For Super Bowl, the Wall Street Journal invited me to join a little group of advertising critics who posted comments about the commercials throughout the game. We six or seven bloggers, who included WSJ's advertising columnist, Suzanne Vranico, had amazingly diverse views, but we seemed to agree with viewers that the spots, overall, didn't have the impact of past Super Bowls.
I was probably the most severe of the critics. My verdict was that the ads seemed to prove that there is indeed nothing new under the sun. In fact, a number of the commercials could have sprung right out of Mad Men.
The bungee-jumping car for Chevrolet reminded me of the torture tests creative teams used to devise for Mercedes-Benz back in the 1960s when Ogilvy had the account. And of course the ultimate torture test in any category is the famous gorilla jumping on the suitcase in 1971. That ad was for American Tourister, but everybody remembers it as Samsonite.
The Kia spot showed the car transporting people to a fantasy life. I think I dreamed this dream before. Remember the Maidenform ads? "I dreamed I went on safari in my Maidenform bra," and such. Network rules were stricter then, and the models had to wear the bra over a black leotard.
Two of the Super Bowl commercials were deliberately nostalgic. Honda's CR-V relied on Matthew Broderick to recreate Ferris Bueller's Day Off, a reminder of the 1986 movie. I think the spot worked, even if you had never seen or heard of the film. The message was simple and classic. "Life is beautiful, but life is short. You better enjoy it." And the place to do it is in a Honda CR-V.
Another spot packed with memories was for Met Life, full of characters not only from "Peanuts," but a lot of other old favorites. I was so charmed to see Flower the Skunk and Grumpy the Dwarf, and so busy trying to identify them all that I missed the advertising message.
My favorite spot was Dannon's Oikos yogurt, where John Stamos keeps teasing the woman until she head butts him and grabs the yogurt for herself. Take that, Don Draper!
The only commercial I truly disliked was for the Chevrolet truck. With thousands of people dying in Syria, I thought it was inappropriate to laugh about the end of the world. And eat Twinkies.
Jane Maas is a former creative director at Ogilvy & Mather and Wells Rich Greene, and was president of the New York office of Earle Palmer Brown. Her newest book, Mad Women, is the real story of what it was like to be a woman in advertising in the sexy and sexist era of television’s Mad Men. Jane can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read all Jane's MediaBizBloggers commentaries at MAD WOMEN: the Other Side of life on Madison Avenue in the Sixties and Beyond.
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