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Badvertising: Super Bowl's hits & (many) misses

  • Five ad experts review highs and lows of Super Bowl ads
  • Paul Harvey essay > Half-naked Calvin Klein model
  • Experts: Psy is done and that Pistachio ad sealed the deal
  • Budweiser's cute baby Clydesdale among night's... worst??
Badvertising: Super Bowl's hits & (many) misses

See Walter up there? Making out with Bar Refaeli, all sloppy and noisy? He's having a great time. Those of us asked to watch his makeout fantasy come true, however? Less thrilled.

The negative reception for that Go Daddy ad pretty well mirrored how a lot of this year's Super Bowl ads went down: Maybe someone enjoyed it, but most folks would have just as soon turned away.

That was certainly the consensus from the five advertising experts whose Super Bowl ad opinions we sought out. We asked each the same five questions and received a great mix of clever reactions, sharp criticism and unexpected observations. And while they were generally underwhelmed with this year's ad crop, it definitely seems to have had its moments and a handful of pleasant surprises.

1. Which was your favorite ad?

Minsoo Pak, chief creative officer, Sparks Grove: Though the Audi spot had a great story (are Audi drivers really geeks with bravado?), the Ram "God Made Farmers" spot caused me to want to stand up and salute. Paul Harvey posthumously showed every copywriter in America how it's done, and the epic photography actually delivered more impact than video ever could. Look for a slew of copycat epic-still picture ads with famous voice-overs airing soon.

Chris Morran, senior editor at Consumerist: Samsung's "Big Pitch" spot with Paul Rudd, Seth Rogen and of course Bob Odenkirk. Having celebrities using Samsung's own products to mock the very idea of celebrity endorsement (along with tired concepts like talking babies and crowdsourced ad campaigns) pushed the bounds of meta-advertising, but it worked, due in large part to the lack of ego on display. And of course, it's capped off with LeBron James popping in via tablet to suggest he make a cameo on a tablet.

Mark Duffy, aka Copyranter, Buzzfeed ad blogger: My favorite ad was the blackout print ad tweeted out by Oreo. This is the immediate future of Super Bowl advertising. On-the-fly, real-time social media responses. The expensive commercials are going extinct.

Cameron Yuill, Founder and CEO, AdGent Digital: My favorite Super Bowl ad had to be the Taco Bell ad featuring a bunch of golden oldies sneaking out into the night, going to a rave, getting tattoos and generally yucking it up. At the end of the night they are chowing down on tacos before heading home. Who hasn't been there? And who doesn't want to be doing that when you are 87?

Nat Ives, media editor at AdAge: Ram Trucks, “Farmer.” Paul Harvey’s voice-over of excerpts from his “So God Made a Farmer” essay stopped viewers cold. The images moved them; and Ram Trucks seems about right for the farmer described.

2. Which was your least favorite ad?

Minsoo Pak: The few that sank to the bottom: The Pepsi Next Spot was insipid. As was the Blackberry Z10 spot (at this point, the phone would actually HAVE to do those things to steal share from iOS and Android). But the Calvin Klein "Men as whirling gears dripping with oil" underwear ad? It gets my vote for simply having no idea at all, except providing a PG-13 visual for drunk women to scream over.

Chris Morran: People will hate me for saying it, but I'd have to say the Budweiser Clydesdale ad was a useless piece of sentimental hokum. Sure, it's heartwarming and people cried and the horse was so cute blah blah blah. When it comes time for consumers to buy beer, those who have already abandoned Budweiser aren't suddenly going to say, "Know what? I'm not buying my favorite beer today. Instead, I'm going to give Bud another try because I loved that horse commercial."

Copyranter: The Bud Black Crown spot. Who are these people you call "the finest of this nation?" I weep for this nation.

Cameron Yuill: This is far more difficult as there was a lot of pretty boring, very predictable and, quite frankly, silly ads that did nothing for the product they were trying to promote. For a complete goal line fumble the award has to go to Pistachios nuts. They had one of the world's biggest stars in Psy and the most viewed YouTube music video in history and all they could do was have him ride a oversized pistachio nut? A complete waste of money. Especially when, dare I say it, it's not peanuts to run a Super Bowl ad.

Nat Ives: Calvin Klein, "Concept." A guy in his underwear, mostly standing around and posing or something, with a quick shot of a piece of machinery? Not engaging or entertaining.

3. Which is the most underrated ad?

Minsoo Pak: I think this one is the SpeedStick laundry spot. Simple, clear and low production value but well written and funny. Sure, it taps the well worn "handling a hot girl's panties at the laundromat" comedic event, but it was done with just enough charm to pull it off. In this company of ads though, no one will probably even mention it. Too bad.

Chris Morran: I think the Oreo "Whisper Fight" spot might not get the affection it deserves. To me, it had everything you'd want in a commercial -- it was amusing and actually ABOUT the product. And every single person I was watching the game with admitted to really wanting Oreos after seeing the ad.

Copyranter: The "Big Bang Theory" promo was actually my favorite broadcast ad of the evening. It really gave you a flavor of the show, and it didn't make me retch/roll my eyes like pretty much every other broadcast ad.

Cameron Yuill: The one I am betting most pundits will overlook as the sleeper ad is for a brand I had not heard of before, Gildan. The twist on the classic scene of the guy trying to sneak out of the house the morning after was very funny. It certainly seared the brand into my mind… though that might say more about me than the ad.

Nat Ives: Oreo’s “Whisper Fight” was pretty hilarious, but may get overshadowed by Clydesdales, Taco Bell’s retirees and the car/truck ads.

4. Most memorable celebrity appearance, for better or worse?

Minsoo Pak: Wow. Lots of celebrity nonsense. Between the all-star lineup of Seth Rogen, Paul Rudd and LeBron James in the Samsung Galaxy ad that was just a waste of time, to the Bar Refaeli kissing Walter the nerd for Go Daddy, which was just plain uncomfortable, too many celebs got pimped out in mediocre concepts.

But, by far the worst of these was Psy. If you ever doubted that his infectious "Gangnam Style" song and horsy dance were OVER, watching him "adapt" his song and dance for the promotion of Pistachios, you won't anymore.

Chris Morran: The Best Buy ad featuring Amy Poehler was a mammoth waste of an opportunity. You take one of the funniest people on TV and you just have her fire off a list of idiotic questions to a puzzled store employee? I'm guessing they didn't show the part where she asks why she should shop at Best Buy when she can buy stuff online for less.

Copyranter: The most memorable celeb appearance of course had to be Bar Refaeli sucking face with an ugly nerd, creating a moment that pissed off tech guys and all women and pretty much all of humanity in one fell swoop.

Cameron Yuill: Bar Refaeli. What was she thinking?! I am going to guess it was all about the Go Daddy check she was getting after filming finished. I read somewhere that it took 46 takes on that kissing scene to get it right. It has to be the worst icky, ugh, performance of any celebrity in any Super Bowl ad ever. On the other hand, Walter the Nerd's career is about to take off. He's obviously a smart guy: 46 takes seems to be deliberately fueling the opposition.

Nat Ives: Seth Rogen and Paul Rudd in Samsung's "The Big Pitch." Samsung mixes up its approach, departing from its effective campaign mocking people in lines outside Apple stores, with an amiable, funny spot riffing on Super Bowl ads and also working in the tagline “The Next Big Thing” more than once.

5. What trend or theme stood out to you?

Minsoo Pak: There were a couple. Apparently the new product thing is faux premium beer in black bottles. And that there is a fundamental lack of understanding around the use of crowdsourcing (why does anyone really care about the outcomes of some of these? #whocares?). But the thing that struck me most was the huge Korean company presence in marketing, sponsorship and advertising. Hyundai, Kia, Psy (Pistachios?) and Samsung are now paying the big bucks, officially joining the heaviest of advertising spenders. Didn't see that coming.

Chris Morran: I'm really tiring of the trend of ads being odd simply for the sake of getting people to look at your "strange" ad on YouTube. The two Doritos ads -- the guy with the goat and the group of older dudes playing dress-up with the little girl -- embody this, as did the pair of Hyundai spots and the Volkswagen commercial with the fakin' Jamaican. Yes, they're funny, and people will pass the video around to their friends, but being quirky and amusing doesn't always translate into sales. If it did, everyone would have started wearing Old Spice a couple years ago.

Copyranter: The trend is that nobody can make a simple memorable commercial anymore. NOBODY. Like this one for Tabasco from 1998. I weep for the creativity of the ad industry.

Cameron Yuill: This year's ads included the very predictable use of babes (super models and eTrade babies, babies with GoPro cameras strapped to their heads and even a Kia ad about how to make babies) and beasts (crazy goats eating Doritos, kids wrestling bears and the requisite Clydesdale). Surprisingly, only a few ads directed viewers to find out more online.

The best of them was Coke's Mirage, which gave you a chance to pick the winner of a race across the desert to get a bottle of Coke. Given it is 2013, and no doubt many viewers had their tablets on their laps while watching the game, advertisers missed a great opportunity to interact further with their consumers.

Nat Ives: It was a decent year for entertainment without giving wild offense, but not a spectacular year.

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