Kym asked what I thought about the ads on last night's SuperBowl. I was expecting the usual group of high energy, celebrity focused ads and hoping for some messages talking about how brands have engaged with the serious social issues of the past year: climate change, political divisiveness, social and racial justice, and the pandemic. We saw plenty of the first group, several with some missteps, and a few of the last group, which were disappointing on a few levels.
Let's start with the disappointing ads attempting to make social commentary. The Jeep ad talking about bringing the country together? How exactly does Jeep want us to do that, and how are the facilitating those efforts? No mention of that, which isn't surprising for a :30 ad, but Jeep gave us two minutes of Bruce Springsteen reading what could be some really bad Bruce Springsteen lyrics but were more likely overstressed copywriter lyrics.
Toyota encouraged us to hold on to hope by using what some scholars called 'inspiration porn'--using the achievements of a disabled person to show us that if "this person" can hold on to hope then we can too. This type of message is a huge concern among the disabled community and this is not the first time Toyota has used this tactic. Toyota has admittedly done a lot for the disabled community, innovating a lot of great products, but tends to miss the mark with their messages.
The one ad that seemed to 'work' in this vein was Chipotle's "Can a Burrito Save the World" because it supports the environmental values that Chipotle stands for. And it was done in an energetic and engaging way.
I loved the energy of the M and Ms ad and the GM ad (although really, 35 EV models in four years without telling us why?). It was fun to see Tracy Morgan in the Rocket Mortgage ads, Jason Alexander in the Tide ad, and John Travolta in the Scotts ad, but did they really need to be there? Michael B. Jordan in the Alexa ad was kind of weird, as was the 'Flat Matthew' ad. An ad that meant to be lighthearted (I think)--the one for Cheetos--made me uncomfortable as it showed a woman who was hiding to eat junk food and lying about it.
It is fun to see celebrities after a year of really not seeing a lot of celebrities, I guess, but all the frenetic activity in non-masked environments just seemed so off to me.
Two food delivery services--Door Dash and Uber Eats--featured the importance of eating and buying local. Door Dash used Daveed Diggs and Sesame Street characters and Uber Eats used Wayne and Garth (and Cardi b) from Wayne's World. While I'm all for buying local, these messages seem sort of odd given that if we are going to get food delivered, it *has* to be local to some degree (meaning, the physical location of the restaurant is local even if the food it cooks got delivered from a distant central food distribution place). Door Dash talked about buying all kinds of stuff locally (and not from Amazon, I guess) and said they would donate $1 per order to Sesame Street. However, they are getting called on the carpet because of the huge fees they charge restaurants for using their service--up to 25% of the total value of the order. YIKES! Door Dash and Uber Eats are both the focus of a class action lawsuit that charges that restaurants have to increase their 'dine in' costs to fund the huge costs of deliveries.
And I really wondered why the Door Dash ad had no one in masks.
So yeah--bright sparkly Super Bowl ads tend to obscure the lack of any meaningful social action on the part of companies. The tone of most ads seem to try to recognize that this year is 'different' yet many of the ads just seemed out of place for where we are in our society today. Especially the Jeep ad.
So there you go. Thanks for letting me overthink everything I saw on tv!