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Super Bowl Ad Recap: Advertising Techniques

February 10, 2016

It’s the most wonderful time of the year for advertisers and wannabe Mad Men alike: when we get to sit around the big screen and smugly judge companies for their Super Bowl ad choices. Months of planning, weeks of what I can only assume was lots of crying, and millions upon millions of dollars spent just so a group of people gorging on melted cheese and chicken wings could smugly declare: “That wasn’t good.”

In the spirit of arbitrary judgment, I have created several categories and applied my favorites (or least favorites, in some cases). Enjoy my opinion.

Funniest Ads

Squarespace

I am likely biased because I am a big Key and Peele fan, but also anyone who is not a Key and Peele fan should take a long, hard look in the mirror because these guys are consistently hilarious. Their Super Bowl plug for Squarespace was no exception, with them portraying enthusiastic, if not particularly knowledgeable, sports commentators.

Shock Top

There are plenty of ads in the world that make me smile or chuckle appreciatively, but it’s rare for me to find one that makes me literally laugh out loud. This ad for Shock Top beer has a standup/improv feel to it, and I can’t help but wonder if the banter was completely improvised. It had enough good zingers that my family was using them on each other for the remainder of the evening – a sure sign of success.

Cutest Ads

Pantene and Chunky Soup

I’m grouping these together because they are pretty much the same advertising technique, and I admit these spots played me like a damn fiddle. The cynic in me knows that this is a cheap ploy to tug at heartstrings, but the rest of me is trying to blame the fact that I’m tearing up on the spicy buffalo wings. But seriously, if you didn’t feel a little twinge at any point during these then I don’t want to know you.

Best Animals

Honda

I’m a simple creature: take some animals, make them sing a Capella Queen, and I will buy your product. (Unrelated: does anyone want to buy a lightly-used Honda? I may have made a mistake).

Doritos

Doritos had several entries from their contest play this year (more on those later), but this was the one that made me smile. It was just pure silliness, and the cashier’s bewildered reaction just ties it all together.

Honorable Mention

Axe

We all know that Axe has a bit of a reputation as a teenage boy’s shower substitute, and their commercials have never been the most empowering, but they actually impressed me this year with their “Find Your Magic” spot. It was refreshingly inclusive and had a softer message than their past spots. Perhaps this is a new, nicer side of Axe?

T-Mobile

T-Mobile had two pretty good ads this year. The Steve Harvey joke was decent but considering that “scandal” flamed out after 24 hours, it was a bit stale. The Drake spot, however, was still pretty relevant (that song is a quality jam) and had the right amount of self-awareness when it came to the comedy.

If this were the Hunger Games, those ads would survive at least a couple of rounds. These next few would be dead within the first five minutes:

Try Hardest

Mountain Dew

There is a razor-thin line between being funny and thinking you are funny. This ad was several thousand miles on the latter side of that line. A puppy/monkey/baby hybrid sounds like an idea that was funny at 3 am in a concepting meeting when everyone was a six pack deep and delirious with exhaustion (I know how ad agencies work), but in the harsh light of day was unsettling and just plain weird.

Skittles

Skittles has done some of my favorite weird TV ads (check out “Skittles Beard” or “Skittles Rabbit”), but in the past few years they have jumped the shark and gotten too weird. A giant, singing portrait of Steven Tyler made out of Skittles is the stuff of nightmares and bad acid trips, not the stuff that makes you want to buy and consume a product. Unless they’ve started adding a little something special to their candy.

What?

LG

Find me someone who says they didn’t enjoy “Taken” and I will call them a liar to their face. Liam Neeson is awesome and a badass, but watching him cryptically drone on about the future to some long-haired bro was confusing. Halfway through I thought it was a preview for a new Tron movie, and then finding out it was for a TV just had my head spinning. This is the Matthew McConaughey Lincoln commercial of 2016.

Pokemon

This ad had me pretty pumped throughout, thinking it was an inspirational ad for the Olympics, or at the very least Nike or some other sportswear brand. Instead it ends with a guy walking onto a field and hurling his Pokemon-ball (sorry guys, I have no idea what it’s actually called) and it’s over. “Celebrating 20 years of Pokemon.” Ok, and?

Dumbest

Snickers

Apparently it is now becoming necessary for any famous person to add a new clause to their will: “When I die, please don’t turn me into a corporate shill using CGI.” There’s something inherently gross about using someone to promote a product without their permission – I felt that way when Dior did it and I feel that way now. Please stop using this as an advertising technique.

Doritos

This opinion will likely make me unpopular, because inexplicably this commercial has landed on many “best ads of 2016” list. Clearly my enjoyment of dogs wearing human coats and sheep singing Queen demonstrates that my sense of humor isn’t the highest of brows, but this just came across as juvenile and lazy. Also anyone who imagines the birthing process and then wants to eat something immediately afterwards needs to be avoided.

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