Corporate America swings from sobs to silence in this year’s Super Bowl
by Thomas Kolster (@thomaskolster) It was a sad Super Bowl. Sad, as only Trump can say it. Saaad. On the one hand, a fast-talking, cunning clown tried to sell me stuff as adland usually does best. On the other, I felt emotionally mistreated by a sobbing stranger playing curling with my heart. Corporate America appears not to care at all and, if it did, it did too much, which was exactly what was wrong. Of four quarters of fast-paced commercials, only around 10 aimed for something bigger than product plugging. What about some sense of purpose, or is it just products first?
Values first, America first, products first?
The value war from last year seemed to have run out of steam, or perhaps brands wanted to stick to safe waters and steer away from politics. The choice seemed simple: stand up for what you whole-heartedly believe in or stay silent.
Most companies conveniently chose to stay quiet. In doing so, they turned their back on the all-important conversations and topics that need support more than ever: diversity, immigration, climate — some of the biggest challenges of our time. As they say, “Nobody ever got fired for choosing IBM!” The easy option is to turn your back on wrongdoings or injustice. And please don’t pull the non-partisan excuse: for me speaking up is not about politics; it’s about defending basic values and human rights!
Toyota dared to speak up with a series of three commercials touting its mobility efforts, MobilityForAll.com, and the importance of inclusion and diversity. Good on you; I enjoyed at least one (The Woolstencroft) of the three executions.
What happened with the truly great ‘goodvertising’ work?
Staying silent is not my only (veggie) beef with Super Bowl this year. Why’s it still so difficult for brands to get goodvertising right? It’s as if their only known trick is to play on our heartstrings, with their love ballads about as believable as a used car salesman’s smile. We’re here to watch an exciting game and have fun with friends — so why all the sobbing?
T-mobile succeeded with its commercial #LittleOnes about equality and babies to make the message as heartwarming as scary serial-killer doll from the horror movie, Chucky. Who manages to mess up babies? Maybe it meant to label it #LittleScaryOnes?
Normally recognised for its brilliant, emotive and well-written work, Stella Artois aimed for complete compassion fatigue with a dreary cause-marketing approach, together with Water.org. to provide drinking water for every ridiculous-looking French beer glass sold (sorry, read chalice). Cheers to ingenuity.
Another brand that went the cause-marketing direction was Hyundai, with its “Hope Detector” thanking its many customers for the proceeds gone to fund childhood cancer research. A great cause but it felt as if Hyundai was thanking itself on behalf of its drivers; thank me very much! I want to thank Hyundai for continuing its efforts from last year’s Super Bowl in supporting the troops but aren’t we missing a big opportunity to make a difference with some truly great work?
Some other highlights
That said, I want to recognise Budweiser for its timely and well-executed message. “Stand by You” featured a fight for people in need. With beer cans that turned into containers of water, the end shot brought it home nicely.
Verizon went a similarly supportive direction with allourthanks.com as a big thanks to all the first responders; hardly a message one may disagree with, regardless of political view.
A new entrant this year was bargain site, Groupon, with “Who wouldn’t” claiming to support local businesses — always a popular message, and at least it tried a more-humorous approach but I can’t help wonder how sustainable the discount model is for the local businesses involved in the long term?
I care, sometimes
On a happy note, Coca-Cola continued its diversity efforts from last year with “The Wonder of Us”: applaudable, especially set against the silence of the others. If you want to make a difference in people’s lives, that’s not a one-off.
With this year’s Super Bowl, corporate America had every chance to prove it wants to be part of the solution, and show its purpose goes further than the writing in green on the CEO’s coffee mug. Unlike the sudden blackout during the game, there is no technical excuse for not taking a stand. So, dear corporate America, why so silent?
Author, speaker, thought-leader, Thomas Kolster (@thomaskolster) is a man on a mission — one of the early pioneers in the do-good space who coined the term “Goodvertising” to describe the changing advertising landscape that’s become a movement in itself. A seasoned advertising professional, he’s positioned himself as a vocal voice for advertising and brands as a force for good. His book “Goodvertising” (@dogoodvertising) is the most comprehensive book to date exploring communication for good. As a passionate entrepreneur and change agent, he’s launched impact platforms such as Cph:Change and Wheregoodgrows.
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