This year’s Super Bowl was an emotional rollercoaster, but, by virtue of some excellent last minute football-ery, the Patriots carried the day. Then someone stole Tom Brady’s jersey, presumably to breathe in the musk of victory. But in addition to the football, Lady Gaga’s halftime performance and the garment theft, there were, of course, advertisements. At a cost of $5 million for 30 seconds of airtime, capturing audience attention cost $0.02 million more this year than last. Even with those high stakes, some brands dared to get political, and others dared to make truly terrible ads. Here is the Daily’s round up of the Good, the Bad and the Ugly of 2017’s Super Bowl ads.
The Good – “Ghost in the Shell”
The live-action remake of classic science fiction manga and anime “Ghost in the Shell” (1989 – present) has generated a ton of controversy since a trailer premiered last year, due to whitewashing allegations. The trailer that aired at the Super Bowl was brief and thus necessarily light on plot details, but it perfectly conveyed the film’s aesthetic. It shows a series of slow-motion fight sequences and dimly-lit gunfights before a voice declares, presumably directed toward Johansson’s character, “They did not save your life. They stole it,” as a discordant backing track crescendos. The visual splendor and ambiguous ending make for a tremendously effective trailer.
The Bad – Ford: Go Further
Visually, this ad is stunning. It opens with a shot of a ski-lift hauling a skier up a mountain in the middle of a snow-dusted alpine forest. The ski-lift judders to a halt and our skier is left stranded. The ad continues with immaculate shots of people of all ages, genders and races getting stuck in various places and failing at daily tasks. A silky, rumbling man-voice then intones: “No one likes being stuck. That’s why Ford is developing new technologies to help you move through life. Faster, easier, better.” The previously stuck people then become miraculously dislodged from their immobile states. Ford makes a vague reference to bike sharing in the ad, and attempts to connect the different activities in which people get stuck, with little success. Audi’s excellent ad from last year’s Super Bowl, “The Commander,” is still the gold-standard of Super Bowl car ads.
The Ugly – Sprint: No Need for Extreme Measures
“Let me guess, faking your own death to get out of our Verizon contract?” inquires a hiker after witnessing a man and his children push a car into a ravine. The insightful hiker reminds the man that it is not necessary to fake one’s own demise to escape a phone plan. After all, he could have simply switched to Sprint, which is almost as good as Verizon in the first place! Hoping to sell phone plans by telling consumers that they can pay much less for a marginally worse product is a dubious and unconvincing note to start on, and the ad’s entire premise is also absurd. It is also not absurd in an endearing way, but in a way that leaves viewers cringing. Next time, Sprint should focus on the fact that it is cheaper than its competitors in its ads or pocket the $5 million cost of airtime.