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).
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…
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
My evaluations are generally based on the Kellogg ADPLAN approach: Attention –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
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!