One week from today is the Super Bowl of advertising with an hour of football in-between. I wanted all of us to enjoy these TV spots to the fullest. To that end, I asked myself what makes a great Super Bowl spot? It has to be funny, right? It has to be outrageous, right? It has to be sexy, right?
Well, to answer these questions and amplify our advertising enjoyment next week, I brought in some heavy hitting creative-experts from the advertising world to get their perspectives. Those who were kind enough to respond to my inquiries were BBDO’s David Lubars, CA's Ernie Schenck, 3% Conference’s Kat Gordon, Arnold Worldwide’s Wade Devers, and Baldwin&’s David Baldwin. I asked each of them the following simple question:
“When you’re on the couch watching the game, how do YOU evaluate the Super Bowl spots?”
Their answers are not always what you’d expect, and some may just change the way you look at this year’s Super Bowl portfolio yourself. Each response below is as it was provided to me in email with no editing – whether it was three bullets or three paragraphs.
Ernie Schenck, Columnist for title="Are You Willing to Get Naked? - Ernie Schenck">Communication Arts and creative director for award-winning campaigns for John Hancock and Liberty Mutual, among many others:
It’s not will a Super Bowl spot make me laugh. It’s will it make me feel. Every year, I look for the breakout moment. The spot that just stops me dead in my tracks and leaves me awe-struck. And every year, I’m pretty skeptical that’s going to happen because by now, I pretty much know what to expect. Trunk monkeys. Talking babies. Gutter humor. Anything that’ll get a bunch of drunk fans gorging on pizza and chicken wings to laugh their collective ass off.
I know clients want the big yucks. Agencies want the big yucks. But I’ve got to tell you, every once in awhile a spot like “And God Made A Farmer” comes along and blammo! The whole room shuts down and everyone just sits there, their jaws hanging open, mesmerized. And it’s ironic to me because humor is supposed to pull these really big numbers and everybody expects funny spots, everybody in advertising wants to do funny spots, but then something really human and emotional comes rampaging into the party and just completely neuters the trunk monkeys.
David Lubars, Chairman and Chief Creative Officer of BBDO:
- It’s magic and different and makes me feel love for the brand
- I talk about it for weeks
- I’m jealous/>/>
The best Super Bowl spots are ones that side-step tired stereotypes and do something original. It’s tempting — and lazy — to rely on stereotypes to hot-wire a connection with a consumer. But even if it succeeds, you’re only creating a kind of electricity that has a major sense of deja-vu built in.
I still remember watching the Parisian Love spot from Google a few Super Bowls ago. It was such a dramatic departure from all the other programming — so simple + hushed in its presentation — that it stole the show. The other thing I look for is a spot that has NOT been created in a spirit of a $4 million one-off, but as something that integrates very smartly into other things the brand is doing. I’m amazed how few brands drive social sharing by tying into already popular campaigns, inviting conversation via Facebook, or even giving a 3-second sign-off nod to their charitable giving.
David Baldwin, Founder and Lead Guitar at agency Baldwin&:
The Super Bowl is the one time people are actively watching commercials and actually paying attention so I like to keep one eye on the spot and also gauge the room’s reaction. It’s my one time of the year to gauge the reactions of civilians. It’s amazing to watch what the room likes versus what I like.
The Super Bowl is the opportunity to go big. A good Super Bowl spot has to speak on a different level than other commercials throughout the year. It’s a competition with actual winners and losers because of things like the USA Today poll. It’s the second biggest competition of the day. Well, other than the puppy bowl.
So if the spot’s trying to be funny, it has to be hellaciously funny. If it’s dramatic, it has to be very powerful. It’s not a time to be quiet and introspective. If it’s absurd, it has to go over the top. But where the mistakes happen is when that’s all the spots are because there’s a risk that no one will remember who the advertiser was.
Wade Devers, Chief Creative Officer at Arnold Worldwide:
Everything on Super Bowl day seems to be dialed on 10. The anticipation. The players. The debate. The snacks. The atmosphere. Certainly the hype around the spots. Everything.
I really like to see who can carve out space for themselves. Who’s commercial does the best job of stopping a roomful of noise and excitement? Who can make me pay attention for a full 30 seconds? Who can create an impactful distraction from something so full of entertainment value.
The Farmer spot from last year was a great example of this. The social media buzz that started at second 31 was amazing. Not only did the commercial stop people dead in their tracks by creating a tonal counterpoint, but it stole a whole audience of people for minutes if not hours after the spot was over. Incredible./>/>
So, it’s about feeling, it’s about staying true to the brand, it’s about stopping power, and it’s about magic. It’s about pushing the limits, it’s about avoiding stereotypes, and it’s not necessarily only about humor.
Stay tuned this week for Part II, where I will put forth a short list of criteria inspired by the responses above with a dash of my own perspective to help us all evaluate those hopefully magical moments next Sunday.