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So I can’t be the only one that was left a little sad post-Super Bowl (and not because the Seahawks lost) can I? Not only was I left with a bad taste in my mouth due to the Seahawks loss, but was left confused by this year’s assortment of commercials. As I drove home from the Super Bowl party last night, I thought about the assortment of commercials and felt that this year’s commercials were driven more by social issues our country has been dealing with more than ever before.
Past years these commercials have revolved around beer and chips and the idea of “having fun with friends,” but this year’s bunch found themselves at the other end of the spectrum, addressing issues such as domestic violence, obesity, cyberbullying and accidents. If I had to give this year’s commercials a grade, it wouldn’t be pretty.
So what would I give the commercials?
They deserve this grade for not only being disappointing, but unusually depressing. The only other word I could use to describe this year’s assortment of commercials is Buzzkill. It felt as if I was on an emotional rollercoaster at times; a serious commercial followed by a slightly-funny commercial.
Here are four examples of “reality” commercials that had good intentions, but served as buzzkills:
4. Cyberbullying: Coca-Cola “Big Game” #MakeItHappy
(Please visit the site to view this video)
Thoughts: I did like this commercial overall and understood the jab at our problem with cyberbullying, but it fit in too well for the wrong reason: being aggressive on a negativity social issue. Yes, you have the audience members’ attention as commercials watched on this sole day are watched the closest, but you also have to understand that not many of them are going to be in the mood for a lecture.
3. Domestic Violence: No More ‘Listen’
Thoughts: First, I completely support the message they are spreading with the commercial. With the numerous cases involving players in the National Football League this past year, it was an opportunity for the NFL to make themselves look good on their own big stage. That’s great, but until you actually start acting on it with consistent discipline throughout the organization, then it just added to the somber mood the ads were already setting.
2. Guilt: Weight Watchers “All You Can Eat”
Thoughts: I bet none of us could ever guess what issue they’re trying to address in this commercial. This commercial was probably the second-biggest buzzkill commercial. You’re surrounded with friends having chips and dip and having a beer and you see all these delicious images on TV only to flash to a dark screen reminding you how disgusting you should be feeling about yourself, thus playing the “guilt trip” card and swaying you into trying out their business out of guilt.
1. Accidents: Nationwide “Boy”
Thoughts: This isn’t a matter of a social issue like domestic violence, obesity, cyberbullying, but a matter of a poor planning and poor taste in getting a point across. To say I was disgusted with the ad would put it nicely. To say “I can’t do ‘this’ or ‘that’” various times already sets a depressing mood. The reason why the little boy can’t grow up is a whole different story. It’s not because he has a disability or some illness. They kill the once joyous mood with the following line:
“I couldn’t grow up. Because I died from an accident…”
While I understand from a PR and/or Marketing standpoint, companies want viewers to see their organizations as being relevant and supporting the right causes; however for a holiday like the Super Bowl that is filled with a lot of hype and happiness, being left to feel somber, left me (and probably many others) quite confused and disappointed.
So I wanted to hear what you guys thought of this year’s commercials.
Do you feel the commercials this year were driven more by the social issues we’ve recently been dealing with as opposed to past years? Do you think this ‘strategy’ was a good move by the companies? Why or Why not?
I like your "social issues" framing -- yes, many commercials were framed by social issues. Adding to your list is the #likeagirl commercial (which I loved), McDonald's campaign for us all to show love more, Dodge telling us how to live life from the wisdom of 100 years, and the commercial about dads and their kids (which I muted because "Cat's in the Cradle" is too depressing for the Super Bowl). Heck, even the puppy being saved by the horses was sad (although it has no apparent social issue). The discussion of these commercials has dominated -- perhaps rightly so. There were also the uplifting but stern commercials in the vein of Dodge's "Farmer" commercial from 2013: Amy Purdy with Muhammed Ali and Carnival with JFK. This vein of depressing or serious commercials makes it easy to forget the amusement of the First Draft commercial or the real-life PacMan. Unfortunately, those were few and far between this year.