An Advertising Legend Rates 2014's Top Super Bowl Commercials (And One Instant Classic You Won't See On Sunday)

Jan 30 2014, 9:36pm CST | by

An Advertising Legend Rates 2014's Top Super Bowl Commercials (And One Instant Classic You Won't See On Sunday)

“Average and okay.” That’s Lee Garfinkel’s three-word assessment of this year’s crop of Super Bowl ads. And Garfinkel knows of what he speaks. The CEO of DraftFCB NY is the auteur of numerous classic Super Bowl ads, most notably a series of iconic Pepsi spots featuring Cindy Crawford.

Garfinkel, who created high profile spots at BBDO, Lowe, DDB, and Havas Worldwide,  knows how hard it is to make a great Super Bowl spot. The stakes are high and everyone has an opinion. “It’s a very delicate thing to create a great commercial, let alone a great Super Bowl spot,” he explains. “You need to take into consideration how people view Super Bowl spots, how it will do in the different Ad Meters and reviews, plus so many people are working on it that it’s easy to chip away at it and water it down.”

Which may be why this year’s ads seem especially timid. The concepts are promising, but the execution is often predictable. Here, roughly in inverse order of quality, are Garfinkel’s analysis of this year’s Super Bowl ads, including a great spot that won’t air during the Game on Sunday.

Hyundai:

“When you’re spending the money to sign a celebrity for a spot, you really want to make sure you’re matching the celebrity to the product and the concept. Hyundai paid a lot for  Johnny Galecki but they almost could have gotten just an average-looking, slightly nerdy guy and run the same generic spot that could have worked for any car brand. It also makes you wonder who that guy is? Is it Johnny Galecki The Actor, driving a Hyundai? Or is it his character from Big Bang Theory? Or is he kind of playing a celebrity version of himself? If the spot’s good, you don’t really have time to ask these questions.”

KIA:


“I get the premise–A Different Kind of Luxury–and Laurence Fishburne poking fun at The Matrix. But the timing doesn’t make any sense. Why now? The movie came out 15 years ago.”

Priceline:

“I can’t figure out what they were thinking. There’s nothing that says Super Bowl about this spot, and it’s a pretty uninspired way of using William Shatner. And Kaley Cuoco is a big star who doesn’t come cheap, but they really don’t give her anything to do in this spot. I’m baffled.”

Audi:

“I was really disappointed. The hardest thing about doing a great spot is to make it ownable. To get across a product benefit.  The dogs in the spot are memorable, I guess, but the first time I saw it I was wondering what it had to do with Audi.  And then after watching it, I remember the dog, but I don’t remember the car at all, and the connection back to Audi is pretty thin.. Are they saying that buying a BMW or a Mercedes is a compromise? That’s not a very credible message.”

Volkswagen:

“It didn’t really work for me. There was some attempt at getting across a message. The spot is about German engineering and that’s one of the things that separates a VW from a Toyota or a Honda, It also addresses the question of reliability, which is one of the key benefits of their Japanese competitors. But despite that, I just found the execution distinctly unappealing. I just wasn’t interested in watching German engineers getting their wings.”

Jaguar:

“I wanted to like this one more. I liked the idea a lot when I heard it, but the spot itself didn’t deliver anything beyond the teaser and what I got from the description. The spot felt like it was overwritten, it was telling us rather than showing us. That said, Jaguar has been off people’s radar for a while, so just doing the spot at all is a step in the right direction.”

Heinz:


“It says a lot about this year’s crop of ads that this is one of the better ones. What I like about it is that it’s all about the product. People associate whacking the bottom of the bottle with ketchup and with Heinz. That said, if my creative team came back with this idea, I would have sent them back and said ‘Okay, now push it. Take it some place unexpected. You have a good basic idea, now make it great.’ They could have done better than a squeeze bottle fart joke.”

Budweiser:

“This spot is incredibly cute, and it’s probably going to be very successful, although I do feel like I’ve seen it before. Still, it’s hard to argue with an adorable puppy. The tone is exactly what Budweiser was trying to achieve in the past with their Clydesdale ads. It’s all about warmth and very, very gentle humor. This is a classic Super Bowl ad, that’s designed to appeal to the casual fan and the kids watching the game who wouldn’t be watching, say, the NFC Championship Game. This spot should do really well in the USA Today poll.”

Newcastle:

This Newcastle spot was the best Super Bowl spot by far and it wasn’t even a Super Bowl spot. For very little media money, they’re getting a lot of attention. The main spot pokes fun at every Super Bowl commercial cliche and it’s pretty funny. But the teaser spots are even better. The focus group? It’s just funny.

The spot with Anna Kendrick is a really smart use of a celebrity. It takes that mockumentary trope of using an actor with a wholesome image playing against that by letting them go nuts and act like a jerk. They did that with Matt Damon on House of Lies. I gather that Anna Kendrick ad-libbed a lot of the dialogue here, and it feels really natural and that’s why it’s funny. It’s ironic that the best Super Bowl ad of the year, won’t be seen during the Super Bowl.

What’s your take on this year’s Super Bowl spots?  Which ones were your favorites?  Share your thoughts in the comments below. 


Follow me on Twitter (@avincent52)  or follow me on Forbes.

Allen St. John is the author of Newton’s Football: The Science Behind America’s Game, published this month by Ballantine Books.

Source: Forbes Auto

 
 

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