What we learned from the 2012 Super Bowl commercials.
1. CG and special effects have infiltrated advertising and it’s not a good thing. All the complaints about feature films apply now more than ever to the medium of the commercial — with companies falling into the big explosion / historical biopic / action sequence formula. In the end, story — along with poignancy — is lost. The Kia dream spot is the perfect example — lots of money, lots of effects and a resounding thud of stupidity. In this spot an alternate universe is depicted in which a guy, in a dreams, sees a group of women in bikinis and just drives by.
2. Unfortunately, the 80s are back. Ferris Bueller, The Cult, Echo and the Bunnymen, John Stamos … and I’m probably leaving a few others out. What’s next, a Howard the Duck remake?
3. Copywriting is still king. I know, I’m biased here. But among my peers the hands down best spot was the Chrysler Clint Eastwood spot. Why? It’s well written — in a way that makes you feel something — and the brilliantly-shot film doesn’t get in the way of the message — it enhances it. Nice job tying the timing of the spot — halftime — with the actual theme of the spot, too.
4. A C-RV is not a Ferrari. A lot of people really like Honda’s Ferris Bueller spot. And there are a lot of good things about the spot. But I can’t help but think of the huge risk Honda took by putting their car in a place that was once occupied by a vintage Ferrari. That was Bueller’s great appeal and the thing that created tension in the original movie. While the C-RV is a nice car, it is the symbol now of ho hum forty something adventure riding — an “adventure” that leads to carnivals and museums.
4. Sometimes the client wins. I liked the Chevy Silverado “2012” spot until one of the guys asks “Where’s Dave?” and a guy answers, “Dave didn’t drive the longest-lasting, most dependable truck on the road.” It’s about as ham fisted as it gets. It FEELS like the client wrote it. I have to believe there isn’t a creative person anywhere that would suggest the line and I could picture them begging — “can’t it be type on the screen?” “I’ll compromise — how about an announcer read?” “Isn’t seeing the product drive out of an apocalypse-ridden city proof enough that it’s dependable?”
5. The truth always wins out. The new VW Beetle spot featuring a fitness-crazed dog paled in comparison to last year’s Darth Vader spot because it simply doesn’t ring as true. A kid in a Darth Vader costume is human and resonates on an emotional level. A dog that works out just to make a point has the “cute-dog factor” — but isn’t nearly as entertaining, or as endearing. Great looking car and on the bright side, they do a great job of keeping things simple. Which leads me to ….
6. It’s incredibly hard to keep it simple. But when you do, good things can happen. Take the Toyota Camry spot that stays on point with the “reinvent” theme. It’s a great spot because it uses a simple concept to get across not just an idea about the car but about their philosophy as a company — and it works. You’ve got to love a spot that ends with “you’re welcome.”
7. Whether you like it or not, Coke must be recognized for being the only company that has a strong “brand.” I’m not a big fan of the polar bears. But they’ve got a theme and they’re sticking with it. It makes Coke stand out and get a little more brand recognition than others. Can you tell the difference between a Hyundai spot and a Kia spot? Or a Best Buy spot and a Samsung spot?
8. When done well, a simple, tried-and-true testimonial still works. Take GE, which has its employees tell the story. Well shot and nicely executed, these spots aren’t groundbreaking by any means, but they do a great job in what by all accounts should be a tired formula by now. I think it speaks to authenticity when a company’s employees can tell the story — it feels more “real.”
9. And lastly, for us ad folks, the game feels like a mediocre commercial for the NFL. All the buildup, all the hype, all the chatter about the game — and when it’s over it was just that — a game. This year it wasn’t extraordinarily well played, and the miscues overshadowed the big plays. I guess that describes the state of the commercials too.
So what do you think? Did you have your favorites? Do you agree or disagree with me? Let’s hear it.