Who scored and who wasted money

So, what did you think?  No, no, not the game itself, which was pretty boring, but the Super Bowl ads? No doubt crafting the STAND OUT Super Bowl Commercial is a formidable challenge, as companies try to navigate the complicated world of politics, celebrities, the brand itself, and well, comedy (in many cases) - and still have impact/be memorable. 

The overall takeaway from the 78Madison team? Below par. Brands seemingly trying so hard to be witty, funny, emotional, and genuinely standout, that they missed the mark. While it might be easy to say the ads were better than the game, well, the truth is they weren’t.  More than any other year that we can remember, fans were genuinely looking for some WOW relief from the game, and sadly just didn’t get it. There will not be one spot from this group of commercials that people will be talking about years from now. 

As well, one of the things we noticed at 78Madison is that there was not ONE or TWO ads that stood out to us all. This rarely happens. Everyone liked different ads, which gave us the impression that a lot of advertisers made a decision to Target specific demographic groups, which in and of itself is fine, while failing to tap into the entire huge Super Bowl audience. 

So, what stood out to us?

NFL 100 Years
It was a tour de force starring an assemblage of many of the greats of NFL history, including Eli’s brother Peyton. If you somehow missed the ad, it begins at a black-tie dinner to celebrate the league’s upcoming 100th season and quickly devolves into a banquet-hall brawl when a golden football from atop a many-tiered cake falls off and hits the floor. Soon the all-pro cast --- connecting six generations of NFL players past and present — is throwing and catching and intercepting and recovering the hot-potato football.

Bud Light Game of Thrones
As mentioned above, if you’re not a Game of Thrones fan, you may have just stared at the TV and wondered what happened. Many viewers were no doubt stunned and perhaps confused to see the beer ad morph into a "Game of Thrones" tie-in, but it was genuinely surprising, and in terms of shaking up a day filled with otherwise predictable creative, kind of awesome.

78Madison found both spots - one featuring the military, the other about how words are translated - arresting and on-point in terms of its brand, providing a ray of hope about the human experience, speckled with fleeting acknowledgment of the darker side.

Stella Artois
On their own, the sendups of "Sex and the City" and "The Big Lebowski" - and the characters played by Sarah Jessica Parker and Jeff Bridges - would have been mildly clever. But in a day filled with incongruous celebrity endorsements, mashing the two together felt like an inspired coup.

Pepsi – It’s OK
We thought this one got points for wise celebrity use and, especially, for looking archrival Coke’s advantage over Pepsi straight in the eyes, like No. 2 Avis used to do with No. 1 Hertz. It’s a riff on people habitually ordering “Coke” in restaurants and waiters habitually responding, “Is Pepsi OK?” Steve Carell overhears this and goes into sort of-not-mock outrage mode: “Okay!?” he asks. “Are puppies OK? Is a shooting star OK?” Rapper Lil John at the counter delivers his “Okayyyy” catchphrase. Cardi B saunters dramatically in and grabs a Pepsi can. And Carell fails in his own try at “Okayyyy.”

This one didn’t seem to get picked up by anyone – except 78Madison. “Bubly vs. Bublé” from Bubly Sparkling Water, scored a touchdown with its humorous appeal in a quirky encounter featuring a mix-up with Canadian singer-songwriter Michael Bublé. When you can have someone make fun of your name and use that to inspire humor and build the brand, that is a great use of creativity.” 

Another thing that seemed to be a first is that when you review how other news organizations rated the Super Bowl commercials, they were all over the place. One outlet put A, B and C as best, and the next organization put those same commercials as worst.  Which in and of itself tells you how hard it is to appeal to a mass audience.

So, why the struggle this year?  Discussions around the 78Madison table noted that advertisers seem so terrified of triggering the perpetually-offended generation, that they failed to deliver. An example is the Jason Bateman Hyundai Ads.  Many organizations rated this commercial as one of their best…some their worst.  But did they expect the backlash from Vegans?  Who knows, but herein lies the problem.

What do you think?  What were your favorites? 

Joe Bouch
CEO, 78Madison

78Madison is a full-service marketing communications firm – advertising agency – with headquarters in Central Florida – Orlando – Altamonte Springs.