Well, another year over, another set of elated fans and disappointed supporters. Sorry Denver, it just wasn’t your year. Seattle was in rare form. But along with the big game, there’s another great spectacle everyone looks forward to – the ads.
Once again, corporations spent millions of dollars trying to grab your attention. Beer, cars, soda, deodorant, it was all there. With the cost of 30 seconds of airtime soaring to $4 million (that’s $133,000 per second), plus the expense of actually producing the ad (Bruce Willis and Bob Dylan don’t come cheap), this is a huge investment for brands. Did it pay off? Well, let’s take a look at the best, and worst, ads of the 2014 Super Bowl XLVIII.
The Best Ads of Super Bowl XLVIII
What does best mean? It’s subjective after all. Well, this is based on overall impact, entertainment value, and the ability to get across a point; something that is often lost in the desperation to stand out from the crowd.
1: TurboTax “Love Hurts”
Let’s be honest, it’s a shaky premise. The set-up is fine, equating some jerk dancing with the girl you love (for four hours) to watching the Super Bowl without your team in it, well, that works. The part about getting your refund check being your day, that’s quite the stretch. And hey, not everyone gets a refund either. BUT, all that aside, it’s a funny, memorable spot that makes you look at the Super Bowl in a completely different way. And that’s what makes this successful. Context is king.
2: Bud Light “Up For Whatever”
There was something quite unnerving about seeing Arnold in a Boris Becker wig. The end result, however, was really funny. Doing a hidden camera stunt is nothing new, but Bud Light did it in a great way. Ian, the only guy in the ad who isn't an actor, gets the time of his life when he accepts a Bud Light from a pretty lady. A limo ride with Reggie Watts, meeting Minka Kelly (although that fell flat), Don Cheadle with a llama, and playing ping pong with Schwarzenegger, it was all a fantastic experience. The overdone voice-overs and insanely long titles added the icing on the cake. Good stuff.
3: RadioShack “The Phone Call”
Whenever a brand dives into the brave world of self-deprecation, you know you’re going to get something funny. Sure, it was a blatant attempt to throw a bunch of celebrities (albeit it fading ones) into one spot. But it worked. The opening line “The eighties called, they want their store back” is the perfect set-up to the ad. RadioShack employees everywhere have been hearing that line for years. Then seeing Cliff Claven, A.L.F., Kid ‘N’ Play, Chucky and the California Raisons hit everyone with a giant wave of nostalgia. It’s interesting will a facelift really give legitimacy to a store called RadioShack? Radio, in 2014? Hmmm.
4: Audi “Doberhuahua”
Compromise. A word most advertising people hate. But in this commercial, it works like a charm (probably because the client didn’t compromise on the ad itself). A Doberman crossed with a Chihuahua. It’s not pretty, but it gets the point across beautifully. And the cameo by Sarah McLachlan (I Will Remember You) was spot on. In the end, it comes full circle, with Audi being scared by compromise, too. A perfect Super Bowl spot.
5: Coca-Cola “America the Beautiful”
We all know that America is a melting pot of cultures, races, and religions. It’s what makes this country so diverse, and so strong. Coca-Cola celebrated this with a rendition of America The Beautiful sung in a variety of languages. What started as something expected became something unmissable. Everyone took notice. And those who complained about the ad just added fuel to the fire, making it one of the most memorable of 2014. Cheers Coca-Cola.
The Worst Ads of Super Bowl XLVIII
Defining worst is also subjective. These are the ads that, although they may be slick, or memorable (for the wrong reasons), did not fulfill the obligations of a Super Bowl ad. There’s millions being spent; that should buy the client more than a fancy ad.
1: Axe Peace “Make Love, Not War.”
This was featured in our Super Bowl preview. It did not get better with age. The idea that a body spray can make super models drool over you is ridiculous, but that’s what made Axe funny (note, it started as Lynx in the UK with the same idea). The Axe Effect is fun. This new ad, it’s gone from funny to just plain dumb. Body spray is not going to save the world, and it’s not going to overthrow fascist dictators. But it does make your pits smell less like B.O. Very poor showing.
2: Chobani “Bear”
There may be a good reason the advertising agency chose to put a bear in a mom ‘n’ pop convenience store. “Wouldn’t it be a laugh to see a bear go nuts and wreck everything, but all he really wants is a delicious yogurt?!” The old saying “your strategy is showing” couldn’t be more appropriate. A complete waste of time, and a real stretch to say the least. Awful.
3: SodaStream “Sorry, Coke and Pepsi”
That should really say “too bad SodaStream.” Even a big, and beautiful, name like Scarlett Johansson couldn’t save this turkey. She vamps it up on camera, tells you what a SodaStream is, and the apologies to Coke and Pepsi. For what, who knows. It seems like they’ll be thanking SodaStream for reminding people to grab a can of soda from the fridge. Appalling.
4: Jaguar “Rendezvous”
This one should have been a masterpiece. It had all the makings of a classic. Great actors, like Ben Kingsley, Tom Hiddleston and Mark Strong. A fabulous director, Tom Hooper. And a budget so big it had its own parking space. Yet, it all fell flat. Some obvious scripting pointing out the features of cars and bad guys at the same time, and a few too many puns, left this ad way behind the front-runners. A real shame.
5: Kia “The Truth”
This ad wouldn’t have worked when The Matrix was actually relevant. But now, it’s just perplexing. The set up is bad (Take the blue key, go back to the luxury you know. You take the red key, and you'll never look at luxury the same again) but the execution is even worse. The fun in these spots comes from staying deadpan, but when Morpheus starts singing opera, it turns a bad spot into a dreadful one. Somehow, the blue pill seems way more of an attractive option.
Ads That Got Talked About
These didn’t make it into the best or worst lists for various reasons. But they do deserve to be talked about, for one reason or another.
Not a traditional ad, but a blitz of Tweets that looked like a complete disaster. One read “Who kkmew theis was ghiong tob e a baweball ghamle.” After thousands of retweets, by people assuming JCP was losing the plot or about to fire someone, the source of the poor spelling was revealed – mittens. Pitch perfect, wonderfully timed, and it didn’t cost them $133,000 per second. Well done indeed.
Budweiser “Puppy Love”
The Budweiser Clydesdales are something of a staple of Super Bowl Sunday. To that end, people seem to love these no matter what they do, what thy show, or what they’re about. This time, it was about a puppy adoption, and the bond the puppy shared with a big horse. Which is perfect for selling beer, right? Well, not really. But for some reason, this schmaltzy stuff goes viral every year. 41 million hits and counting. Why?!
The Best Ad You Probably Didn’t See
Unless you live in Savannah, GA, this one passed you by.
Jamie Casino “Casino’s Law”
A local lawyer filled the first local ad break with something that looked like a Steven Seagal revenge movie on crack. Metal grinding, sledgehammers pounding, fire everywhere…this was better than most of the expensive commercials pushed out by big brands this year. Awesome.