The biggest losers, the one that stood out and what he really thought of the Deutsch LA spot for Volkswagen - our Editor-in-Chief Michael Weinzettl gives his word on the ads of last Sunday's Super Bowl XLVI...
Taking a final glance back at last Sunday's Super Bowl ads I'm reminded of John Hegarty's famous remark made when he was President of the Jury in Cannes: "If we're looking for originality, we might as well go home."
Much more than the offerings at Cannes, the work presented during the Super Bowl XLVI's ad breaks is a terrible place to look for innovative or really creative advertising (there are huge exceptions - none bigger than Apple's '1984' landmark spot). With consumers expecting to be entertained at all cost, production budgets getting bigger and $3.5 million paid for each 30-second slot, the stakes are just too high to opt for any kind of experimentation.
So from my subjective point of view, what were the - for better or worse - outstanding spots aired this year?
The biggest loser must have been Samsung who aimed to make fun of Apple-heads waiting in line for a new product and succeeded only in shooting themselves in the foot. With the commercial's focus on the Samsung Galaxy 'stylus' as the one big innovation, they managed to single-handedly redefine the USP as absurd. Consumers laughed their heads off after being presented with the stylus - a pen that had been long ditched by others. It appears that Samsung had bet on a horse that already bit the dust in another stable.
A German reference came to mind in connection with what I consider to be the second major loser among the Super Bowl ads competition: "In Gefahr und größter Not bringt der Mittelweg den Tod." A famous saying by Baroque poet Friedrich von Logau, it translates roughly and without the rhyme to suggest that when you're in danger and great trouble, taking the middle of the road will surely lead to death. Now 'death' may be overstating it, but the VW New Beetle spot did come as quite a harsh disappointment especially after all the acclaim the Deutsch agency got for the 'Dark Force' for VW last year.
Apparently unsure of what to do, Deutsch LA ended up blending two different commercials into one. The first part with the dog getting into shape in order to chase after the brand new Beetle on the block is okay. The second part rather abruptly transports us into the Star Wars cantina - by now a rather overused ad cliché (remember the celebrity-clad Adidas Originals 'Star Wars Cantina' spot by Sid Lee Montreal?). The result of this mix and match, obviously designed to please everyone, got only lukewarm responses from consumers and was abhorred by quite a number of ad creatives around the world.
Of course, there was also that unspeakable piece of plagiarism by Dannon Oikos (see the Canadian original for 7 Up). After 25 years of looking at advertising I have nothing against ideas being re-used especially if it's for another market, but there should be some kind of improvement over the original and on this occasion it was quite the opposite.
To me, the winner of the bunch was clearly Chrysler's 'It's Halftime in America'. This beautifully made commercial by Wieden + Kennedy, Portland which starred Clint Eastwood was indeed - as Adweek put it - "the only spot from Super Bowl XLVI that truly dared to go beyond advertising - to join the national conversation about something bigger." The two-minute film had a beautiful gravitas to it, which reminded me of some of Clint Eastwood's own films, for instance, 'Mystic River' (2003) which happens to be my personal favourite among them.
And if the spot made Republicans foam at the mouth (Karl Rove, of all people, claimed to be "frankly offended" by it and said it was an ad for Obama) - then even better as far as I'm concerned. I think even Walter Lürzer would have liked it for that. Although he never was an overtly political person, he loved to make fun of politicians, particularly of German ones and the blustering 'bigshots' of his native Austria. But he reserved his special contempt for George W. Bush and Republican politics in general.