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Superbowl Ads That Didn’t Suck

February 7, 2011 Leave a comment

[This post ran on The Next Great Generation earlier today. You should check that site daily for awesome articles]

It’s Superbowl Sunday, I’m in Wisconsin, and I have a confession to make: I don’t care about football. This sort of statement is blasphemy to the Lambeau-loving Packer fans I’ve been lucky enough to call my friends, but it’s true. Fortunately, I like food, advertising, and alcohol, so they let me watch the game with them and I’m not cast into exile for my heretic beliefs. All is well in the land of cheese and beer.

See, the Superbowl is literally “the Superbowl” of advertising.  What started out as a championship battle between the best football teams in the NFL has turned into the most-watched television show of the year, so it’s a very attractive event to brands. In today’s hyper-fragmented, ad-averse society, getting 90 million+ sets of eyeballs to actually want to watch an ad is nothing short of miraculous. Companies understand this, and are willing to pony up$100,000 per second to get the privilege of beaming its messages into the collective consciousness of America.

So in between the touchdowns, fumbles, and the Black Eyed Peas freaking out half of the country with its “Dirty Bits” during the halftime show, I watched the ads. In the spirit of the USA Today Ad Meter and TNGG-Daddy Mullen’s Brandbowl, I’ll try to do my own “Sentiment Analysis” by asking random drunk friends what they think. Here’s a semi-sober round-up of a few of my favorite ads of the evening.

Chrysler: This ad is probably my favorite of the night. While I’m sure a lot of people enjoy it just for the Eminem cameo, the copy is dynamite. It’s a long-form ode to Detroit, luxury, and American engineering. Detroit is a broken-down city, a desolate wasteland of former productivity and industry, and a casualty of outsourcing. But the city is also a testament to the ability to rebuild. It reminds me a lot of the Levi’s “Go Forth” campaign, and rightly so, as it’s another product of Portland powerhouse Wieden & Kennedy.  This ad connects with many generations, from the Boomers who knew Motown as it once was to Millennials who appreciate Eminem’s gritty reality. This ad is a giant dare (“just try and buy a foreign car”), and I really dig that. The only potential downfall of the ad is that you had to hear the copy to understand it. If you were in the middle of a Superbowl party, you wouldn’t have been able to hear the words (I had to YouTube the ad to really enjoy it). Still, it gets you emotionally invested in this country in a far more organic way than the chintzy “America! Fuck yeah!” pre-kickoff segments.

VW: Well, this was pretty cute. A kid dressed as Darth Vader attempts to use “The Force” to do various things around the house. When he (she?) attempts to start a car with only the power of his/her mind, it actually works because of the magic remote start technology of the car. It worked for me, and everyone else in the room seemed to enjoy it.

Groupon: I think this one takes the cake as the most controversial ad of the night. It’s from CPB, so I would expect no less. Call it tasteless or call it entertaining, but it definitely has everyone talking. The ad makes light of the situation in Tibet in order to sell Groupon’s ability to find us cheap things. Given the reaction to Kenneth Cole’s tweet about the riots in Egypt, it certainly is timely. But I like that a Superbowl spot was controversial instead of low-brow (I counted two groin-shot ads before the beginning of the second quarter), and it definitely raises awareness about Tibet. Feel free to argue with me. Also, check out the Groupon CEO’s response to all the haters out there.

At this point, if I had a shorter word count I’d probably talk about how JJ Abrams is always able to create buzz around a movie by being very cryptic (Super 8 looks fantastic) and how Coke managed to stick to its brand identity, but I’ve spent enough words deconstructing a few of my favorites.

I’d love to hear what everyone else thought about the night’s best ads. What do you think?

 

 

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Generation Meme

September 27, 2010 2 comments

[tweetmeme source=”tmiesen” only_single=false]

On a particularly moving episode of Mad Men this season, Don Draper fell apart. The only woman who ever truly knew him (Spoiler alert! He’s not actually Don Draper) had died, and he was having a very hard time dealing with it. For the first time in the series’ run, Don Draper broke down and cried.

12 hours later, an image of Don Draper crying exploded across the internet. Within hours of its creation, Sad Don Draper was the internet flavor of the week. It became an internet meme.

What’s a meme?

According to the term’s originator, Richard Dawkins, you should think of a meme as a tiny bit of culture that gets passed along like a gene. A meme is a cultural virus. It is passed between humans in person, through word-of-mouth, and through various forms of media until it remixes itself or reaches extinction.

An “internet meme” spreads primarily from the ground up on the internet. This means that memes don’t usually originate from Google or Facebook, but rather 4Chan, the lawless, “international waters” of the internet.  It then “infects” others through word-of-mouth, email, blogs and social media. Memes are all around us.

If you’re my age, you probably remember the Hamster Dance (and the mere mention of it probably brings back that horrible, horrible song). More recent memes you’re probably familiar with include The Rickroll (click the link, I DARE YOU), The Bed Intruder Song, Keyboard Cat and, of course, LOLcats.

Sounds quite a bit like going viral, right?

Yep. “Going viral” simply refers to a meme’s ability to infect culture online, often with a brand message. The most recent (and largely successful) viral campaign was the Old Spice Guy, Isaiah Mustafa. While that campaign was the result of previous paid media (TV ads came before the viral phenomenon), Old Spice’s viral Youtube campaign will go down in advertising history.

Brands understand the power of viral videos; word-of-mouth spreads, and consumers trust other consumers more than advertisers. While most word-of-mouth is still spread offline (the proverbial “watercooler” is still alive and well), viral videos have a large impact on offline culture. This is why Tosh.0, a show devoted to viral videos and internet culture, often gets bigger ratings than The Daily Show. Internet culture has become our culture. Like it or not, we are Generation Meme.

Let’s use memes to sell stuff!

Naturally, brands are trying to capitalize on our love of memes. They’re trying to find out what makes something go viral so that they can create the newest viral masterpiece. Some advertisers are beginning to use viral stars in their ads; most recently, the The Double Rainbow Guy was featured in an ad for Microsoft. So, will we continue to see more and more memes show up in ads?

It really depends on how fast the advertisers can react to culture. Old Spice’s viral campaign was about as low-latency as it gets; people were sending out questions via social media to Old Spice, and within a day an ad had been made and aired on Youtube. However, this isn’t the norm. By the time a lot of advertisers will have devised a script, developed a budget, and produced the commercial, the meme would already be decreasing in popularity or extinct.

The cycle time for a meme (from initial discovery to extinction) is getting much shorter. As soon as one meme pops up, another will soon follow. Memes are popping up weekly. This means that advertisers are going to have to get the approval of clients and create an entire ad in very little time. This is not easy to do.

For advertisers, it’s really a race to see if they can put together a coherent ad before the meme loses its place in pop culture. If there’s one thing worse than not making an ad at all, it’s trying to capitalize on pop culture after the fad is over and looking uncool and out-of-date (though, sometimes that’s the point).

I guess the real question is whether or not memes will stay around in culture long term. Is Sad Keanu going to be our generation’s Mona Lisa? Absolutely not. But for now, they make us laugh. As long as the internet allows us to share all the strange and wonderful things we find, memes will have a place in our funny bones.

What do you think: Are memes now a part of pop culture or are they just odd spasms of internet weirdness? Can advertisers use them without “selling out?”

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