John Stancavage: Super Bowl ads fumble innovation
BY JOHN STANCAVAGE World Business Editor
Sunday, February 03, 2013
2/03/13 at 4:05 AM
In my house, television commercials generally are an excuse to take the dog outside or reach for the DVR's fast-forward button, but Super Bowl evening is one exception.
That's become the one time of the year that almost as much attention is focused on ads as on regular programming.
This being America, we have to turn the ad debuts into a contest, too. Already, there has been much speculation over who the winners and losers will be in this ultra-expensive sweepstakes.
Volkswagen, in particular, already has been dented by the early leak of its ad. Critics are blasting the company for creating a spot that features white Minnesota office workers talking in an accent usually associated with black Jamaicans.
Volkswagen says the accent is supposed to convey the "Don't worry, be happy" theme, but I noticed that when the popular song with those lyrics is played at the end, it features singers with regular American voices.
Will this be one of the classic failures of the year? Hard to say, but if so, it will join quite a list of recent miscalculations.
Lori Turner-Wilson, founder and CEO of RedRover Sales & Marketing, recently blogged about the worst marketing efforts she saw in 2012.
Some of the offenders included KitchenAid's tweet poking fun at President Obama's late grandmother, Huggies' campaign portraying fathers as bumbling idiots, and The Gap and Urban Outfitters encouraging consumers to stay inside and do some online shopping during Hurricane Sandy.
"These failures suggest two takeaways: (1) Put processes in place to avoid inadvertent marketing mishaps, and (2) if in doubt about your next ad campaign, consider polling a group of objective consumers," Turner-Wilson wrote.
There undoubtedly will be a few clever Super Bowl ads, but overall most campaigns are pretty sad these days. Perhaps it's because companies fear consumers will remember the concept and not the product. Or it could be the same fears that seem to be plaguing car designers and movie makers - don't dare venture outside the safe, the bland and the predictable.
Just look how many ads today feature: 1) monkeys, 2) someone with a microphone interviewing people, 3) dancing in the streets and 4) barely dressed young women.
As long as those old reliables continue to draw eyeballs, we are stuck with a lack of innovation.
Consider the Super Bowl teaser ad that was getting by far the most Internet views last week: Kate Upton, dressed in short-shorts and low-cut top, helping wash a Mercedes-Benz in slow motion.
Good ol' No. 4 all the way.
Original Print Headline: Television ads often stick with ol' reliables