Talking Super Bowl Ads

For a number of years now, I’ve spent the Monday after the Super Bowl talking about the ads from the big game with my friends Bill Leff and Wendy Snyder of WGN Radio.

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It is always a hill of fun. And no, Bill is nowhere near as serious as he appears in the photo above.

From my perspective, two stuck out as particularly relevant to Digital Kitchen: H&R Block’s minute long visual fest touting their alliance with IBM’s Watson, and LifeWater’s “Inspiration Drops.”

The H&R Block ad is visually stunning, combining live installations, motion graphics, and a generally artful eye to some hardworking visualizations of abstract concepts. In the party context of a Super Bowl, it was probably less successful than it will be elsewhere but the conceit of the cube and all the data it contained hinted at a smarter, deeper story for the brand and this alliance.

LifeWater on the other hand, was purely visual with no purpose beyond style. Without a narrative, it stumbled early and never recovered. Yes, there’s a link to the art that appears in the city and the art on their plastic bottles, but that is an awfully thin link. Art does make life more inspired, but this just felt flat. Because art without story is less.

I mention these two pieces because so much of our work involves creating experiences around imagery. For us to be truly exceptional in this discipline and stay ahead of the ever-growing pack of competitors, we can’t ignore the underlying narratives critical to imbuing our work with meaning. It is the story behind the visuals that keep audiences paying attention for the second, third and hundredth time they’ve seen something.


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