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Opinion: Cleverness reigns supreme in Super Bowl commercials

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I learned a few things during the breaks between the main event that was Super Bowl XLVI.

For starters, 2012 looks like its going to be a great year for the movie industry – this year’s Super Bowl commercials were dominated by movie trailers (and good ones, at that).

Secondly – funny sells. Some of the bigger name brands (Budweiser, for instance) chose to lead off their annual commercial offerings with more serious/dramatic advertisements, but the commercials that really stood out were those that made me laugh. They will be the ads talked about around water coolers this week.

Thirdly – Clint Eastwood delivering an amazing speech gives me chills. As a writer, I know how hard it is to craft a message with the kind of depth that will stay with audiences for years. To capture that in a two-minute commercial is nothing short of miraculous. I’ve never felt any particular affection toward any car brand before, but after Clint’s halftime speech, I’m more of a Chrysler man than I ever was before.

Chrysler wasn’t the only winner of the night. Unfortunately, though, there were more losers from this year’s lineup of Super Bowl commercials than winners. At $3.5 million per 30-second spot, a company willing to pony up the money can’t afford to have a miss. Cleverness is in short supply, so when it’s applied appropriately to an advertisement, consumers are going to perk up and likely pounce on the product. But if you miss the mark with your cleverness, you’re going to have 100 million viewers scratching their heads and saying, “That commercial was dumb.”

That said, here’s a brief overview of five winners and what made them good investments:

• “It’s Halftime,” Chrysler – “It’s halftime, America…” Thus began one of the best motivational speeches I’ve ever heard, and it came in the form of a Chrysler commercial. The call to pull up your bootstraps and fight through the struggles of a rough economy resounded strongly for any viewer of any demographic in any part of the country. Eastwood reminded us what it means to be an American, challenged us to keep pushing forward, and gave us a promise of better things to come. “That’s how we win,” he said. Perhaps the best accolade to give this advertisement is to say that I have goosebumps crawling along my skin as I write this.

• “Sexy and I know It,” M&Ms – Sex sells. Mars Inc., the makers of M&Ms candies, has known this for a long time. Don’t believe it? Just ask any guy out there which M&M color is the most coveted. The answer was always green - until now. Thanks to this year’s Super Bowl spot, brown is the new green. The combination of cleverness and simple humor made this an ad that you’ll continue to chuckle about every time it replays in your mind, and laugh about with friends during a coffee break.

• “Vampires,” Audi – Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll know that the “Twilight” series of books and movies have dominated pop culture for the past five years. Audi took that popularity and used it to promote, of all things, the new head lamps on their Audi S7. Fans of the movies and books will have watched the commercial and enjoyed it for the nod to the popular stories. Those who are sick of the over-saturation of Twilight will have enjoyed the commercial for its clever killing off of the characters thanks to the “sunny” headlights. And those who could care less about Twlight one way or the other will still get a chuckle out of the cleverness of the ad.

• “Matthew’s Day Off,” Honda – For those who didn’t grow up in the 1980s, this ad was merely a funny look at Matthew Broderick’s attempt to escape from the office for a day. Those of us who have watched “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” more than 100 times, however, thought this was one of the more clever ads we’ve seen in a long time. If it was Honda’s intention to sell the CR-V to a demographic of 25- to 40-year-olds, then this was a successful $7 million investment. I’d be surprised if sales of CR-Vs don’t increase during the next couple of months.

• “Man’s Best Friend,” Doritos – How do you get away with murder? Bribe the chief witness with bags of Doritos. That’s the way the great dane did it in Dorito’s Super Bowl spot, anyway. After he gets caught burying a dead cat, he starts blackmailing his master with individual bags of chips. It was funny and highlighted the product in only 30 seconds – a good investment that will continue to produce a high return.

Chris Roberts is editor of Joplin Tri-State Business Journal. His e-mail address is croberts@joplintristate.biz.[[In-content Ad]]

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