To me, Super Bowl ads give an insightful picture of big brands, and an even better picture of what brands think about us. Following the #BrandBowl tag on Twitter is illuminating; everyone has an opinion on which brands “get it” and which brands don’t.
For me, I watch trends, and I look for brand sensitivity. Who is communicating in an inclusive and intelligent way? And as a woman, I’m always curious about how marketers are trying or failing to communicate with us–or not even trying.
First, Dogs. VW, Sketchers, Bud Light and Doritos went for the “cute dog theory” but there was one standout, Bud Light. The dog in the spot “Weego” was a rescue—a nice nod to the countless people and volunteers involved in animal rescue, and a clear acknowledgement that the rescue movement in the United States is extremely influential. And for every “like” on Bud Light’s Facebook page the brand will donate $1 to Tony La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation. Nice, compassionate, and sensitive. The “dog fetches beer” is an old concept, but the adding the rescue dog character was clever.
Skechers, on the other hand, chose to show a spot that included Greyhound racing—a sore spot with many who work in the dog rescue arena. Yes, there was a cute French Bulldog, Quiggly, that performed the moonwalk, but it didn’t eclipse a complete lack of sensitivity to animal activists. There were protesters in San Diego outside a Skechers store, PETA sent out an alert, bloggers were mad, very mad, and 122,319 people signed a Boycott Skechers petition. Why would Skechers risk alienating 78 million U.S. dog owners?
Next up, Women. When Fiat ran their sexy commercial with the Romanian model speaking Italian and tormenting a nerdy, cute guy who’d been staring at her, I laughed. I don’t think most women mind being portrayed as sexy and in control. The spot looked modern, and to my mind, it appealed to both men and women. Sex sells when it’s really sexy–and smart.
Go Daddy, however, is still holding fast to their “naked women theory.” Adding Jillian Michaels and Danica Patrick to the cast hardly compensates for the lack of thought behind this ad. Maybe naked women sell domain names, but there are a whole lot of women who buy domain names and who really don’t like these dumb ads. It’s not that they’re so offensive, they are simply irrelevant and lack sophistication. With Go Daddy’s recent brush with brand suicide over SOPA, one would think they would be trying a bit harder. My favorite quote from Twitter was from @DanielleSmithTV: “Go Daddy… Tacky as always. My small dude asks, ‘but mommy, are they wearing ANY clothes at all?’”
The H&M ad starring a half-naked David Beckham was a Go Daddy-like, soft-core ad designed to appeal to women, but with gorgeous art direction and cinematography included. Maybe naked men sell clothes. And maybe women’s aesthetic tastes require beautiful commercials –I guess we like a little art with our sex. But at least the ad was stylish, and had a context of sorts. Bodywear is the name of the underwear Beckham is modelling.
My takeaway for the Super Bowl 2012 ads:
1. Dogs can sell just about anything
2. Brands and social causes work well together
3. Sexy will never go out of style
4. Some brands still think there will be no consequences for pissing off consumers.
I can’t wait for next year.