Not the best year creatively for Super Bowl ads
The political climate may have impacted advertisers' plans
February 7, 2017
These days it seems like it’s impossible to escape politics—even in Super Bowl ads. Months after a polarizing election, and days after President Donald Trump implemented a controversial immigration ban since held up by the courts, several Super Bowl advertisers decided to air politically themed commercials in the big game. Other advertisers were careful to hit neutral, almost bland notes in the highly charged political environment. Those factors combined to result in a rather dull group of ads, with few standouts as measured by sites such as McKee Wallwork + Co.’s ADBOWL, which rates big game ads. Steve McKee, president and partner at McKee Wallwork + Co., talks to Media Life about the lower quality of this year’s ads, content trends and why going political is a big risk.
Overall, was this a weak, strong or typical year for ad creative? Why?
It was a weaker year, in general. I think many brands are allowing themselves to be knocked off their game by politics.
Were this year’s ads better received than last year’s?
It’s difficult to compare. ADBOWL tracks views before, during and after the game, and the “after” part has just begun. We’ll see if any ads stand the test of time. I’m not convinced they will.
What sort of content trends did you note this year?
Long form ads online supported their 30-second version in the game. And there were a lot of inside jokes, from the rapid-fire gags in the Avocados spot to the internet references in the Go Daddy commercial to the music gag in the Bai spot.
I think advertisers this year were counting more than ever on an engaged and culturally aware audience.
Which ads did the best in ADBOWL? Why?
As of now Budweiser is the big winner with its spot about its founder’s immigration to the U.S. Oddly enough, the spot was conceived and produced before the recent political uproar, so its timing may have been coincidental.
And Budweiser focused on what it does so well, storytelling. That’s really the key.
Which ads fared the worst? Why?
Snickers’ live ad was a dud, as was Lexus’. Oddly enough, Turbo Tax’s Humpty Dumpty ad didn’t generate a lot of views, but it may have been because of its in-game placement. The game got so exciting that viewers may have been distracted.
There are a number of politically themed ads. How much of a risk is it for a company to air that sort of ad?
It’s a big risk. And a big no-no.
A politically themed ad may generate a lot of attention, but much of it is destined to be negative. Why an advertiser would want to generate ill feelings toward its own brand is beyond me.
The Super Bowl is one event where all of America comes together to celebrate. It’s rude, inappropriate and unwise to interject politics into that.
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