I never do ad reviews. What if I meet someone whose work I didn’t praise enough, at the open doors of a Mumbai local?
But this is different. I won’t be within arm’s length of the Super Bowl marketing and advertising guys anytime soon. I hope.
I was sent this year’s Super Bowl ads for this article. Saw them all. I was looking forward to seeing some great stuff. But I was underwhelmed.
Here’s what I feel is going on, and why most ads turned out to be manufacture-speak messages.
1. The prestige of ‘The greatest stage to put your ad on’ also comes with the burden of “the highest cost to put your ad out’. It is clear that no one wants the risk of viewers not having heard the brand’s name in a super bowl commercial. The strategic thinking then is usually this - how do I put my brand’s name upfront, maybe twice, or thrice? But it’s not like it great work can’t be done with this in mind. Look up ‘Fedex Boss’ - the brand name and USP is explained twice and is still funny as hell. Context setting is everything.
2. Consumer-led insights and their stories made way for one-sided brand speak. But how can you forget the humour? While dryly putting forward brand messaging, a random unconnected joke is inserted because otherwise there is nothing else to smile about in the whole ad.
3. In most cases you could switch products in the end and it wouldn’t matter. Anyone can crack a joke. But it takes simple stuff like Fevikwik’s fisherman ad to show how the joke and product can go together. Or to give a US example, look up ‘VW Funeral’ commercial, one of my favourite Bill Bernbach pieces. It is not just humour - it’s strategic humour. The audience consumes the bitter pill of an intrusive ad selling a car, in fact, ignores it if done right, and enjoys the commercial. Subconsciously he gets the message and even tells his girlfriend about the product.
4. Celebrities. You can get a good-looking star and his mother. If not used well, they will do more harm than good. You run the risk of announcing really aloud that you are really boring.
5. Tech. Some ads showed a QR code on the screen for 30 seconds. I remember seeing a variation of this last year as well. I fail to understand how this is advertising. You flash a 50% off coupon code on the screen and ask people to join, they will. Gimmicks are just that. You wasted precious time that was used by great brands to build strong cultish connections with their audience. Nike, anyone?
6. Great monies were spent on world-class CG and grand sets. There seems to be that constant fear that people might miss your ad so the grandness and visual imagery is often hyped up to catch eyeballs. But I yearned to see all this matched with equally great writing. No amount of packaging can substitute writing. A well-written ad can do the ‘attention grabbing’ job for much less. We need not go to Mars.
The writer is the founder and creative head, tiqui-taka, a Mumbai-based ad agency. Views expressed are personal.