There were some good spots on the game last night. Impeccably shot, brilliantly edited, scored to perfection. Many demonstrated a mastery of advertising’s tried and true techniques. Mercedes Benz used Willem Dafoe and Kate Upton and what the industry calls the reveal at the end.
VW found a device both likeable and controversial, generating both pre-game views and in-game thumbs ups.
Doritos once again showed us that dumb visual jokes and guy humor is solid and reliable.
And Budweiser reminded us that tugging at the heart strings always works, especially if it’s about having to let go.
These spots are all solid commercials. But every one of them comes out of the playbook on how to do a Super Bowl ad. Frat humor. Celebrities. Animals. Follow the formula. Go for the yuks.
Which is why for me, Ram wins. Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard all the arguments about how it was just a copy of something already done. The Richards Group found the idea in a video online. And Paul Harvey’s speech has been a farmer favorite for decades. So what. Had you ever seen it?’
The YouTube video wasn’t a spot, it wasn’t great, it wasn’t even on anyone’s radar until the agency made it a spot, hiring William Albert Allard and Kurt Markus to create the riveting images that elevated the story and actually made us feel the words.
Nothing else on the game — despite how well executed, or cast, or scored — was truly original. Nothing else took a chance or dared to do something outside the familiar box of advertising tricks.
Ram’s Farmer spot and the agency behind it took a risk, got all the pieces right and pulled it off. For taking that chance alone, they deserve credit. For making it work, they deserve our outright admiration.
Years ago, I was CD on the very first Super Bowl spot to use a poem. In an attempt to follow up on the success of our previous year’s blockbuster — Monster.com’s “When I grow up” — we shot a black and white commercial to Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken.
The New York Times liked it.
The sequel to last year’s hugely popular Super Bowl commercial, shown twice during the game, was more serious than its predecessor, which perhaps accounted for its lesser popularity in day-after ad polls. Still, the spot, focused on ”The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost, was a standout, if for nothing more than its novelty as perhaps the only game commercial ever based on a poem. Stuart Elliott, NY Times, February 1, 2000.
But it ended up at the bottom of the popularity polls. And that was the beginning of the end of our relationship with Monster.
A few years later CareerBuilder fired its agency (or the agency fired Career Builder) for failing to make the polls with a Super Bowl commercial.
All of which makes The Richards Group decision to try something unsafe braver still. And makes me like it all the more.