Monday, February 04, 2013
Super Bowl commercials were not funny
Now let’s do the math: Each 30 second spot cost $4,000,000. The production value on all of these commercials was lavish. Safe to say at least $1,000,000? Probably closer to $2,000,000. So think of all the commercials over a four-hour period and hundreds of millions had to be spent on them.
And the blackout was funnier than any of them.
That’s a pretty bad average. Maybe thirty mil per laugh?
In the future, how about hiring really funny comedy writers to conceive these high-profile commercials? I’m sorry Mad Men but you’re not delivering. For the most part Sunday’s commercials were just rehashes of similar concepts and tired elements.
The other thing I noticed during this barrage of forced humor was how out-of-touch most of these ads appeared to be. Senior proms, mother-in-law jokes, a guy mortified because he’s holding a pair of panties, and a whole bunch of astronaut ads. Astronauts? Is this 1969?
In their zeal to top each other, in their quest to stand out, Madison Avenue Agencies have turned this friendly competition into an escalating war. And the end result – most of the spots misfire. They're mini ISHTARS. And they break the first rule of advertising – they don’t sell the product.
How many times were you watching an ad saying, “What is this for?” You think it might be for chocolate and it turns out to be a car. The zany old codgers spot was for Taco Bell. Huh????
They also break a cardinal rule of comedy: You need information before you find something funny. If you’re confused you don’t laugh. And quite a few of these spot so bombarded you with quick cuts, and crazy costumes, and stunts that you had no idea what was happening. I’m sure there were storyboards and the agency tools walked the clients through the spots and they all made sense on poster board, but when they were filmed and edited together they became one dizzying jumble of ideas and images.
It’s time to step back. Time to think of new approaches. Maybe a new pace. Less might be more. Same with the halftime show, by the way. Instead of an extravaganza that only Wayne Newton could love, how about putting Adele at mid-field, give her a mic, and let her blow away the world by just singing? You’ll have a better show and you won’t blow out the electricity in three states.
Why does everything have to be high concept? One of the funniest spots was for Best Buy. Amy Poehler as a customer just asking questions elicited way more laughs than robots beating the shit out of a guy because he kicked a tire.
Interestingly, I thought the two most effective commercials were the Budweiser Clydesdale spot and the Dodge Truck ad featuring Paul Harvey’s essay on farmers. They worked because they were emotional. I imagine in both cases the client was pitched these:
For Budweiser: The Clydesdale farts and because he’s such a big horse the fart knocks down a whole grandstand and two slackers spill their beer and yell out at the horse, “Dude!” Now we do a kind of cool Quentin Tarantino thing here – we have the horse talk like Samuel L. Jackson in DJANGO – and the horse says “Nex’ time you no be drinkin’ Bud I stomp on yo’ ass. You can be’lee dat!”
For Dodge Trucks: We want to sell this to farmers so we see him gathering all his wheat or corn or whatever shit he farms. Maybe throw in a few cows, I don’t know. But his barn is completely filled with his farm… produce/whatever. Then he gets a call. “Remember tomorrow is a farmer’s market.” “Oh, hell, how do I transport all this … produce/hay/beans/whatever?” Next shot is the farmer’s market. People are setting up their stands. And here comes our guy. He’s got his whole barn in the cab of his trusty Dodge truck. Now the farmers look up in awe, and we get a famous farmer – Eddie Albert – the guy from GREEN ACHRES – to say, “And I hear he gets good gas mileage too.”
Hire professionals. There are many comedy writers who can bring in a laugh for under $30,000,000. And think of all the money you'll save on space suits alone!
What were your favorite and least favorite Super Bowl commercials?