The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Some People Never Learn Their Lesson …

Way back in 2008, the lovely people at PSFK invited me to speak at their Asia conference in Singapore.

While I had a lot of fun doing it, you’d think they would have quickly realised never to invite me to do anything again.

Well they managed to hold off for 10 whole years, but the lovely mad fools decided to ask me to do something again.

OK, so it’s writing an article on the Super Bowl rather than actually showing my face to a member of the paying public, but it’s still an alarming lack of judgement on their part.

For which I am truly proud.

Given how much rubbish there was out there, I could have written miles and miles of abuse, but the folks at PSFK were smart by limiting me to about 800 words, though that didn’t stop me writing a paragraph questioning why Queen would sell the use of their song ‘We Will Rock You’ to RAM Trucks.

Fortunately for you, they edited that bit out.

Unfortunately for you, they left the rest in.


So to those of you who can’t be arsed to click on this link, here’s the post.

In addition to being the pinnacle of American football, the Super Bowl is also one of the pinnacles for the ad industry. A chance for us to remind everyone what we can do. So with that, I’m going to write about three pieces of work I thought celebrated the highs of ad-land and three pieces that will require me to spend the next 11 months in therapy.

Before I start, I should say:

+ I’m cynical and British so I’m not the best person to write this.
+ I acknowledge it’s hard to make a Super Bowl spot that stands out for good reasons.
+ All ads require a lot of people to work very hard so when it goes bad, there’s a bunch of reasons for it and I assure you they’re all as disappointed as you. Or they should be.

Let’s start with what I think pushes the ad industry forward:

TIDE: It’s A Tide Ad

Thank you for being self-aware enough to acknowledge you simply make clothes clean.

And for doing it in a way that doesn’t just highlight the clichés of ‘the Super Bowl ad,’ but kinda-hijacks and owns all the ads that run after your spot.

For me, you won the Super Bowl.

AMAZON: Alexa Loses Her Voice

No one really needs reminding about Alexa do they? But hey, at least they had fun doing it and poked fun at themselves. Jeff Bezos might be a genius in many things, but no actor is going to worry his acting chops are going to take their job. Except, maybe, Keanu Reeves.


Let me be clear, I did not like this ad. At all. I felt it was contrived and patting itself on the back.

But the idea behind it—using their cans to distribute water to those in need—is very good and something they’ve apparently been doing since 1988.

It resonated with me more than the Stella Artois/Matt Damon spot, which has a similar goal, because not only has Bud been doing it without fanfare for a long time, it required them to do something beyond handing over a check.

I know I look a dick criticizing anyone who wants to help those in need but, like the Hyundai spot, you end up wondering if Stella is doing it because they genuinely want to help people or needed a platform to attract more drinkers.

It shouldn’t matter as people are being helped but it feels exploitative, which is why Bud wins the ‘social cause’ category of Super Bowl for me.


Now for the ones I feel holding us back. Seriously, this was hard because there were tons of them. But some reached a lower bar than others, so with that…

MONSTER: You Deserve Better

What do you do if you’re a guitarist in Aerosmith and your singer is too busy making bad Super Bowl ads [this year, it’s Kia] to make a new album? You have a go too.

Joe Perry shouldn’t have bothered. Not just because his appearance is ‘blink-and-you-miss-it’ short, nor because 99.76% of the overtly Gen-Z target audience wouldn’t know who the hell he is… but because the premise of the ad (in-ear headphones are crap) is about five years too late.

The ad ends with the line, “You Deserve Better.” They’re right, Joe does.

JACK IN THE BOX: Jack vs. Martha

There used to be an agency called Cliff Freeman. I loved them and tried to get a job there over and over again, but it never happened.

Part of the reason was because of their Jack In The Box work, which was genuinely mischievous, funny and memorable as hell.

This is none of those things. It’s not terrible—there were worse—but compared to their heyday with Cliff Freeman, it left a bad taste in my mouth.

NFL: Dirty Dancing Spoof

NFL players re-make the pivotal dance scene from the movie Dirty Dancing before a line appears that says, “To all the touchdowns to come.” I rest my case.


I know I said three, but there’s one more I have to give an honorable mention to: that Scientology thing.

Maybe it’s just me, but I find a religion that runs a Super Bowl ad trying to attract members rather than use the cash to try and help those in need very, very strange. Even Stella Artois is trying to help the needy so maybe I’ll follow them instead.

Given the Super Bowl is such a momentous event—where the traditional rules of advertising arguably, can be broken—it’s just a shame that we continue to see the same three approaches each and every year.

I’m not saying funny celebrities, true Americana and/or political commentary don’t work, but if we’re going to show how our industry really understands how to connect with culture, it might be nice if we didn’t approach every year by producing a stream of 30 to 60-second TV ads when we have the technology and brains to develop ideas that can affect how millions behave, literally, as they’re watching the game.

17 Comments so far
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I can’t wait to hear about the scientologists, when they come knocking on your door.

Comment by DH

campbell might be the only person who scares them off. or they might convert to him because his ramblings are even more fucked up than hubbards.

Comment by andy@cynic

That did cross my mind to be honest …

Comment by Rob

America has made you go soft. It’s not a bad write up but it’s missing your full spite and vinegar piss.

Comment by DH

they dont call it lalaland for nothing.

Comment by andy@cynic

cliff freeman never did jack in the box. if he did it would have been fucking spectacular but he didnt. fake fucking news. never trust a fucking planner.

Comment by andy@cynic

not giving you a job was the sanest thing cliff freeman ever did.

Comment by andy@cynic

Really? I was convinced it was then but they closed down so long ago my memory may have screwed up. Either way, I absolutely wanted to work for them but they absolutely didn’t want me to work for them. Smart.

Anyway, here’s my fave Jack In The Box spot …


Comment by Rob

well youre wrong. think that ad was done by chiat when chiat still had fucking balls.

Comment by andy@cynic

Cliff Freeman’s Fox Sports ads are still some of my favorites, only surpassed by his Budget rent a car spots.


Comment by George

That’s why I wanted to work for them.

Amazing they sold the work, it’s beautiful madness.

Comment by Rob

Surprised you didn’t talk about the appropriation of MLK to sell redneck trucks.

Comment by Bazza

Excellent Bezos, Tyler and Perry smackdown.

Comment by George

Tyler and Perry are doing all the can to destroy the Aerosmith legacy. And how many times can they sell “dream on”?

Comment by DH

Yep … you have to admire their ability to find new uses for old songs. Or question the industry for their lack of ability to find new ways to tell ‘solve’ problems.

Comment by Rob

says the fucker who has only written 3 presentations in his life and just keeps reskinning the bastards.

Comment by andy@cynic

By posting the interview here, he’s gone transmedia and doubled his ROI. It’s impressively audacious.

Comment by John

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