Sunday, February 3, 2008

The Super Bored Awards 2008

Hi, folks. If you're anything like us, you were disappointed by the crop of ads that ran during Super Bowl XLII. There weren't any that were all that great, but more importantly for our purposes, even most of the bad ones were bad in more nondescript ways, as opposed to being truly horrifying like the infamous Snickers kiss and GM robot suicide ads from Super Bowl XLI. That said, there was still plenty of garbage to go around. So without further ado, we present The Ad Wizards' Super Bored Awards for 2008.

The Apple 1984 Memorial Award for Least Shitty Ad
Winner: Gatorade

Quivering: We called this one in the predictions, mostly because these guys are always good for a visually appealing spot. You can't beat the grass leaping along with Derek Jeter's footsteps as he walks through Manhattan. Even if you despise the Yankees, as we at Ad Wizards most certainly do, you have to appreciate the art direction in this ad and details like the little swinging batsman in the "Walk" sign on the streetpost. The payoff at the end with Peyton Manning and Bill Parcells is a little unnecessary, but I guess when you're Gatorade and your marketing budget is 10^94 dollars, you can afford to throw in some extra star power just for shits.

Honorable Mention: Bud Light

This ad gets listed on here for actually making us laugh. Will Ferrell, unlike Carlos Mencia, is a for-real comedian, and he has managed to help create a true rarity - a good beer commercial. There's also some interesting risk-taking in the humor - calling out the alcohol content and using the word "suck." This ad is reminiscent of Bud Light's Axe Murderer spot from last year's Super Bowl, where Anheuser Busch managed to make one of their, like, fourteen ads watchable.

Cheapest Budget/Clumsiest Execution Award

Windier: I could spend all day talking about the sketchiness of the service that SalesGenie presumes to offer, but really I've already done that, and anyway the problems with this ad go so far beyond the product being sold. Why are they pandas? Why do the pandas have to talk with stereotypical Chinese accents? Why is the animation so mediocre? (Actually, I can guess the answer to that one.) Why is "Sofaz" misspelled? Is it some sort of inside joke? Panda psychic? (Note also that the psychic doesn't speak with the accent, meaning it was hardly necessary.) The whole thing is clumsy, nonsensical and vaguely racist. I expect low-budget hackery from the company that used the same actor in two completely different spots, but the Asian stereotypes (including font and music) really take the whole affair to another level. Why not just have the pandas running a laundry while you're at it?

SalesGenie clearly can't afford more than a 30-second spot on the Super Bowl, and I'm pretty sure they're more interested in having people talk about them - even if it is almost uniformly "Can you believe how fucking terrible these ads are?" - than they are in getting a product message out. But wow, does this ad not get its product message out. "Our business is in trouble! Oh, let's use SalesGenie! Wow, 100 free sales leads! Now we're rolling in it!" Bit of a cause-and-effect lapse there, no? I suppose SalesGenie needed the space to work in their patented "your life will be worse if you don't use us" pitch. I'm not sure how many human beings are worried about the prospect of ending up in the zoo, but I guess you can pick your own human stand-in for that, like "meth lab" or something.

Most Overproduced Ad
Winner: Sobe Life Water

Quivering: Here we were, innocently watching the Super Bowl to look for bad advertising, when a thunderous shockwave of awfulness struck us like a dull knife. Out of nowhere, there was Naomi Campbell, with way too much bangs, and lizards - lots of 'em, and poorly animated, too. "Did we just die?" we thought to ourselves, as we saw the lizards jerking back and forth to the 80's hit "Thriller." Maybe this was some kind of karmic payback for all the mean things we've said about advertising over the past months. At about the 45 second mark, when the lizards flashed their jewel-encrusted teeth, we were sure we had died. This was how we were going to spend eternity in advertising hell - our heads fixed on the television, "Clockwork Orange"-style, staring at the most odious computer animation, our pathetic sobs drowned out by Michael Jackson. And then, after 59 seconds, in which we lived 1,000 agonizing lifetimes, it ended. It was over, and it was real. We had a winner for "Most Overproduced Ad," but it came at a high cost. Tiny animated lizards will never be the same. We, as a nation, will never be the same. And most of all, Naomi Campbell will never, ever be the same.

By the way, we had predicted Pepsi for this category - and Sobe Life Water is a Pepsi brand. We'll call that partial credit. As it turns out, the Justin Timberlake spot just wasn't over-produced enough.

Worst Use of "Humor" Award
Winner: Bud Light

Windier: I shudder to think from what adult-education program Carlos Mencia would be drawing a check. Bud Light goes a little bit gutsy with this one, as they're counting on the viewer to remember last year's awful ad so that this year's is just awful, instead of awful and totally random. The stereotypes, if anything, are even thicker this time - hilarious foreign accents! African guys who carry chickens everywhere! Listen to this dude say "Bood Light!" Fucking hysterical! - and make even less sense. Is Mencia teaching a class for social retards? Just because someone isn't a native speaker of English doesn't mean their idea of complimenting a woman is holding up a live chicken and suggesting she has the same eyes. And really, Mencia's idea of hitting on a woman is, "Hello! You are so very sexy!" You lothario, you.

There's not much that can even be said about an ad like this. Like most Bud Light ads, it isn't funny. But at least the other awful Bud Light ads that aired during the Super Bowl focused on Bud Light. This ad focuses on how funny it is when Indian dudes say Bud Light. Way to sell your product.

Flimsiest Pretense Award

Quivering: There wasn't a lot to choose from in the way of sex appeal this year, so once again the favorite wins. The main reason is the winner here (and not, say, Victoria's Secret) is the product that they sell - domain names. Why do you need to show exposed skin to sell internet domains? And why do you need to show the exposed skin of Danica Patrick who, we're sorry, isn't even that hot?

The concept of the ad is to drive people online to watch the many Super Bowl ads that were rejected by Fox. The prospect of watching Danica Patrick not get naked on the internet causes mass havoc in the commercial, with even the women making a run to the computer to watch the rejected ads. This seems likely - young women start running when they hear they can see a female race car driver unzip her jacket, right?

SkyMall Championship Trophy
Winner: Planters

Windier: As I've often noted on this site, certain ads don't just annoy me, they make me wonder what on earth the companies responsible for them were thinking. Such is the case with the winner of the SkyMall Championship Trophy which, as stated in our preview, goes to the ad featuring the worst overall attempt to sell a product. There are certainly a lot of contenders for so "prestigious" an award, but let's face it - of all the commercials that aired during the Super Bowl, there can be no doubt that Planters' spot stands out above the rest, for several reasons.

Reason #1: The pitch itself. The premise behind this ad is that Planters cashews are so good, men will be drawn to women who smell like them no matter how otherwise unappealing the women are. That's not inherently offensive, but it seems just a trifle counterintuitive to make the centerpiece of your commercial a comically ugly woman, doesn't it? "Man, these Planters nuts are great... they remind me of unibrows and unsightly moles. Mmmm." I won't even get into how silly the concept of cashew-as-perfume is, since I'm sure Planters was at least trying to be funny on this point.

Reason #2: The shoehorned-in sex appeal. Yeah, dab that cashew onto your cleavage. That's what we're all looking for. Oh wait, this woman is hideous. No one wants to see her cleavage. Smart move.

Reason #3: "Manstincts." Apparently Planters has decided it wants to focus on the male nut-consuming demographic, as the "Instinctively good" tagline from the ad ties into this website. That's right. Planters is now marketing peanuts as though they were... well, beer. This is basically a Miller Lite ad adapted to deal with nuts. It's trying to be funny, but it's really just kind of sad. The worst part is that the actual spot that aired doesn't seem crafted to appeal to men in the way that it should have been as the launch point of this campaign. If a man comes out of your ad thinking, "Planters thinks I should be fucking a bridge troll because she smells like cashews," is he rushing to the store for some cashews? I know I'm not.

I'm a little impressed that Planters bought into the Super Bowl at all, and at least we're not getting Mr. Peanut crotch shots anymore, but was this really the best they could do? It's a marketing strategy that seems unlikely to appeal to anyone. Good job.

The Carlos Mencia Book Prize for Most Egregious Use of B-List Celebrities
Winner: Bridgestone

Quivering: For the first year in a row, the Carlos Mencia Book Prize is NOT awarded to Carlos Mencia. Remarkably, someone found a B-Lister even more irrelevant - Richard Simmons. Why are there an aging rock star (Alice Cooper) and an aging fitness video host in the middle of a dark, woodsy road? And why did someone think this would be funny? The title of the ad, as listed online, seems to be "Unexpected Obstacles." And maybe if that were in the actual copy - "Avoid unexpected obstacles with Bridgestone tires" - it would make a lot more sense. As it is, it's just crazy.

Isn't buying tires supposed to be a manly thing? It's hard to imagine a middle-aged man walking into a Sears saying, "Hey, caught your Super Bowl ad last night. I love Richard Simmons! Hilarious shit. Made me feel like buying tires."

And at the ad agency, what do you tell your producer once the client greenlights your concept? "Hey, finally sold in that Super Bowl spot. We're going to need your help right away - we need to book Alice Cooper and Richard Simmons. Don't worry, it'll make sense once you see it. There's going to be wildlife to tie it all together!"

Worst Super Bowl Ad of 2008
Winner: Sobe Life Water

Windier: Like the game itself, this one ended in an upset, but both Quivering and I agreed - this was not just the most overproduced, it was unquestionably the worst ad to air during the Super Bowl. It begins with the fact that the ad makes basically no sense. Naomi Campbell? Poorly-animated CGI lizards drinking Sobe Life Water and turning into Thriller dancers (in about the most awkward cut imaginable)? Unpleasant slurping sounds and what appears to be a gratuitous fart sound effect? Here's what this ad says to me: "We had five million bucks to blow and figured, 'People think the Thriller dance is hilarious.'" I know it's made a comeback in the last year or so because of all the hilariously ironic people using it at their weddings and crap, but let's get something straight - the Thriller dance is not something you want to be building your minute-long commercial around, especially when your commercial stars lizards and Naomi Campbell. (Naomi Campbell? Seriously? Was she just available, or what?) All told, this ad must have cost millions upon millions of dollars. And yet it barely even has a point. Previous Sobe Life Water ads, while bad in their own way, positioned it as a healthy beverage alternative. This ad... apparently claims that if you drink it you'll turn into a zombie. Rich in antioxidants? Fuck that. Rich in dancing lizards? Shit yes. I'm guessing that when you're marketing something to high school and college kids, "good for you" isn't exactly setting them off. But "thrillicious?" That video came out 25 years ago. Also, please stop trying to make "thrillicious" into a word. What are you, Comcast?

The ad itself was bad enough, but the Florida in Sobe's election as Worst Super Bowl Ad of 2008 was its online component, which, well...

Yeah. You actually just watched that. Let's check off all the revolting things about this one. Reference to interspecies lovin'? Check. Reference to lizard nudity? Check. Disgusting consumption of insects? Check. Attempt to use "thrillicious" as a legitimate adjective? Check. Not even a slight attempt to have the lizards look like the CGI lizards in the actual ad? Check. This might top GE for "worst online peripheral content to an already shitty ad," and that's saying something. Congratulations, Sobe Life Water: easily the worst ad of the 2008 Super Bowl.


Quivering P. Landmass said...

"Thrillicious" is such an unblushingly gay concept, it's right up there with Kraft's attempt to make "Crumbelievable" a word. I demand we start using it in every one of our thrillicious posts from now on.

Anonymous said...

As to those last two commercials... are the commercial writers on strike as well? Are marketing departments at major corporations really just this bad?


Quivering P. Landmass said...

I think the crappy end result of these ads is caused by the pressure of getting noticed in the glut of creative spots that debut during the Super Bowl. When you're spending $90,000 a second, you want every second to count. Most companies end up overproducing their commercials -- just throwing everything possible into the air time and hoping it goes over well.

Then you have to consider that everybody wants to add their own two cents to these ads -- the ad agency folks and everyone at the company that's paying for the spot all have to leave their mark. What you end up with is a commercial that's decidedly less thrillicious than if you hadn't tried so damn hard to impress people.

Anonymous said...

makes no sense whatsoever-dooche-chill - they used to be such a relevant brand.. and w/ Geico owning the lizard whats the point