I’m not reviewing ads this year. And it’s not because I lack opinions. But there are not new things to say about them. We have already heard commentary from Buzzfeed, ad agencies and pundits. We even know what the feminist bookstore owners from Portlandia think (and their thoughts are brilliant).
Instead, I developed a few themes that emerged from big-budget brands this year in the hopes that it may inspire your direction in 2015. Here are a few of the ways that brands chose to tell their story this year:
As a device for creating broader story, brands were latching themselves onto other pop-culture story lines in an effort to create post-modern humor. There were several strong archetypes: Liam Neeson as a bad ass, Jeff Bridges as the dude, Bryan Cranston as Walter White, Kim Kardashian as…Kim Kardashian. This is a more clever form of humor and hinges on the viewer’s familiarity with the personality.
Screaming farm animals
Being funny is difficult. And sometimes a trope or device that seems clever can fall apart. Nowhere is this more evident than the use of a goat. Sprint and Discover wore the same gown to the dance this year. And it wasn’t even a good designer.
Deadbeat Dads and Dead Children
A lot of uproar this year was made by viewers and pundits and Twitter about all of the dead kids. While these ads were indeed serious and they are getting a lot of attention today, there is a cost to your brand when you aim for shocking sincerity and depth. Do you really offer some kind of solution or are you using shame and helicopter parenting for your own gain? What is clear is that brands this year are trying on the tug-at-your-guilt-heartstring suit – and, this year, the strings are showing.
The other themes observed in this year’s lineup of Super Bowl ads are best exemplified in the Inaugural KolbeCo Awards. Here are the winners of each category with commentary:
Lauren Kolbe: This ad was in alignment with the brand of Coca-Cola. I don’t drink it, and I don’t think I ever will, but it had a message that you can choose to see a world that is more loving. And it was accompanied with a hefty pre-launch and Twitter strategy.
Runner Up: The Budweiser Puppy Ad.
Best Use of Erectile Dysfunction
Danieal Broz: This ad was unexpected and that is the message that Fiat is trying to convey. And the women’s reactions at the end were pretty funny.
Runner Up: Data Dash with Kim Kardashian
Lauren Kolbe: So in reaction to their ad being pulled, these guys created this thing. And it is not at all in alignment with their brand – misogynistic, controversial and unapologetic. This ad is a sell-out and they were better off just sticking with not having one.
The All-In Award
Jeremy Nulik: This ad is everything that Loctite is. It is nerdy and makes the best use of fanny packs I’ve seen in some time. Also, Loctite reportedly spent their whole ad budget on this thing. While I don’t condone using only one tactic to promote your brand, if you’re gonna go all-in, go big.
The Ad Which Received the Most Male Groans
Lauren Kolbe: This is a great ad, and its use during the Super Bowl was great placement. It received so many groans from the guys watching the game when they realized it was for pads. And they didn’t stop talking about it.
Best Overt Ploy for Tears
Scott Kolbe: The Maxima model used to be Nissan’s ultimate luxury and sports sedan, but it has been bastardized to be just another model. In the relaunch of this brand, they took a novel and emotional tone to convey its place in their lineup. It also incorporated a #withdad hashtag for Twitter.
Best Use of Liam Neeson
Jeremy Nulik: If you take things from Liam Neeson, he finds you. Just like he did in the first three movies.
Best Use of Bumbling Journalists
Scott Kolbe: New, innovative products always have a gap to overcome. This ad was light, and it was great at showing how we’ve overcome innovation mind gaps before.
Most Abiding Ad
Jeremy Nulik: This uses the strength of The Dude/Jeff Bridges brand to launch a specific offering. Sure, it is for Squarespace, but, more importantly, it is for a psychedelic sounds download. That is brand alignment.