Business Strategy

Super Bowl 2015 ads reflect our conflicted era

February 03, 2015

Last year, I wrote a blog post about my impressions of the collective body of Super Bowl ads and what it might tell us about consumer trends.

Being pleasantly surprised by the amount of feedback I received that my mother wasn’t the only person reading my blog post, I decided to make this an annual installment. So I spent this year’s game running to fix food in the kitchen while the game was on and rushing back to the couch in time for the commercials.

I had faint recollections of some powerful ads last year, really tugging on emotional heartstrings, and the usual smattering of humor, cleverness and impressive special effects. I recommend having a peek at my summary from last year and the composite of the two posts might make an even more compelling story about how society and consumer trends are shifting over time. So without further ado, let’s relive Sunday’s ads and draw some conclusions!

I don’t know what else to say about the Super Bowl 2015 ads other than I was underwhelmed. C’mon — when your team isn’t playing and there is no guarantee of a close game, we really look forward to these ads! They were short on humor, fairly unimaginative and some left us feeling downright yucky or depressed. I’d say the sucking sound left in the wake of In-Bev’s acquisition of Anheuser-Busch and the company’s downward trend of Super Bowl ad production was as loud as ever this year without a clear heir to the Super Bowl ad throne.

Yuck. The overwhelmingly strong emotion I recall from Sunday night was some combination of yuck, eeew, and oh-that’s-depressing. Toyota started the yuckiness with their exploitative How Great I Am ad featuring disabled individuals dancing, running and skiing with a Muhammad Ali voiceover in the background. I’ve since poked around and found Amy Purdy, a remarkable Paralympian snowboarder, actress, model and Dancing with the Stars contestant, who was featured in the ad. I'm sure Toyota's intent was inspiration, but I was so turned off when a Camry seemed to randomly show up at the end of this confusing ad. It felt like Toyota was desperately (and poorly) exploiting Purdy's success to sell a car. It set my mood for the rest of the yuck-eeew-ugh commercials that followed.

Carnival begged us to come back to sea with a strange evolution/biology lesson about the salinity of our bodies and ocean, which wasn’t remotely inviting when they mention blood-sweat-tears in the hopes we will take a relaxing cruise. Kim Kardashian left us feeling ickier yet with her spoof on respectable causes and appeals with her Save-the-Data bit for T-Mobile. And Nationwide is already taking heat (even though I tried to avoid seeing any critique of ads until after I write this) over their scare tactics used in the Make Safe Happen ad for killing the kid before any of his major life milestones. That one in particular was just downright depressing.

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