This Year’s Lasting Super Bowl Advertising Lesson

Now that the game is over and all the teasers and tie-ins have played out, that great arbiter of Super Bowl commercial rankings — USA Today’s Admeter — has declared a winner: Jeep’s charming and hysterical “Groundhog Day.”

Bill Murray killed it. So Jeep killed it. But Highdive? The agency that created this spot? They totally killed it.

Just not for the obvious reason.

Sure, their new spot is a note-perfect comedy gem, a meticulous recreation that adds wonderful new gags. It’s a spot we all wish we had done.

But just one year ago, Highdive was a relatively young startup agency with a handful of employees that somehow produced a :60 for the Super Bowl.

And their spot got savaged on social media.

Their ad featured a Dr. Martin Luther King sermon, artfully edited to highlight Ram Truck’s tagline “Built to Serve.” Critics cried foul, pointing out that MLK’s full remarks specifically argued against aggrandizing yourself by buying fancy cars. With Black Lives Matter very much in the headlines, their debut spot was roundly panned for being tone deaf.

So Highdive had their moment in the sun. And failed. Very publicly.

Many have written about the lessons of failure, about how much adversity can teach you for the next time. And all too many creative people lose heart when critics pounce, believing their chance is over, they missed, there will be no next time.

Happily, Highdive didn’t. And now here they are, just one year later, occupying the highest perch in the advertising landscape. They took the hit, learned from it, and bounced back with a vengeance.

And a groundhog.

Kudos to them. May many more good things lie ahead.

PS: One other lesson from this year’s ads? If you want a quick primer on how music shapes viewer emotion, pay attention to how the score and SFX of this one and this one generate inspiration and the start and stop of this one drives the comedy. Wonderful craftsmanship.

Yet Another Superbowl Ad Post-Mortem

Fanhouse has their aggregation of the 2011 Superbowl ads, quarter by quarter, brought to us by Kia.

The faith-in-humanity-reducing USA Today Ad Meter declared its increasingly-suspect winners as chosen by a 282 person sampling of Californians and Virginians. weighed in with their AdZone rankings, brought to us by Geico, and apparently they have a somewhat less shot-to-the-groin-friendly demographic.

On Sunday night, Fox presented Superbowl XLV to an audience estimated at over 110 million people, making it the single most-watched event in TV history.  Which helps explain both the $100,000/second pricetag for spots during the broadcast and the Monday morning creative directing by seemingly everyone.  Judging Superbowl ads has become our wintry national pastime.

One theme that came up just slightly less often than the reliable chestnut “the work just wasn’t as good this year” was the assertion that VW’s charming Star Wars-themed Passat ad “The Force” cheated. A number of blogs and commenters took issue with their decision to release that Superbowl Ad to YouTube last Wednesday, a full four days before the game itself.  The consensus seems to be that by racking up over fourteen million views before gametime, the ad somehow disqualified itself as a bona fide Superbowl ad.

Excuse me?

Dennis Ryan, Element 79, Chicago AdvertisingMarketing isn’t professional boxing.  There are no Marquess of Queensberry Rules insuring a level field of play.  We don’t want level playing fields. Our job is and has always been, to bend the rules, to do the unexpected, to earn favor and attention by innovating with our creative, strategic and media ideas.  In a socially-driven culture, building up a big head of steam for your contender isn’t cheating, it’s really, really smart.  Despite being hacktastic, Doritos’ “Crash the Superbowl” grows more successful every year in terms of entries and pre-game voting, to the point where Pepsi Max joined that crotch-whacking fray this year.

Aside from integrity and decency, there are no rules. Today, the biggest rewards await any brand clever enough to innovate how they weave together personal and broadcast networks in new and surprising ways.

Amidst a surplus of clutter and a deficit of attention, gaming the system is today’s ad game.


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79