Another Super Bowl Ad review…Wide Right

February 11, 2014

I think most Super Bowl ads miss the point.

You’re on the largest ad stage there is, and most ads aim to get attention instead of driving emotion and message — you already have folks attention. The SuperBowl is probably the one event where people are as excited to watch the commercials as they are to watch the event.  Do you need to entertain, yes, but the right emotion can do that and leave a memorable impression about your brand.  Instead brands seem to settle for spitting on the table, they go after the attention they already have but forget about resonating or connecting.

In the order I saw the ads:

This ad had me hooked. Great copy, “The World is full of giants…,” interesting visuals, and a great read by a child narrator. It was a paean to the little guy, the underdog in all of us (and who doesn’t love the underdog). The ad had me hanging on the edge of my seat, waiting for the reveal, I thought it was the new Chrysler ad, a tribute to America and that uniquely American juxtaposition as the last super power and the world underdog. It had me… until it became and ad for Maserati.

WTF? How? Who? Is Maserati really out there fighting giants? The cars cost like $100,000, they aren’t underdogs at all. It was a jip, and I felt cheated. Seriously the ad left me angry, that they had manipulated me.

Got a laugh from the ad, but so what? Case and point, it entertained, but what’s the message? What’s emotion that Dorritos wants me to feel about their chips? Something worth stealing? Funny, but ultimately pointless, classic super bowl ad.

Huh? What? Who’s the ad for?

Ok, this might have been the best ad of the night. Maybe I was just the right demographic, but it was on-message, it was clever, and it was entertaining. The ad shows Radio Shack gets its out of touch in today’s world, that its been stuck in the 80’s (for lack of a better decade), it says they get they aren’t servicing your needs, and that’s going to change. Good use of the platform to announce a big shift in approach.

Was it a great ad, earth shakingly good? No, it was a little too irreverent to be great, but it was good and made its point.

I know I’m supposed to get all chocked up about this cancer survivor ad from Chevy, but I think it really missed the mark.  Too slow, and why is Chevy supporting Cancer survivors? I mean we all support cancer survivors, but what’s Chevy’s particular interest? How does this reinforce their brand image or message? Just seemed like a slow random spot that was trying too hard to make me feel something.

I liked this commercial too. It says something about the brand, and pertaining to my earlier point, it taps into a particular American contrast — feeling great, but being under estimated or appreciated. My problem with the ad is I have no what Weather Tech is or what they do. I love the positioning, but needed just a little more reinforcement of the information for this ad to be truly effective.

I thought the ad was funny, but unlike the Darth Vader ad,the irreverence in this ad didn’t really connect to a larger message. Somehow there was less a sense of truth in this ad that I could relate to. My kids thought it was funny though, though anytime they hear the word butt they laugh.

I liked this ad too. Unlike the Maserati ad, this ad fits into my  existing schema of what Coke stands for. Its interesting in so far, as its the type of ad a mature brand like coke can run, but a newer brand (Weather Tech) has more trouble pulling off.

I thought this was an interesting ad. I liked the use of Bruce Willis, and thought it was a good message for Honda. The end of the ad feels a little too silly for the message, it felt off tone. I think the ad would have been fine with just Bruce Willis or just someone hugging him (or him hugging his kids or something). The strange guy feels out of place.

Gosh, I would have liked to like this ad. Chrysler is tapping into those big themes, America, the Underdog, exceptionalism, and it had Bob frickin Dylan. I loved their “made in Detroit” campaigns from the last couple of Super Bowls. But this ad just never hooked me. Maybe it was the opening line, “Is there anything more American than America?” Is that supposed to be profound or ironic?

I mean great images, and it did have some great lines, like “you can’t import original, “you can’t import the heart and soul of every man and woman working on the line,” and  “So let Germany brew your beer, let Switzerland make your watch, let Asia assemble your phones, we will build your cars….”

But in the end, the pieces never add up. I wonder if ultimately that’s because of the choice of Dylan, who I see as so anti-establishment. The words seem ironic coming from a man who seems so anti-American exceptionalism in a way (not saying Dylan is anti-America, just that his brand runs counter to all those things associated with… well this ad). Eminem made sense for Chrysler, he’s associated with Detroit and has that edgy bravado they were portraying, Dylan, well, why Dylan? It just never clicked for me despite the various elements.

I thought this was a really nice ad for a sport that’s in decline due to worries about concussions.

It captures a truth, it captures all the things I love about the sport, it captures that unique sense of togetherness, of connection, that being a fan of a team can bring. It was kinda a beautiful spot, and I think potentially a powerful message.

Finally what would a Super Bowl be without a Scientology commercial…? Wait, what? Ok, this one was a bit of a surprise. Religion like politics are hard to judge because so much of your own identity comes into play. That being said, I think this is a pretty good commercial. While it didn’t appeal to me personally, I think it could be effective to connecting with folks who feel lost into’s world. The commercial felt modern and assured, it offered a solution — spirituality (not religion mind you) and technology. That’s a potentially a powerful mix.

As far as branding or re-branding the church, I think if you’ve never heard of or though about scientology its a really effective ad, if you had some idea of what Scientology is before hand, I not so sure it would help to overcome whatever doubts you (or I) hold.

So that’s it. Like the game, I thought the ads were mostly a bust. There were a few good ones, but in general I thought the ads missed the mark.

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Don’t see this every day….

January 31, 2014

The Super Bowl is one of the most anticipated events in the advertising world, and I’ll definitely be writing some thoughts on the ads post game next week.

But this ad caught my eye not only because its not the usual type of Super Bowl ad, but also because it’s not the usual issue you see advertised.

I liked the sparseness of the copy, and some of the images were very compelling. I also thought the punch line was strong, like a good punch to the gut, you’re watching and wondering where this is going, and when it gets there, I found it surprising (maybe *because* they haven’t run ads around this issue before). The ad also is very effective at humanizing a minority group that is often lost in the shuffle (at least on the East Coast, maybe less so out West or in states with large reservations).

They aren’t just Indians or Native Americans, they’re people  — fathers, sons, mothers, daughters etc, just like you and me. I like the sense of Native American pride that it evokes without resorting to the usual myth making or hyperbole. There’s just a nice lyrical nature to the ad.

I had three issues with the ad:

1. It’s too long. Maybe they felt they had to go big because its the superbowl, but the message is so simply and cleanly delivered, they could have done it much more effectively in a minute. About half way through I started to lose interest at the repetition (interesting as it was, it was becoming familiar), and I’m not sure that extra minute adds anything to the message or to the emotional punch. You get it after 30-40 seconds, don’t need it reinforced and all it does it take away from the emotion punch at the end.

2. I found some of the images not as compelling as others.

3. Not sure if this is an issue or not, but I was struck by the native accent of the narrator. I understand the reasons for using a Native American to narrate the ad, and I’m not sure using the standard narrator would have been appropriate or effective, but it was distracting for me in the sense that I was thinking about the narrator instead of the content of the message or images (maybe that also goes back to point 1, it was too long, so I was able to “see the boom in the shot” because my attention was wandering).

Still overall I thought this was a really nice spot, and I wonder if the more lyrical copy, slower pace, and overall tone of the ad will help it contrast especially with the other Super Bowl ads that often feel the need to assault your senses.

 

The power of personality

January 13, 2014

A lot of catching up to do in the pre-Super Bowl quiet….

We’ll start today with this ad from a friend of mine. I usually try not to comment on videos when I know the folks involved, but this video is worth taking a few minutes out to watch.

What I appreciate about this video beside the clever presentations is that the personality of the candidate shines through. Now I’ve never met Daylin Leach, but I imagine he’s exactly like what I see here. The gimmicks in the video add to the authenticity of the final product presenting an image of an unrepentant liberal with boundless energy, someone who is serious but doesn’t take himself too seriously.

The other day, I was on a call and someone said, “Voters are looking for cues about a candidate.” I thought that was really insightful. Watch the video again — what cues do you get about Leach?

After three minutes you feel like you know him. Now, if you met him in person or watched him give a speech or already had an opinion of Leach and what you observed or thought doesn’t match with the video (in other words the video presents an inauthentic version of the candidate), that’s when campaigns get into trouble.  The other question is does Leach’s personality so evident here come across in the other aspects of his campaign?

In other words, can the campaign present a unified vision of itself to the public? Its a theme I’ve talked about before, ads are a great medium to communicate your message, emotion and personality, but its’ not enough to communicate it, the campaign or brand has to embody it too.

Personality is great, too often campaigns run from their candidates personality, offering a watered down version of what they think voters want (consumer brands do this too). But what voters (and consumers) want is authenticity, Apple is as extreme a brand identity as any mainstream brand, it seems to do well with buyers. This video is powered by personality, and that’s a good thing.

Simple and straightforward — Form follows emotion

December 10, 2013

This video is a great example of form following function. In fact, the form follows emotion.

While the old style mock school educational film is a classic style, in this case, it perfectly fits the theme. From the suffragettes to portraying Republicans as out of step, the style of the video perfectly reinforces not jus the message but the emotion.

Ok maybe it gets a little long, but still super clever and well done.

Storytelling is a two way street

November 13, 2013

A quick thought about storytelling…

Thought this ad was a nice example of storytelling and nifty animation to boot.

Here’s a pretty cool look at how they made the ad:

Along these lines, I saw this interesting article in the Wall Street Journal  about how “Carrying a bottle of Vegetable Juice Has Become a Status Symbol.” The point the article makes which I hope circles back to this advert (see how I used the British term for a British ad) is that people buy things it sends a signal to the world about who they are, what they believe, what their values are. A $10 bottle of juice is crazy unless it “…convey[s] the impression of superior health and discipline.”

See storytelling works both ways. A product a candidate has to tell a story to get folks to pay attention, but where things get interesting is when the audience adopts the brand because it tells their story too.

Why

October 8, 2013

A lot of back and forth the Virginia Governor’s race. I’ve ignored most of it because frankly the ads have been eh.

I wanted to write about this ad not because it’s great, but I think it’s missing something important.

What’s it missing?

WHY?

Why is she supporting Cuccinelli?

Why isn’t she supporting MacAulaffe?

And, just because Tichi is a mother and Democrat, why should I listen to her? Frankly, why should I believe her?

Is it enough she’s a mother and democrat? Is it enough that she’s african-american? That’s obviously what Ken Cuccinelli believes.

But it’s not enough to be on message, it’s not enough to make your points, people want to hear a why because we want to understand and connect. There was a study that people were more likely to let someone cut into a line, let’s say to make photocopies, if they only gave a reason (a why), even if the reason was something as obvious as “Can I cut in because I need to make some copies….”

The audience is smarter than you think. Without the why, there’s not credibility. Without the why, the ad is just platitudes. Without the why, it all too easy to ignore the message and the messenger.

I’ll take a story with that burrito

September 16, 2013

This Chipotle video is the latest video to “go viral” — as of this writing it has over four million hits.

It’s worth watching too full of pathos and top notch storytelling (the animation is pretty clutch too, from the folks who create Morris Lessmore and his Flying Book & Numberlys). The video is three minutes long, and I’ve already watched it four or five times. Heck, the video isn’t even for the Chipotle per se, but a trailer for their new game!

I’m not going to break down all the reasons why I think this is a great video, either you get it or you don’t. But I do think there are some important lessons you can learn from this video when thinking about your videos or ads:

1. Story matters. They build a compelling story that’s not about the brand, but is precisely about what the brand stands for. A story that shows you their values.

2. Emotions matter. Related to that first lesson, this story is right on-emotion. Imagine a video that had the same message, but maybe it was a narrator with beautiful shots of fresh produce or some other genre appropriate video. It might get the message across, but would anyone watch? And more to the point would anyone remember or believe it?

3. Production Values Matter. Maybe the most important point I could make here.  We all have had clients ask us to produce a viral video, and when we ask how much they want to spend, the amount is usually less than you’d spend on an I-Pad.

Chipotle did fall into that trap. They didn’t say well, it’s only for the web, they produced a top-notch, story with top-notch production values, and I’m guessing they spent more than some people spend on their tv ads.

4. Your story matters. Chipotle is telling your their story (anti-corporate, fresh food, maybe even anti-establishment), but what they’re trying to do is resonate with your story? Are you anti-corporate, believe in fresh food, do you want to be a conformist your whole life? By reflecting your story in theirs, the create believers, they create fans. I’ll take 1 over 10 customers any day of the week.

I love seeing videos like this one. These ads and videos are why I write this blog. Chipotle could have fallen into a trap — hey, we’re just selling burritos, so let’s give ’em a video about how great our burritos are. Instead they told a compelling story that resonates and creates fans, not bad for the price of a burrito.

 

 

Finding new turf to play on

September 6, 2013

Send to me by a friend, I thought this spot was a nice compliment to the Wrigley gum spot I looked at a couple of posts ago.

Beer commercials run the gambit from silly & offensive (most) to sentimental and emotionally overwrought. What I like about this commercial from Guinness (apart from the unexpected ending )is that it’s telling a story about the viewer. If you’re the kind of guy who would use a wheelchair for a couple hours to play basketball with your friend who has to use a wheelchair, then you’re the kind of guy who drinks Guinness beer.

You can buy a beer because of the taste or you can buy a beer because the story of the brand matches your story — or at the least it matches who you want to be or how you want to be seen by others.

Guinness gets that, and in telling this story they’re not competing with other brands on taste or cost, their playing the game on different turf.

Sometimes we confuse the jelly with the donut.

September 4, 2013

I like this spot so much better when we’re hearing from the candidate…

It’s like passion, energy, connections, then Blah (message), Blah (poll issues), Blah (on the nose), energy again.

When it comes to emotion v. message which one will you remember from this spot?

Always aim higher

August 29, 2013

A header like, “If you have a heart, this Wrigley gum commercial will make you cry,” set a pretty high bar, but also sets off my ok, I’m gonna call that bluff response. Well, the stupid fricking ad did indeed make me cry or the room got incredibly dusty as it climaxed.

Is the gum a bit of a macguffin here? Sure, it could have been anything, but staking out that space, telling an emotional story about a parent and a child, about sharing something in good times and bad, well that’s powerful. It’s too easy to say, well it’s just gum, we should talk about it’s flavor or it’s ability to solve a problem. Like this crappy gum ad I saw last night:

The Wrigley commercial for Extra gum goes to a higher place on the hierarchy — other gums are minty or clean your mouth, this gum you share and experience, this gum is about love and connection.

The downside here is that I’m not sure this brand of gum has enough of a pre-exisitng space in my brain to make an impression (what’s the brand name again). So an ad like this one for a brand that doesn’t have a position needs repetition in other mediums, it has to tell this same story of sharing again and again in a myriad of different ways (what about directions for making those Origami birds on the inside of each package or a Web site about creating your Wrigley moment).

Still it’s a great ad, and a good reminder that it’s not about the function of the product, but something more.


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