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Opinion: Pricey Super Bowl ads disappoint

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If you have $2.6 million and a clever idea, the three hours around the annual Super Bowl might be the best time to showcase your business.

As many of the commercials this year showed, however, you don’t really need the clever idea – just the money.

Most of the water-cooler talk on the Monday following Super Bowl XLV was of the disappointment in this year’s advertising offerings. They are the most coveted slots for the entire year – Neilsen rated the football game as the most-watched show in history with 111 million viewers across all demographics – and as a result, the cost for a 30-second spot keeps rising. Early estimates are that next year it could cost a company $3 million or more.

That’s not good news for companies such as Sony and Chrysler, who had two-minute commercials (that’s $10.4 million) that have been generally considered duds among viewers – if chatter on the Internet is any indication, anyway.

Sony’s commercial highlighting new features on its Android product was in poor taste, at best. It featured a green android robot getting surgical implants of opposable thumbs in a black market managed by apparently shady Asians. While the gritty, cinematic qualities were probably appreciated by a few, the overall feel was almost offensive and certainly not good fodder for family viewing.

A couple of other commercials were borderline given the audience involved. The Mini Cooper had a spot full of sexual innuendos, as did Sealy Posturepedic. They succeeded in creating water-cooler chatter but not necessarily in a positive light.

Chrysler’s ads featuring the rapper Eminem were hit-or-miss, depending on who you ask. Though mild compared to his musical work, Eminem’s aggressive demeanor came across as disrespectful of his audience, and I’m curious how many people mentally checked out after the first three words left his mouth.

On the other hand, Volkswagen had two commercials that seem to have received high regard among viewers. The most talked about commercial featured the Volkswagen Passat, though its co-star – a young Darth Vader in training who couldn’t seem to make the force work in his favor until he got a little boost from his father’s keyless entry – dwarfed the product’s screen time. Despite the mask worn by the young boy, everyone in the audience could see the startled delight on his face when he finally made it work.

Equally heartwarming was the Bridgestone ad in which a beaver narrowly escapes death thanks to the steady driving and good tires of a random traveler. The beaver is able to return the favor for the man during a raging thunderstorm, and the chest tap and finger point at the end that says, “I got you covered, bro” is a perfect metaphor for Bridgestone’s message.

Automobiles seemed to rule the roost this year, in fact, as the commercial for Chevy Camaro also was viewed favorably by this year’s audience. The spot featured the voice-over work of two friends creating a screenplay about a hot car. As they played off of one another’s ideas, the car was shown moving from scene to scene, until at the very end we find that it was driven and owned not by some amazing movie star or rich thrill-seeker, but by an unassuming schoolteacher.

According to TiVo’s statistics of 37,000 DVRs, the most-watched commercial this year was Snicker’s “logging” advertisement. Snicker’s had success last year with its Betty White cameo and has played on that throughout the year with other celebrity cameos. This year’s Super Bowl ad was no different, and the log to the face of Roseanne Barr was good for a chuckle.

Most disappointing this year were the beverage commercials. I long for the days when three frogs sitting on a log sounding out “Bud-Weis-er” makes me hit rewind over and over. This year, none of the Bud commercials were memorable.

Pepsi Max was mildly successful with its humorous spots, but not so much that most of us felt like we had to run out immediately and buy a case. And Coca-Cola’s offerings were downright head-scratching.

Perhaps next year the businesses that let us down will learn to spend money in the marketing department before throwing out spots that leave us wanting more. Until then, I’m going to go to the store and buy a Darth Vader mask and do my best to make my car start using the force.

Chris Roberts is editor of Joplin Tri-State Business Journal. He can be reached at croberts@joplintristate.biz.[[In-content Ad]]

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