Tag Archives: new york post

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)


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.


The reviewers:
Kellogg Graduate School of Management

Advertising Age

Wall Street Journal
Chicago Tribune

Entertainment Weekly



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.



You’ve probably known someone like this – – returning a new dress the day after the big event (“wardrobing“); using influence to get a fake handicap parking tag, etc.  Those who think the rules don’t apply to them; who make George Costanza seem almost normal.

Recently 2 equally intriguing and infuriating news stories raised a special challenge to marketers:
Should the customer always be right?   Isn’t that one of the Marketing Ten Commandments?

What if the customer is a big jerk?

REI Guarantee

Case 1) REI reduced its famous unlimited return policy to one year (still quite liberal).
– this was in response to increasing numbers of customers gaming the system, and in some cases bragging about it
– According to the Wall Street Journal, one customer “returned a backpack he bought in 2004, which he had hauled up the tallest mountain in Yosemite National Park and hundreds of miles. But it “was getting old and dirty, and I didn’t like it anymore,” he says.  He returned the backpack; REI gave him a brand-new one which he later returned when he realized there was a newer model.  His justification: Since he bought hundreds of REI products over the years, he says, the retailer still has made a healthy overall profit on his purchases.
– This is just one of many similar stories, here are some reactions to the new policy, along with some amusing pretzel logic.

Screen Shot 2013-09-27 at 3.56.24 PM

Case 2) Disney discontinued its policy that let physically handicapped guests and their parties avoid long waits in line.
– This was in response to abuse of the system – – according to some delicious reporting in the New York Post, some wealthy parents were paying physically disabled ‘tour guides’ up to $1000 to accompany their parties, thereby allowing their kids faster access to rides.  This remarkably selfish act of course mostly punishes the truly disabled kids; indirectly the PR hurts Disney as well.

Many companies have built loyal followings with liberal return policies.  Business Insider lists their top 10 here.

But why is there a seemingly growing numbers of abusers, and what should marketers do about it?

FIRST, THE WHY:  MY THEORY –> Abusing rules is a way of ‘Sticking it to the Man’:  for someone who feels insufficient influence on their world, any way to exert some control on a more powerful entity is satisfying.   This can apply to someone who feels economically disadvantaged; for the privileged it could simply mean an organization whose rules cramp their style.  Anything goes.
An excellent scholarly description of ‘The Man’ is in this brief clip:

School of Rock:  'The Man'

Definitive explanation of ‘The Man’

Except that now, due to politics and the state of the economy, the definition of ‘the Man’ is expanding; pretty much anything now qualifies as ‘The Man’.  This, naturally, leads to greater return policy abuse.

Evolution of (the) Man:  1960s – The Government;  1970s – Your Boss;  1980s – The USSR; 1990s – Big Business; 2000s – The Other Political Party;  2010s – Any Company OR the Other Party OR anything else

– the options are pretty clear:   A) attract and presumably keep customers by keeping and advertising a liberal policy, OR B) manage profitability and integrity by installing guardrails to limit abuse
The Case for A:   Supports the original brand promise (‘satisfaction guaranteed’); doesn’t give a reason to defect; lifetime value of loyal customers may be profit-positive
The Case for B:  Limits financial liability from abuse; signals to honest customers that they’re not subsidizing dishonest customers; arguably can still have a liberal policy.

Personally, I’m supportive of adjusting the rules to match the times.
In the case of REI, a one-year policy still supports the company’s core value of backing up its products.  Thus, those customers for whom REI’s products and prices are appealing should remain customers.  The minority of customers who abuse the system might claim to be loyal, but they’re loyal mostly to their dollars – they’ll shop online and either adjust to the policy or take their ‘business’ elsewhere.

In the case of Disney, it will almost certainly lead to a policy that may involve some additional steps for guests, but which will help to assure that Disney is doing what it can to continue to ensure a great experience – – which is absolutely core to the Disney brand promise.  In the end, it shouldn’t affect attendance.

What do you think?