Here come the Super Bowl ad reviews.
I’ll start: I loved all of them. Even the terrible ones. Throw out the USAToday AdMeter, they’re all 10-out-of-10s and everyone deserves a raise.
You might disagree. And somewhere, someone is writing a well-researched thinkpiece that says the money could have been better spent with a digital buy backed by math and data. Someone else will correctly observe that this year’s batch was too purpose-driven, too self-aware, or too celebrity-obsessed. Someone, probably your neighbor, liked last year’s better.
But let’s not pick them apart this year. Let’s instead take a moment to set aside our well-honed snark and applaud the big swings. Because when the stakes were highest, this group of brands and clients and big agencies and small boutiques and in-house creative groups took some big, giant, highly visible swings.
Skittles made a Broadway musical. I haven’t seen it and it’s probably not perfect. It didn’t air during the game, and from the description it sounds a little navel-gazing. But it’s a Broadway musical! For candy! I don’t like using exclamation marks, but when a team writes and produces an actual musical and hypes it during the Super Bowl, they get exclamation marks. It’s a big, giant, singing swing, and I hope it does wonderful things for Skittles. 10/10.
Expensify put together a music video with Adam Scott and 2 Chainz that you can actually expense. I’d never heard of Expensify before this week, nobody likes doing expenses, and Adam Scott is everyone’s least-favorite breakout star from “Parks and Recreation.” And despite all that, the team behind this effort delivered a hit. 10/10.
Andy Warhol appeared in an art piece that became a Burger King commercial. There might be some people who question whether they nailed the Whopper target market, but it was an exceptionally odd and arresting way to pass 45 seconds of Super Bowl time. Was it boring? Sure. But so was the game. And at least this ad was purposefully boring. 10/10.
Michelob Ultra Extra Golden Something put out an almost-silent ad, playing off the growing ASMR trend. It wasn’t great. But good for them anyway – they took a big swing in the noisiest of noisy environments. Zoë Kravitz whispered things. 10/10.
But Light killed off their Bud Knight to the shock and horror of an entire nation. Or maybe HBO and “Game of Thrones” killed him to the surprise and delight of that same entire nation. Is he dead-dead? He looked pretty dead. We were laughing! And then we were cringing. That’s a great big swing that required dueling agencies to set aside their differences. 10/10.
For most of us who work in advertising, it’s a lot easier to find what’s wrong with Super Bowl commercials than to find things to love about them. Bad casting. Weak jokes. Too much reliance on celebrity. A weird robot fetish. A-Rod probably didn’t have to be in that Planters ad, and I really wish The Dude hadn’t taken the Stella gig. But those are quibbles.
Come Monday morning, we’re the same group that asks our clients to be bold, take bigger risks and always be entertaining. So while we may secretly cringe when a client inevitably asks us for “something like that Skittles musical,” we should also be sending thank-you cards to the team that made it. Because we want those questions. We want that energy. We want that excitement around what an idea can do for a brand. That’s the fun part. That’s why we do this — to take the big swings, to do something ridiculous and ambitious and famous.
The game is over now, but the year is just beginning. There are 364 non-Super Bowl days in a row in which to take our own big swings. Not to the tune of $5.3 million for 30 seconds. Not with Michael Bublé or Clydesdales. And maybe not on TV at all. But those are the times that really need our biggest swings. Not just when 100 million people are watching with pigs-in-a-blanket, but all the time. Every day. Creating the stories and moments that get talked about, that take on a life of their own and propel our clients and partners forward. So thank you, team at Expensify; if doing expenses on Sunday can be fun, then any brief waiting for us Monday morning should be a joy.