resurrections (a survey of superbowl commercials)

THE BEST

the entire room of fifteen guests at the super bowl viewing party fell silent as chrysler’s IMPORTED FROM DETROIT (BORN OF FIRE) unfolded on screen.

genuinely provocative and beautifully photographed, the menacing soundtrack taken from eminem’s catalog makes way to a vaguely uplifting gospel, an apt metaphor for the ongoing redefinition of the city of detroit, and by extension, the chrysler brand.

though the commercial’s resurrection narrative is familiar, the storytelling was tense and compelling, pulling at all of the right emotions.

its faintly pro-labor sentiments juxtaposed with a preoccupation with luxury, the commercial in one shot evocatively combines the melancholy of fellini‘s la dolce vita and good-bye lenin with the muscular working-class heroism of thomas hart benton – as exemplified by the powerful image of the iconic joe louis memorial (the suspended bronze arm and fist) – a remarkable transition from what has become a typically dystopian view of the american rustbelt.

though this spot was not my personal favorite, and the narrative fizzled by the final shot, by all accounts, the ad makers got it right (as did longtime director samuel bayer). viewers noticed, they remembered, and i certainly think that these same viewers will think more positively about the brand.

given that well over 30% of detroit lives in poverty, it’s somewhat distasteful that chrysler should profit from their misery. it’s poverty porn at its most insidious, which is why my first choice actually goes to volkswagen‘s THE FORCE.

the commercial’s pleasing simplicity and excellent pay-off reward the viewer:  a young boy in a darth vader costume attempts to use the mythical power of “the force” to impose his will on a variety of animate and inanimate household objects, only to be thoroughly baffled by the family car’s response to his endeavors. through this tribute to star wars, we are transported into a playful world of childhood fantasy and mischief, seen from two perspectives (the child and the father). the consequences are harmless though memorable, invoking a warm emotional response. that’s effective advertising, isn’t it?

honorable mention goes to carmax‘s KID IN A CANDY STORE – besides the amusing storyline, the casting was excellent and cheerfully over the top; as well as motorola‘s EMPOWER THE PEOPLE – for a beautifully created spot whose aesthetics truly stood out from the rest of the pack.

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THE WORST

for sheer audacity and ignorance, it’s hard to find a commercial that fares worse than groupon‘s TIBET, part of the client’s “save the money” campaign. making light of the deeply tragic circumstances of tibetans is ill advised at best. who is this commercial trying to reach? i understand the satire behind the spot, but do the ad makers assume that people living in the american heartland are so stupid and insensitive? a colossal failure whose responsibility is shared by otherwise highly regarded talents: crispin porter + bogusky, the usually good-natured director christopher guest and the client. the joke may have been on the bleeding-heart inclinations of the viewers, but thanks to their efforts, public opinion may, in fact, turn against groupon. now that’s an achievement.

for its oddly implied support of violence without consequences and for its reinforcement of a negative stereotype of african american women as petty alpha she-males, pepsi max‘s LOVE HURTS utterly fails to generate any positive feelings towards the brand. slapstick humor of the most callous kind. you get what you pay for, so i guess that’s what $800 gets you for this consumer-created spot.

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BEST #1

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BEST #2

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BEST #3

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BEST #4

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WORST #1

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WORST #2

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BEST

Born of Fire

Agency: Wieden + Kennedy

Production Company: Serial Pictures

Directed by Samuel Bayer

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The Force

Agency: Deutsch L.A.

Production Company: Park Pictures

Directed by Lance Acord

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Kid in a Candy Store

Agency: Amalgamated

Production Company: MJZ

Directed by Tom Kuntz

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Empower The People

Agency: Anomaly

Production Company: Smuggler

Directed by Randy Krallman

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WORST

Tibet

Agency: Crispin Porter + Bogusky

Production Company:  Go Film

Directed by Christopher Guest

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Love Hurts

Agency: TBWA/Chiat/Day

Production Company: TBD

Directed by Brad Bosley

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