The Score on Super Bowl Ads

Advertising themes and gimmicks once considered tried, tested and true, can become tiresome and taxing with one too many incarnations. When millions upon millions are watching the debut of a TV ad in manic anticipation – as has become Superbowl broadcast tradition – it’s even more vital, particularly from a money-making point of view, to remain on the right side of that line. While we eagerly await Volkswagen’s latest, as teased by a choir of dogs barking the theme to the Star Wars “Imperial March,” other themes and devices have unfortunately reached their respective expiration dates. As anyone who has repeated the same joke or story one too many times can tell you, knowing when to come up with fresh material is key.

The E*TRADE baby
His mimicry of typical grown up-like behavior while calmly demonstrating the ease in which it’s possible to trade stock on the internet was beyond adorable to start.  But after “sexting” his main squeeze, dropping the odd curse word, and dismantling a rival on the golf course, the E*TRADE baby has run the gamut of acting like an adult while still spitting up and sporting diapers.  Short of snorting an illicit drug and/or engaging in gang-related violence (good luck getting that material past FCC regulators), there’s little else this young tot can do to snag our attention.  It’s time to put the E*TRADE baby to bed, once and for all.

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Go Daddy
Without argument, Betty White charmed us out of town by unexpectedly taking a brutal football tackle in the first “you’re not you when you’re hungry” Snickers commercial in 2010. We remained on board through reasonably sharp versions starring the likes of Joe Pesci, Don Rickles, Richard Lewis and Roseanne. But then Go Daddy took the theme of resurrecting out-of-work entertainers to a entirely new and gruesome level by featuring a mostly-plasticized version of Joan Rivers in a 2011 Superbowl promotional piece. Not cute, not artful, just sad.  “Fun” commercials are much less fun when you feel sorry for the washed-up main character; worse, when you don’t feel sorry for a washed-up main character who theoretically deserves your empathy.

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In the spirit of pigs and lipstick, an otherwise crummy commercial can’t be saved by relying on a contemporary vehicle like computer animation. As made evident by Chatter’s offering featuring a cartoonified version of shill-masters extraordinaire, The Black Eyed Peas (ie. The Baby Peas), weak is weak; no amount of animated window dressing can provide the necessary salvation when content is poor.  Furthermore, in the case of a 15-, 30- or 45-second ad, simpler and universal is better. Like a canine rendition of a well-know, beloved movie theme. Don’t be surprised if the follow-up to Volkswagen’s “The Bark Side” ends up being the Superbowl’s top commercial dog this year.

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Image courtesy of ralphbijker

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