SBD/February 3, 2014/Marketing and Sponsorship

Super Bowl Advertisers Trade Shock Value For Warm And Fuzzy Commercials

Most of the Super Bowl XLVIII ads "sought to invoke fuzzy feelings that would warm the cockles of consumer hearts," according to Stuart Elliott of the N.Y. TIMES. A Heinz ketchup commercial by Cramer-Krasselt "encouraged consumers to hum, 'If You’re Happy and You Know It.'" The "queen of nice," talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, was the "star of a spot by R/GA for Beats Music." There were "nostalgic shout-outs to the 1980s and 1990s," along with "feel-good anthems promoting diversity and inclusion." There also were "singing Muppets" promoting Toyota and T-Mobile featuring "a nice guy who finished last" in Tim Tebow. To "underline the point -- in a nice way, of course -- there was a commercial by Innocean for Hyundai titled 'Nice,' which the automaker promoted in social media with a meta hashtag, #NiceHashtag." The "gentler Super Bowl ads are also a reaction to Super Bowl commercials that were replete with crude sight gags and bathroom humor" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/3). The AP's Mae Anderson writes under the header, "Nothing Controversial In Super Bowl Ads." There were "no crude jokes" and sexual innuendo "was kept to a minimum." There "wasn't much shock value" (AP, 2/3). Association of Independent Commercial Producers President & CEO Matt Miller said, "We saw a lot of the Americana and we saw a lot of the heartstrings being pulled." USA Today's Laura Petrecca said the "simplicity" of the soldier homecoming ad from A-B is "what really made it stand out." NBC's Savannah Guthrie: "We see more of this with advertisers: Instead of going for the cheap laugh, they're going for that emotional ring" ("Today," NBC, 2/3). VARIETY's Brian Lowry wrote Budweiser’s ads were “unabashedly patriotic and designed to make viewers cry.” The notion of “every returning soldier receiving a hero’s welcome was enough to trump the inherent manipulation in the way it was mounted and produced,” and “ditto for the adorable-puppy-meets-Clydesdale ad” (VARIETY.com, 2/2).

ANIMAL CRACKERS: CBS' Frank Luntz said this year's batch of ads were a "kinder, gentler advertising effort." Ads with animals "have always done well in the Super Bowl," and A-B "has got the game on animals." However, A-B's "Puppy Love" ad, which topped the USA Today Ad Meter, "just so overdid everything else" ("CBS This Morning," 2/3). In Pittsburgh, Rob Owen writes this year, "dogs seemed to be in particularly high demand." A dog "even stole the show away from a Clydesdale" in the "Puppy Love" spot. Audi unveiled "a bizarre, somewhat unnerving spot featuring a computer-generated 'Doberhuahua'; dogs had co-starring roles in two different Doritos ads; and the CarMax 'slow clap' spot featured an alternate online version starring dogs." Other animals "got in on the action, including a romance-minded bull in a Chevy spot, a Chobani yogurt-craving bear, a llama with Don Cheadle in a Bud Light ad and a pig pitching GEICO" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 2/3). In Cincinnati, John Kiesewetter wrote the Doberhuahua spot with Sarah McLachlan was a "very clever way to sell the message of 'compromise scares us too.'" Kiesewetter: "But do you remember the product?" Meanwhile, Budweiser "delivered its trademark emotional ad, starring a Clydesdale and a puppy as 'best Buds.'" But he wonders how many "were still watching when it aired in the fourth quarter of the Super blowout" (CINCINNATI.com, 2/2). Univ. of Colorado professor Janet Robinson said of the Budweiser spot, "Marketers realize that no one can resist a puppy, especially when it falls in love with a Clydesdale. Yet there is something ambiguous about the ad. Sound and image are mismatched." She called the noted the music used in the ad, Passenger's top-10 hit "Let Her Go," is a "sad, sad song" (DENVERPOST.com, 2/2).

MISSING THE MARK: In New Jersey, Virginia Rohan writes under the header, "High-Priced Super Bowl Ads Fall Flat." It "wasn't just that so many spots had been released before Super Bowl XLVIII," but that, despite "all the money and meticulous planning, many of the ads fell flat, leaving a feeling of 'eh'" (Bergen RECORD, 2/3). People magazine Deputy Managing Editor Peter Castro said, "Any of these commercials could appear on any given episode of 'CSI:' or 'Modern Family.' Great shows, but there wasn't that special magnificence." Actor D.L. Hughley: "It was the worst slate of commercials I've ever seen" ("GMA," ABC, 2/3).
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