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Battle of the 2017 Super Bowl Ad Reviewers

Battle of the 2017 Super Bowl Ad Reviewers

Last year The Armchair MBA presciently foreshadowed our country’s potential slide into anarchy – – and we take no pride in noting that we appear to have been right.

Be that as it may, this glass case of emotion that we call the US must go on, and of course the Super Bowl is still the tentpole of our national identity.  So in the spirit of national unity, we herewith put forward our ratings and reviewer compilation of the advertising from this year’s Brady Bowl (or as some might call it from the Falcons’ perspective, the choking chickens Bowl).

super-bowl-montage
And as a perfect reflection of society, there is very little agreement among the dozen major reviewers we looked at.  This year we’ve added a feature of averaging the critics’ scores so you can see how YOU stack up.

At the bottom of this post is a chart comparing major reviewers for all the spots run during last Sunday’s game.
NOTE: ads are grouped by my rankings of green/yellow/pink and are now ranked by the reviewers’ average within those groups.

A few observations (all Super Bowl ads can be found here):

NO ANIMALS THIS YEAR!  Unless you count the dead (Spuds McKenzie), the 2-dimensional (Yellow Tail wine) or the sidelined (Rob Gronkowski).  I miss these furry diversions and was hoping the lack of reliance on a lowest common denominator would indicate lots of great spots.  Alas, twas not to be.
But there were some themes at work…

itsa10

High concept does not necessarily make for great advertising. The Armchair MBA is not a fan of co-opting a high-minded theme just to make a statement- often comes off as stilted or forced.
– Audi, 84 Lumber, Budweiser, AirBnB, and It’s A 10 Haircare (I know – who, right?) all went for the high road by tying into the topical (often sideswiping the President, the Real DJT).
Unfortunately, for this image-driven work to be effective it needs to create a strong link to the brand among a group that might be interested in the product (this is advertising, after all).
– It’s A 10 Haircare is a new brand and while their ad was cheeky and visually interesting, they could have done more to tell us why we should care.
– 84 Lumber is a regional competitor to Home Depot and Lowe’s and ran an emotional immigration spot that, partially due to network censorship, required a visit online to see the conclusion.  The average demo for this vertical is male/50, not necessarily a strong bet for following up online or changing their go-to building supply outlet without a reason. It did generate brand awareness, though.
– Audi made a passionate pitch for gender pay equality (with no apparent reason given for why this is related to Audi), then undermined the message by putting Dad (not Mom) in the hot sports car.

walken-timberlake

You simply cannot go wrong with Christopher Walken. He did it for Kia Motors last year, and this year changed sponsors to team with a deadpan/mute Justin Timberlake for one of the best-received spots – for Bai Antioxidant Drink.

mccarthymalkovich

Actually, celebrities were out in force, probably to the greatest degree ever, and generally to good effect.  In this high-stakes, high-octane environment, celebrities provide one of the only reliable ways to guarantee eyeballs. In addition to Walken:
John Malkovich’s arresting visage gave Squarespace breakthrough
– The Coen Brothers directed a Mercedes-Benz spot featuring Peter Fonda
– Kia traded Walken for Melissa McCarthy (and a few draft picks) for a generally entertaining spot for the new Niro
– A newly nerdly Justin Bieber drew attention for T-Mobile in his own polarizing way
– Other celebrities included Terry Bradshaw (Tide), Cam Newton (Buick), Kristen Schaal (T-Mobile), Lady Gaga (Tiffany), Martha Stewart and Snoop Dogg (T-Mobile), LeBron James (Sprite), Morgan Freeman (Turkish Airlines), Tom Brady, even Bill Nye the Science Guy!  And the list goes on (including a slew of very amusing high school yearbook celebrity photos in a Honda spot).

honda-yearbook

Generally well-accepted spots had breakthrough and were straightforward (usually with some humor)
Honda, Bud, Avocados from Mexico, Skittles, Ford made this list.  Inexplicably so did a Bud Light spot featuring an exhumed Spuds McKenzie.

bieber

There were also some universally unloved spots, mostly due to lack of wit, relevance or originality.
American Petroleum Institute (paaaarrrty!) headed this list, followed closely by the generic twins Fiji Water and LIFEWTR, Yellow Tail Wine, KFC and Michelin.

Finally, our annual check-in with Weather Tech – for this, their 4th effort, they did kick back and have a beer (not while driving) and the result was a looser, more fun spot.  Well done.

This table compares 12 major reviewers, who clearly do not all see things the same.  (did you really expect Vogue to feel the same as the WSJ?) 
Simply click once or twice on the table
 to make it readable.

superbowl2017

Footnotes:
My evaluations are generally based on the Kellogg ADPLAN approachAttention
–Distinction
– Positioning
– Linkage
– Amplification
– Net Equity – – along with some personal gut feel.

Reviewers and links to reviews (if you were involved in any of the reviews and feel I got something wrong, let me know):
Kellogg Graduate School of Business – Northwestern University
Adweek
Ad Age
Bleacher Report
Chicago Tribune
Entertainment Weekly
The Guardian
New Yorker
USA Today
Variety
Vogue
Washington Post
Wall Street Journal

That’s it for this year – – as always, with The Armchair MBA, you get what you pay for!

Plus, I want that new Alfa Romeo.

See you next year!

Battle of the 2016 Super Bowl Ad Reviewers

To take your mind off whatever tsuris you may be feeling about our nation hurtling toward anarchy, for the third year in a row we take you briefly back to Sunday’s state of guacomole-induced stupor, to compare critics’ reviews of the all-important Super Bowl ads.

SuperBowlads2016

Like our politicians, once again it’s clear that the critics can’t agree on much (unless it involves dachshunds dressed up as hot dogs.)

And once again we realize that John Wanamaker was right: 50% of advertising is wasted. Unlike Mr. Wanamaker, in this case we have a pretty good feeling about which 50% may have been involved.

Crouch-Super-Bowl-Ads-2016

At the bottom of this post is a remarkable chart comparing major reviewers (color-coded green/yellow/pink) for all the spots run during Sunday’s game.  It’s pithy!
NOTE: ads are grouped by my rankings of green/yellow/pink but are alphabetically listed within those large groups.

A few observations:

First of all, if Super Bowl 50 was such an amazing success, why were there approximately 260 CBS ads taking up valuable ad space?

Humor seems to be back, and boy do we need it. (Celebrities are back, too)
– unfortunately, sophomoric humor was also in full schwing! (Amy Schumer, I’m talking to you)

kia-walken-superbowl-ad

Generally well-accepted spots had breakthrough, were straightforward, enjoyable, had product as hero – – and you came away knowing what the brand was
Audi’s Commander, Kraft/Heinz Wiener Stampede, Toyota Prius The Longest Chase, Doritos Ultrasound (I was not a fan), Avocados from Mexico Avocados in Space, Bud Light Bud Light Party, Hyundai Genesis First Date, Hyundai Elantra Ryanville, Amazon Echo Baldwin Bowl Party, Advil Distant Memory

Disliked spots featured unappetizing topics or visuals, human ailments, made no detectable point, or were just stupid
AstraZeneca Opioid-Induced Constipation Envy, Squarespace Real Talk, SoFi Great Loans, Great People, Valeant Jublia Best Kept Secret, LG OLEG TV Man from the Future

PinkIntestine

Mtn Dew Kickstart PuppyMonkeyBaby carried the torch of 2014’s Doberhuahua, quite happy to spew the ridiculous in the craven quest for online buzz
– (by the way, it’s Mtn, not Mountain)

TurboTax_SuperBowl50NeveraSelloutEMBARGOEDFebruary7840pmET16

Some highlights:
– Anthony Hopkins’s perfectly executed tongue-in-cheek “I’m not selling out” pitch for TurboTax
Jeep’s spots (finally) taking advantage of its amazing legacy
Kia’s spot called ‘Walken Closet’ starring Christopher Walken. (Did the pun drive the copy?)

Key Peele

Some lowlights:
LG’s infuriatingly pointless waste of Liam Neeson and Ridley Scott’s talents
Squarespace’s infuriatingly pointless waste of Key & Peele’s talents
– Spots that required you to know the context (T-Mobile/Drake, T-Mobile/Steve Harvey, Hyundai Elantra/Ryan Reynolds)

A few spots had obviously high production values but were virtually ignored by reviewers – which makes one wonder if their $5 million+ was well spent:
Intel Experience Amazing, McDonald’s Good Morning, Bai Horse Whisperer, Pokémon 2.0, Wix.com Kung Fu Panda, Advil Distant Memory, Mobile Strike Fight

Finally, Weather Tech – this is I believe your 3rd Super Bowl ad.  You make a great product in an admirable way.  You are decent, hardworking, earnest people.
But maybe it’s time to step away from the cheese dip and have a beer.

weathertech

Click once or twice on the table below to make it more readable.

SuperBowl2016

Footnotes:
My evaluations are generally based on the Kellogg ADPLAN approachAttention
–Distinction
– Positioning
– Linkage
– Amplification
– Net Equity – – along with some personal gut feel.

Reviewers and links to reviews (if you were involved in any of the reviews and feel I got something wrong, let me know):
Kellogg Graduate School of Business – Northwestern University
Adweek
Ad Age
Chicago Tribune
Entertainment Weekly
New Yorker
Slate
USA Today
Variety
Washington Post
Wall Street Journal
Yahoo Sports

See you next year!

Battle of the 2015 Super Bowl Ad Reviewers

It’s time to demonstrate (again) that when it comes to advertising, no one agrees on anything. Raise your hand if you’re shocked.

The Armchair MBA repeated last year’s stunt in comparing the ratings of 10 prominent 2015 Super Bowl ad reviewers, summarized in the handy chart below, along with my personal ratings. (Green/yellow/red coding, alphabetized within my ratings)

2015SuperBowlCollage

While no Doberhuahua this year, there was plenty of dreck and schmaltz to take its place, but a few very good spots as well. Unfortunately many spots were so-so – – either they rewarded our attention with a muddled message or weak branding, or they were copy-by-committee logical with no heart or pizzazz (Hello, GoDaddy. Hello, Weathertech).

Mostly universally admired: P&G Always “Like a Girl”, Avocados from Mexico, Dove Men+Care, Mophie, Budweiser/Puppy (I declined highest marks on the last two)

Most universally unloved: Nationwide’s “Boy” (runaway loser), Nissan, Lexus

Most schizophrenic (scored best on some lists, worst on others): McDonald’s “Pay with Lovin’”, SquareSpace/Jeff Bridges, Loctite “Positive Feelings”, Toyota Camry/Amy Purdy, Carnival Cruise Lines, Victoria’s Secret (had to watch this again to make sure I knew how I felt)

A few observations:
– Personally not a fan of high-concept feel-good spots like McDonald’s or Coca-Cola or Jeep, or for that matter, the very cute/manipulative Bud puppy ads. Fun for the agency, probably test well for likability, but hard to see how see how it drives action or enhances the core brand equity.
Love spots like Fiat 500 SUV – simple message (we made the base 500 bigger), using an analogy that’s easy to understand and relevant to the main point (if a bit naughty)
– Would love to be a fly on the wall during the approval process of the Nationwide’s “Boy” spot (spoiler alert: it’s about a charming boy who turns out to be dead. More chips & dip, please).
– For fun, check out some of the breathless, we-take-ourselves-kind-of-seriously reviews comments like “Powerful message but tough ad to watch”, “Disturbingly brilliant and impactful”, “emotionally powerful and good storytelling”, blah blah blah – you can see some here (as well as a CMO’s explanation about why his ad was NOT supposed to sell product.  Hmmm…).

To see the summary, click on the chart below. Click twice for maximum size/readability.

SuperBowl2015

The reviewers:
Kellogg Graduate School of Management

Advertising Age

Wall Street Journal
Chicago Tribune


Entertainment Weekly

Variety

Slate

Yahoo Sports

New Yorker
New York Post (new this year!)

My evaluations are generally based on the Kellogg ADPLAN approach: Attention
– Distinction
– Positioning
– Linkage
– Amplification
– Net Equity – – along with some personal gut feel.

We know that the Super Bowl is a special stage, and different rules certainly apply.   In addition, there are social media linkages and previews that can dramatically amplify the impact of ads. So it is somewhat unfair to judge an execution in isolation.

On the other hand, we don’t claim to be fair. And as observed last year, sometimes an ad just sucks.

See you next year.

First Ever Battle of the Super Bowl Ad Reviewers!

Ever wonder why you never totally agree with Super Bowl ad reviewers?
Well, other than for a few good ads* they mostly don’t agree with each other either.  

Doberhuahua

The Armchair MBA has selflessly taken on what is certainly is a vast unfulfilled need and compiled a comparison of 9 disparate SB ad reviewers just for you!   Wow!   Almost as much fun as being a Broncos fan!

Just click on the chart below to see that while there is some consistency, in the end advertising is still an art and everyone’s got their opinion.  (You can click on the chart twice to make it even more readable.)

(*Generally universally liked:  Budweiser, Cheerios, Radio Shack, Microsoft – – although I’m not in the bag for all of them)

The reviewers:

Kellogg Graduate School of Management
Advertising Age
Wall Street Journal
Chicago Tribune
Entertainment Weekly
Variety
Slate
Yahoo Sports
New Yorker

I’ve provided my own opinion, to make it an even 10.

SuperBowl2014

Green/Yellow/Red ratings were my best interpretations of what the reviewers meant.   White means they didn’t review this particular ad –  – which in itself tells you something.  They are grouped based on my ratings, on an alphabetical basis by brand within ranking.

My evaluations are generally based on the Kellogg ADPLAN approach, which is becoming the standard:
Attention
Distinction
Positioning
Linkage
Amplification
Net Equity

However, I also incorporated a liberal dose of my visceral reaction during the game.

Quick commentary:  The Super Bowl is a unique marketing environment where stakes and expectations are high, and the bar for breakthrough is considerably higher than any other day.
Advertisers use the SB for much more than the eyeballs – – as a way to make a corporate statement, introduce something new, reposition themselves, set up other promotional activity, and many other things.
So these spots can be seen through many different lenses, which is why reviews often differ dramatically.

Having said that, sometimes an ad just sucks any way you look at it.

Not included in my ratings (but increasingly important) is how long of a tail these ads might have – – what their viral reach, impact and duration becomes.

Maybe next year.