The Worst Super Bowl Ad Of 2014
Since last night’s Super Bowl, one advertisement has stuck with me more than any other, and not for a good reason.
A Honda ad starring Bruce Willis—ostensibly about car safety—was manipulative at best, the advertising equivalent of a bait and switch.
The ad started with a close-up of Bruce Willis, soft music playing in the background. He begins:
“Great game, right? So you’re probably expecting me to crash a car or blow up something up. But really, I’m here to talk about car safety. Look around you. Who do you see? Friends, family, neighbors, all of your loved ones. Everyone you care about. And here’s what I want you to do. I want you to give each and every one of them a hug. I’ll wait.”
I was watching the game with my wife—and although we didn’t hug as directed, I’ll admit that Willis made me feel like I should be hugging my wife. By using the heavy-handed device of invoking the safety of my family, he got my attention.
But then the camera panned out. Suddenly, Saturday Night Live alum Fred Armisen could be seen in the frame giving Willis a waist-level hug and grinning maniacally into the camera.
I felt duped. Willis used my family’s safety to catch my attention, then introduced an entirely unrelated element in a misguided effort to lighten the mood. If anyone had hugged their loved ones as Willis instructed, they might have felt that Willis betrayed their trust by undercutting his message in such an insincere way.
In his book How To Deliver a TED Talk, author Jeremy Donovan describes a speaker he once saw open a speech using a similar device:
“To kick off his presentation, he asks his audience to stand up, put their hand on their heart, turn around, and take one step forward. He then goes on to say that he can now report to his own boss when asked how the presentation went that he ‘got them on their feet, touched their heart, turned them around, and got them moving in the right direction.’ It is a clever gimmick. But, if you look closely at the audience members, many are displaying the body language of people who just realized they have just been manipulated.”
If you’re going to invoke family and friends in a seemingly authentic way, you can’t expect to keep your audience’s goodwill by suddenly pulling the rug out from under them.
What did you think of this ad? What were your favorite and least favorite Super Bowl ads? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.
Did you miss the Super Bowl ads? Below is a compilation of them all.
Agree that this ad was bad. Didn’t have it on my bottom, but there were so many ho-hum and bad ads this year, I don’t know what to think. I think this one was most distasteful, but the two Go Daddy ads were complete misses to me.
Agree that GoDaddy is one of the least tasteful brands out there – every time I see one of their ads, I’m reminded how happy I am to have moved my blog off their servers.
The Axe ad was also awful. Invoking Chairman Mao and the Vietnam War to sell body spray? Hope some veterans organization gets on their case about that one.
Thanks for reading!
To be honest, most of the ads last night were, at best, meh. Some were just awful (like the Bruce Willis and the Axe body spray ones). Think my favorite one would have to be the Coke “America the Beautiful” spot.
Of course, the highlight of the night was watching the Broncos (who beat out my Patriots) get stomped!
In hindsight, it looks like it would have been a better game if it had your Pats in it. Or my Redskins. Or a Pee Wee league team.
I agree with your overall conclusion: A “meh” night for the ads.
Okay, for me, the best commercial, by a WIDE margin, was the Duracell “Trust Your Power” spot featuring Derrick Cole. It had all the attributes of a great Super Bowl commercial: it was relevant to the game, it was inspiring, it was different, it caught you attention, and it made you WANT to buy the brand. You know when a commercial can make a real statement, maybe even one that might change someone’s life, and still reinforce the brand, that is a dang good commercial. I wanted to buy batteries after watching that commercial because it was so awesome and of course it made me a fan of the player
My second pick was the Doritos “Time Traveler” machine because I thought it was really funny and original and it made me laugh out loud. Funny + little kid + dog. Pretty much the formula but with a twist 🙂 That is one I would watch again and again.
My third pick was the “Gracie” Cheerios ad — the direction, timing, and acting in that spot was just perfect. It had the “awww” cute kid factor without being saccharine. And it had that diversity you are just starting to see on TV and I applaud a major brand for embracing that.
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Go Daddy had my vote for worst ad, but it is an improvement over some of their past ads – not saying much. I thought the Honda ad was creepy. In my opinion, Budweiser had 2 big hands down winners – the welcome home celebration and the puppy/Clydesdale ad. Next would be Cheerios, followed by Doritos – love the fact that someone created the ad as part of a contest – just wish we could have seen the other finalists – and then the Audi ad with the doberuaua. I was clued to the ad and shocked when it was for a vehicle…but they held my attention all 30 seconds.
*glued* not clued
I question the wisdom of running the Verizon FIOS spot with Terry Bradshaw during the game. It’s a good commercial, but airing a spot built around the theme of who gets to cover the Super Bowl — Mr. Bradshaw or the young girl — seemed perhaps in poor taste in light of Mr. Bradshaw having to miss the game because of his father’s death. Both my wife and I, with a combined 50 years in the radio business, would have pulled the spot if it was our call.
You raise a great point. I wonder if Verizon had a back-up ad – and if so, whether they could have switched it out on short notice. One thing I’m sure of is that people at Verizon and/or their ad firm discussed this matter and decided to let the ad air. I’d love to have had the chance to listen in on their conversation to see why they decided to let it run.
Thanks for your comment,
I LOVED the ad with Seinfeld and George….but I can’t remember what it was advertising…..
In the interest of full disclosure, I didn’t watch the Super Bowl. I’m not a sports fan, and I don’t ever watch the Super Bowl. Not even for the commercials. But I think one thing that’s important to realize is that Super Bowl commercials have gotten so high profile and so expensive that brands likely blow entire advertising budgets just to have one. I know we toyed with one this year (it would have been our first), and decided against it. They hire celebs they couldn’t afford normally, give their agencies creative license they don’t usually give, and try concepts they wouldn’t normally try–all hoping for buzz they wouldn’t expect to get typically. But in so doing, I wonder if they aren’t committing a “seven-second stray.” By going too far outside of the box in their Super Bowl ad–or by trying to hard to impress–brands run the risk of leaving viewers with the bad impression you had, Brad.