A penny for your thoughts makes it very hard to get by in this economy.
Last night was the Super Bowl, aka advertising’s second Christmas! While I understand the game itself was more disappointing than the one that pretty much killed my burgeoning interest in the sport, the adverts were… also pretty disappointing. There were no headline snatching stunts, like Skittles making an ad for only one person or game changers like Tide invading every other ad in a way you now can't unsee.
Being in the UK and foregoing the snack stadiums and Monday off work this year, I’m catching these ads from the internet, so some may not be as they appeared during the game. It strangely does (or did) dilute the experience, not joining in consumerism’s self propagated fever dream and missing adverts for products we can’t buy here. We have to make do with Sky or the BBC. Where during timeouts they *shudder* analyse the game.
Pepsi - Is Pepsi Okay?
I’ve always imagined this as advertising’s greatest challenge, its Everest, its impossible dream - getting people to order ‘cola’ instead of ‘coke.’ This is a situation probably everyone in the Western world has encountered and Pepsi, using the opportunity of exclusive Super Bowl partnership to take it to Coke in their own Atlanta backyard, decided to address it. The execution is a little awkward, not sure why Steve Carell is the spokesman (though better than other recent Pepsi celeb partnerships), but the bravery of tackling this proposition head on really stood out for me. Also Pepsi is always better than Coke.
Michelob Ultra - The Pure Experience
I’m a sucker for good sound design, and this entry from Michelob Ultra does that and then some. From a surreal, idyllic location to thirst inducing close ups this slow, measured ad takes its time, but with that confidence it lands all the harder. The relatively rare but always impactful use of effective surround sound draws you in more than most, since sometimes to get spotted amongst the blaring noise you need to be silent. This one had the rare result whereas if I ever see Michelob Ultra (only recently launched in the UK), I’ll definitely be trying a pint.
Pringles - Sad Device
Gets loads of product in, a message about its benefits then into one of the best gags of the night. Job done. An advantage of this as well is to make the most of the stacking flavours, you’d need to buy multiple tubes of Pringles, so works really hard for the client. The joke works on a very existential level, does your voice control assistant feel anguish or torment, being unable to experience the world it knows so much about, cursed to only watch as its ungrateful masters indulge? Who cares? The perfectly pitched dismissal and spot on choice of music ties it together deliciously.
Devour - Food Porn
Who would’ve thought there were so many parallels to be drawn between pornography and frozen ready meals? A hilarious spot that gets so many miles out of both sight and entendre gags. The tone is perfect, treated seriously like a real addiction ad, and it’s not hard to imagine there would be some crossover between those with the parodied addiction and the target market. This is the uncensored 60” version, but the 30” that played during the game works too, where the more explicit references were cut, leaving it to the viewer's imagination. The discarded napkins in place of tissues definitely belong post-watershed.
Audi - Cashew
Easily the best rug pull of the year, what starts as a stylised, emotional story of a man connecting with his long lost grandfather is in fact just teeing you up for a sucker punch of a gag. The stark contrast between the angelic crescendo and the washed out office brilliantly enhances the joke. The man was about to die, and he was going to heaven in an Audi. It got me and it got me good. The fact he looks gutted to still be alive is a lovely touch. The messaging about going electric doesn’t really tie in, but the halo effect will help with that, since you were probably too busy enjoying Spirit in the Sky.