Michael Lee: how did the Super Bowl first-timers fare?

Unknown-22-1Michael Lee is a former ECD of Euro RSCG New York handling Volvo Worldwide. Born in England, he spent 20 years working on integrated accounts including Intel, JP Morgan, ExxonMobil and Jaguar. In 2012 he set up agency search consultancy Madam.


“Let’s do a Super Bowl spot.”

The words that shred the nerves of CMOs bring joy to every creative director and dread to every CFO.

But surely those nerves, joy and dread dial right up to 11 if it’s a company’s first time on the Super Bowl.

At $4 million for a 30-second spot and millions of eyeballs watching, why do it? What drives this courage or lunacy? Why do it this year? Does it really make sense for brand and business?

Super Bowl spots are different from the average spot. They need to stand out creatively, need to follow some business rationale, but they need to do one more thing: They need people to like it. Really like it.

Likeability is rarely at the top of the pile when it comes to making decisions about whether to move forward with a spot or not. “Will it drive trial, will it steal market share?” is more the standard conversation. And after you’ve spent all that money, you don’t want to be lingering around the bottom of all those Super Bowl commercial popularity polls come Monday morning.

So how did this year’s ‘first timers’ do?



Creative: This was more a movie than a commercial. Starring: Sir Ben (Sexy Beast) Kingsley, Tom (The Avenger) Hiddleston and Mark (Lord Blackwood) Strong.

Rendezvous was helmed (as they say in the movie business), by Academy Award-winning director Tom Hooper. Music by Alexandre Desplat, and recorded by The London Symphony Orchestra at Abbey Road studios.

A Super Cast for the Super Bowl indeed. And in amongst all that was the real star of the spot: The New F-Type Coupe.

The Brits have often played the best villains in film. And it’s not a bad idea to give Jaguar a little edge and menace to add to the sexy growl. The Mayfair super-villains play along very nicely with a wry smile throughout, all dressed up in their finest Saville Row bib and tucker, devilishly angled eyebrows, shaken not stirred and with a touch of stiff upper lip.

Business: Well, I doubt they’re going to sell many F-Types from this spot, but that’s not the point. Jag needs to get its swagger back. Their Indian owners, Tata Motors want Jag back in the big league, a Player in the luxury car market. They want their Drivers to buy into that, and probably, more importantly, their Dealers, a very powerful pressure group in the car business. A big spot on the biggest stage is probably a quick way of signaling Tata’s intentions.

Likeability: I think the Super Bowl is a tough place for car ads. This one made a valiant attempt to do something different, and with its cast and production will probably get talked about and do the job outlined above. But as a Super Bowl car spot, it’s a long way from the likability of the VW ‘Darth Vader’ spot or power of Dodge’s ‘God made the Farmer’ spots from recent years.

Jaguar – Rendezvous



Creative: The star of ‘Ransacked’ is a rather large, but brand loyal Bear, attracted to a sleepy rural town general store by the honey in his favorite Chobani yogurt. A nice idea to use Bob Dylan’s I Want You as the soundtrack.

Nicely put together, nicely shot, edited, and maybe that’s the issue for this Super Bowl spot….maybe it’s a tad too nice.

Business: This year has been re-christened the Yogurt Bowl because of the appearance of not one but two yogurt brands, Chobani and Danone .

Could this rivalry rival Coke vs. Pepsi eventually?

Chobani is a very ambitious brand, not yet ten years old and already an Olympic sponsor, and now a Super Bowl spot. This looks like a very well thought-through high-stakes strategy in the market. I’d put money on them being back next year.

Likeability: Bears usually do pretty well here (as well as Clydesdales, kittens and puppies). But maybe the spot needed a little more to be really up there in the likability league. Maybe it’s missing some drama more than a ransacked store. Something to really remember it by, like the Bear in the John West ‘Salmon’ spot from a few years back and the infamous punt to the sensitive region.

Chobani -Bear



Creative: The spot shows all that’s wrong with the web right now. All those unsavory people, offers, deals, pop-ups that do their best to ruin our web experience. So I get the idea. But I have a couple of issues with the spot.

I’m not convinced that SquareSpace has or is the solution to the problem. Being the next big thing on the web is quite a common claim, and a really, really big claim to live up to.

Maybe for such a small brand they stretched themselves too far, and the production of the spot let them down. Showing the issues with the web is not really new, and you have to be extremely inventive or have an outrageous execution to carry it off. A line-up of people walking towards camera in funny and skimpy outfits isn’t really going to get me remembering the offering.

Still, well played for giving it a go.

Business: One of the smaller brands on the game, SquareSpace has fewer than 250 employees. So let’s start with a loud “bravo” for just showing up. But it’s a stretch to find a pure business objective. SquareSpace’s decision to advertise on the Super Bowl may be, very simply, a reaction to watching Go Daddy play in the space the past few years and get a lot of attention. Go Daddy never set out to make pure business sense. Just ruffle feathers and get jaws wagging.

Likeability: Don’t think it will score that high. Grim dystopian worlds tend to be a bit of a downer on the Super Bowl unless you’re Call Of Duty or Apple AAPL +0.97% and it’s 1984.

SquareSpace – A Better Web



Creative: It’s Scarlett Johansson. Sultrily sipping a homemade soda and saving the world.

Business: Well, they are continuing the strategy from last year. SodaStream are the good guys, Coke and Pepsi are the bad guys. They take a public a swipe at the Soda Kings, and are “shocked” when their spot is pulled by the Network.

It sounds like SodaStream likes to pick a fight, and in very public places; no back alleys for them. Same this year, but a simple edit saves the day. And the spot runs.

But not before the ad went viral and millions heard the offending line on the YouTube version. So a consistent business strategy that I would imagine is paying off for them.

Likeability: It’s Scarlett Johansson. Sultrily sipping a home-made soda and saving the world.

Sodastream – Sorry, Coke and Pepsi

This post first appeared in Forbes

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