Lets start with one of the worst ideas in recent marketing history: “McDonald’s: Pay With Lovin.” As the ad explains, if you order certain items during pre-selected times, a McDonald’s employee will say you can have your order for free and you can pay with a high-five or a dance.
So, “Dial up your mom and tell her you love her.” Or “The total says she has to dance right now.” For a strawberry sundae, all you have to do is raise the roof!
The ad is kinda sweet, but let’s think about this concept in real life. Imagine you’re behind someone in line at McDonald’s and you’re late for work — and the cashier starts negotiating with the guy in front of you, telling him if he calls his mom and tells him he loves her, he gets free hash browns? Yeah, you’re going to want to stand around and wait on that.
I’m telling you, this is going to go horribly wrong.
“Kia: The Perfect Getaway.” The aging but still dashing Pierce Brosnan sits in on a pitch meeting. He thinks it’s for an action movie, but it’s really for the tranquil experience of driving …. a Kia. Harmless but forgettable.
“Mophie: All-Powerless.” A medley of increasingly bizarre and disturbing disaster scenarios: power going out, widespread looting, a hurricane in Nebraska, a dog walking a man on a leash, the planet exploding. Cut to a man in a white suit — the Big Man himself — lamenting his phone battery dying. The tag: “When your phone dies, God knows what can happen.” AWFUL.
“Snickers: The Brady Bunch.” Footage from the cheesy, inexplicably beloved old sitcom shows Mr. and Mrs. Brady (Florence Henderson and the late Robert Reed) interacting with Danny Trejo as “Marcia” and Steve Buscemi as “Jan.” Kinda great to see Buscemi say “Marcia Marcia Marcia!” but the ad is still…weird.
“Toyota: How Great I Am.” We see inspiring, beautifully shot footage of Paralympian Amy Purdy overcoming adversity while we hear the words of the great Muhammad Ali: “Only last week, I murdered a rock, injured a stone, hospitalized a brick. I’m so mean I make medicine sick!” Purdy looks beautiful and powerful, and when we hear Ali say, “I’m gonna show you how great I am,” it’s a goose-bump moment.
“BMW i3: Newfangled Idea.” We start with the infamous “Today” footage from 1994 with Bryant Gumbel and Katie Couric trying to figure out what the “@ “ symbol means. Gumbel: “What is the Internet anyway? Do you write to it, like mail?”
Cut to 21 years later, with Bryant and Katie trying to figure out the BMWi3, an all-electric car built in a wind-powered factory. Solid message, clever use of two icons who didn’t always get along with one another.
“Budweiser: Lost Dog.” This time around, a wolf threatens the pup, but the Clydesdales come to his rescue. Let’s just give the horse and pup their own movie.
“Always: #LikeAGirl.” A well-intentioned ad illustrating how the phrase “like a girl” used to be an insult, but now it’s not an insult. Run like a girl, fight like a girl, throw like a girl, like that. Nice, but didn’t we kinda know that?
“Nationwide: Invisible Mindy Kaling.” The ray of witty sunshine that is Mindy Kaling thinks she might be invisible — until a certain movie star reassures her she’s not. Love it.
“T-Mobile: #KimsDataStash.” “Kim Kardashian West, Famous Person” delivers a resoundingly unfunny parody of a public service announcement.
“Victoria’s Secret: I’m in the Mood for Love.” Women who are in the .000001 percent of attractiveness, modeling Victoria’s Secret underwear. Groundbreaking!
“Mountain Dew: Come Alive.” Three basement-dwelling geeks down Kickstart Energy Drinks, and their bodies start gyrating and they dance dance dance. The dog dances. Everything in the Boy Cave gyrates.
Back in the glory-gory days of schlocky horror movies, the ad campaigns would claim a doctor would be standing by in the lobby in case anyone was frightened to the point of a heart attack. “NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART!”
The 21st century equivalent of that is the “banned Super Bowl ad.”
Nothing like a banned Super Bowl ad to generate millions of dollars in free publicity, as local and national newscasts, online sites and, yes, your friendly neighborhood commentators mention the ads, mention the company and then proceed to SHOW THE AD at no cost.
Here’s just a sampling of the ads declined by the Super Bowl over the last decade. (In some cases, a “censored” version of the ad was allowed to play.)
• An “Apology Bot” scams a dopey woman by offering her a Bud Light while her boyfriend and his buddy laugh at her gullibility.
• A spot for PETA in which scantily clad women practically make love to vegetables.
• Rolling Rock touting its beer with an ad showing a baseball caroming off the crotches of dozens of men. And a horse.
• An ad for Snickers where two grungy auto mechanics share a Snickers bar to the point where they kiss, sending them into a homophobic panic.
• Any number of GoDaddy spots with wardrobe malfunctions and teases telling us to see the rest of the ad online. Oooh, edgy.
What most of these ads have in common is a lack of humor and an obsession with soft-porn sexuality, sophomoric sexism and/or genitalia. They’re astonishingly unsophisticated and deeply unfunny.
In many cases, the so-called “banned ads” were never even submitted for consideration — or the companies knew the spots would never be approved, and they already had toned-down or alternate commercials ready to go.
This year the big “controversy” is over a Carl’s Jr. ad in which a rather rough-looking blonde walks through a vendors’ market with various foods cleverly approximating her hindquarters and breasts. Turns out she’s touting the All-Natural Carl’s Jr. something or another.
I have to give the Carl’s Jr. people credit for getting so much attention with so many ads for their mediocre products. Over the years they’ve featured Paris Hilton, Kate Upton and Heidi Klum, among others, wearing little clothing while voraciously scarfing down a burger the size of a 16-inch Chicago softball — a burger most likely NOT a part of the daily diet of these women.
We often hear the adage “Any publicity is good publicity.”
That’s insanely stupid. Ask Bill Cosby or Anthony Weiner or Donald Sterling or those Honey Boo-Boo people if any publicity is good publicity.
Maybe the powers at Chick-fil-A will tell you they were pleased with all the free publicity they received due to their CEO’s opposition to same-sex marriage. I’m not buying it. (I’m not buying Chick-fil-A either because I can’t stand those dumb ads with the cows and also I tried a sandwich once and it tasted like sodium on a bun.)
Even the shameless GoDaddy apologized for a Super Bowl ad in which a golden retriever puppy fell from a truck and found its way home — but the owner had already used GoDaddy.com to sell the pup. (Someone thought that would be funny? Yipes.) After howls of protests from animal lovers, GoDaddy’s CEO published a post saying the company had “underestimated the emotional response” to the ad and it wouldn’t appear during the Super Bowl.
Still, more pub, right? With brands such as Carl’s Jr. and Go Daddy, maybe any publicity is good publicity, because I don’t know anyone who talks about Carl’s Jr. or GoDaddy other than in the context of racy ads. (What does GoDaddy do? Something with registering domain names, right? Ah, so that explains the ad in which Danica Patrick and Simona Fusco Stratten took a shower while three college students controlled their maneuvers.)
Another trend with Super Bowl ads: releasing the commercials online the week before the big game. It undercuts the whole event experience of seeing a $4 million ad have its premiere during one of the many, many, many commercials breaks during the game, but everyone’s doing it — so everyone’s doing it.
Coming up later today, I’ll have written and on-camera reviews of some of the best and worst Super Bowl ads of 2015.
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