remember this morning without visiting spotbowl.com so I question if they will still be in my head next year when the Big Game rolls around, let alone decades later. My receptions were M&Ms, Stella Artois and Bubly. All three spots had celebrities that I recognized and are products that I have consumed, or am likely to consume given my age, income and other variables. Also driving toward the end zone? Bon & Viv Spiked Seltzer's "The Pitch," Michelob Ultra’s "Robots," and Olay’s "Killer Skin," -- which must work because I didn't even recognize Sarah Michelle Geller. The incomplete passes for me? Ads with rappers, boy bands, forced "brand" spots that felt less than authentic, commercials that require reading and those highlighting their product’s own fails. Offerings from the tech industry made it to the end zone in my play book. In the touchy-feely category, the clear winner for me, was Verizon. “Answering the Call” and “First Responders” were both heartwarming, near tear-inducing and a reminder that Verizon's phone service is the most reliable in the industry. Then there was Mint Mobile, with "That's Not Right," in the PuppyMonkeyBaby vein, with their cute fox "spokestoon" and gag-reflex inducing chunky-style milk. I think this one has legs. Ads that run during many sporting events cost a fortune for airtime alone. Production budgets in addition to the cost to send it over the air waves must be considered. Bean counters aren’t happy spending millions of dollars to run a commercial once, that may or may not further the brand, spike sales, or move at least one of the many needles they watch in some way. EDS received the most bang for their buck in longevity but lacked name recognition/recall. To be considered a success each thirty-second investment must blend creative, cognitive and entertaining content with cost-effective production that drives results. Ads that don't reach that threshold are at best an incomplete pass and at worst a pick six, and only time will tell which ads scored and which ones didn’t.
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