Tuesday, February 07, 2006

What’s the buzz after the Not-So-SuperBowl, which in case you missed it, the Pittsburgh “Stealers” won, courtesy of apparently paid-off referees? Watercooler loiterers across the country were discussing the commercials, of course, and the artistic and comedic merits therein (or lack thereof). But some of us are more interested in, or addicted to criticizing, said advertisements than others. So here’s my SuperBowl Advertising Report Card for SuperBowl XL, which apparently stood for 40 and not Extra Lame as most people now assume.

A+ = none
A = FedEx “Dino Delivery”; MasterCard “MacGyver”; Dove “Self-Esteem”
A- = Hummer “Little Monster”; Ford “Easy Being Green”

Honorable mention:
B+ = Bud “Streaker”; Ameriquest “Bug Zapper”; BurgerKing “Whopperettes”; Ameriquest “Airplane”; Nationwide “Fabio”; Bud “Young Clydesdale”

Like Seattle, BudLight dominated the first quarter with 4 different ads -- but didn’t score with any of them.

GoDaddy had no new ideas, instead picking up on last year’s successful “wardrobe malfunction” theme. It was fine, and it did once again encourage viewers to become active by driving them to the godaddy.com site for “more” of the buxom bombshell spokeswoman and her unravelling camisole.

Diet Pepsi, another heavy investor in SuperBowls past and present, had 2 on early, but neither of these hit the mark either. The Jackie Chan ad probably seemed like a good idea on paper, but the final product wasn’t interesting or entertaining, and that’s being generous. The Puff Daddy ad (“Brown & Bubbly”) was just plain embarrassing. Hard to say which one was worse.

I believe FedEx won the day with its prehistoric delivery skit. And it doesn’t pain me to say so even though I my day job is with DHL; FedEx’s ad was the best of the day in my opinion. It had great production values, surprises, laughs, and it was on-message. As an aside, I have to say I was a little surprised DHL didn’t take the opportunity to build on its great success with TV advertising this past year. DHL’s ad campaign seemed perfectly suited for the SuperBowl stage; perhaps they decided their investment with Major League Baseball and the World Series was enough sports exposure.

I am always a little surprised and dismayed when some companies shell out the millions for the SuperBowl time, then trot out their same old advertisements they’ve been running for months. Automakers seemed particularly timid; see Cadillac (Escalade), Mercedes, Honda (Hybrid).

Hummer, on the other hand, placed a tremendous ad with its “Little Monster.” Big production values + a big robot + a big monster = a big hit. My only disclaimer to my praise is that some people said they've seen this ad before during other games leading up to the SuperBowl. I hadn't seen it myself, so I counted it as a SuperBowl ad.

Ford’s Hybrid Escape was also a notable exception to the fraidy-cat carmakers' ads. Employing world-famous and much-beloved Kermit the Frog as a biking, whitewaterrafting, rockclimbing spokesreptile, the message -- it *is* easy being green with a hybrid SUV — was well delivered.

Of course, no SuperBowl would be complete without ads featuring chimps and donkeys. CareerBuilder played both ends to the middle and used both. Neither was particularly good or funny, though.

So how many professional comedians does it take to make an unfunny ad about soda and airport security? If you ask Sierra Mist, who’s commercial featured Jim Gaffigan, Kathy Griffin, and Michael Ian Black, the answer is the same number as the licks to the center of a Tootsie Pop: “a-ttttthhreee.”

Perhaps nicking themselves on Super Sunday was Gillette, who tried to generate excitement for its new Fusion shaver, which features a ridiculously redundant 5th razor. They tried to justify the new product by pointing out that the blades are closer together than its other razors. Big deal. I still use the GoodNews disposable twin blades and can’t imagine where the blade count will ever end... Is six enough? Seven? Can they fit a dozen on a razor someday? It all seems very silly, and the ad was similarly silly with its macho space age special effects. Yawn.

In fact, this year's ads overall have to be considered the least edgy and most timid bunch in years. But there was at least one exception. Crashing the wings and beers with serious messages can be dicey, if not disasterous, but Unilever's Dove came up big with its "Self-esteem" spot, featuring little girls struggling with their self-images in an increasingly superficial and beauty-industry-driven society. The result was powerful and touching. And using Cyndi Lauper's "True Colors" as a soundtrack was a genius stroke.

I notice that Bud Light's "Magic Fridge" took top honors in the USA Today poll. This should come as no surprise, given that Bud Light a.) bought the most ads, and b.) has won this "contest" 8 years running. I guess there's no accounting for taste, but in this case I can taste the accounting.

And lastly... Ummm... "Might as well face it, you're addicted to Lost "? WTF? Did Robert Palmer approve this message from beyond the grave? Or is he just rolling over in it?