Super Bowl ads give local agencies annual fodder

Anne Robertson

Did you watch the big game?

Not the football part — the part where national advertisers jockey for their 30 seconds of $2.3 million fame.

Here in the Valley, Monday morning quarterbacking has produced a number of scorecards from many area ad agencies — judging which commercials made a touchdown, and which ones drew penalty flags during the “Superbowl of Advertising.”

So I decided to devote this week’s column to it.

Seems Anheuser-Busch earned collective high marks from a handful of Valley agencies for its self-effacing twists on the popular “Whassup” campaign.

And the E-Trade equestrian monkey riding through the ghost town of departed dot-coms struck many as a clever depiction of the country’s tech boom implosion.

Despite praise for a handful of standout spots, many agency folks found this year’s show less inspiring than years past.

“There were no historic spots this time, but there were a number of funny ones,” said Louie Moses, creative director at Moses Anshell, Phoenix.

Jeff Miraglia, creative director at E.B. Lane Marketing Communications, Phoenix, echoed the sentiment, saying the event did not produce any “breakthrough” work.

A few said the show delivered, and the dot-com loss did not affect the outcome.

“This year, the ads had more relevancy and were overall better,” said Mark Godfrey, vice president of branding at the Martz Agency, Scottsdale.

Following are the non-scientific results of a local survey from around the town:

Winner’s circle

The Anheuser-Busch alien pooch who returns to his planet to share his earthly knowledge amused and impressed observers. Some who thought the “Whassup” ads couldn’t spark any more chuckles were surprised.

“Totally unexpected” was how Miraglia described it.

“That campaign has been hugely successful,” said Ian Barry, creative director at Cramer-Krasselt, Phoenix. “It’s not only funny, it’s a continuation of the campaign.

“It’s a reflection of our culture — everybody knows that word but not where the capital is,” Barry said.

The yuppie “Whassup” spot also drew applause.

“It’s a really good formula — these are parodies of the “Whassup” campaign so it shows that the advertiser is not afraid to make fun of itself,” Godfrey said.

The return of the E-Trade primate scored well with everyone. The message that this tech company has thrived amid so much ruin resonated throughout the ad effectively, many agreed.

“I thought it was really poignant,” said Roger Hurni, creative director at Off Madison Ave, Tempe.

“It taught me a lot,” Miraglia said. “They acknowledged the dot-com downturn, but came across as a survivor, which is why they’re a credible company.”

Anheuser-Busch continued its top ratings with its Budweiser “dream date” disaster spot.

“Everybody laughed,” said Godfrey. “It’s not as sophisticated as some other ones, but we can’t say we didn’t love it.”

Hurni said the spot will be remembered.

“It’s one of those things that can’t be planned, an ad that Americans will latch onto and talk about,” he said.

Moses, who liked the spot, said the Budweiser ads faced a tough challenge posed by their prior success.

“Everyone expects Bud ads to be funny, so it’s a set up for failure. They did a good job,” he said.

Honorable mentions

The commercial, where a new employee loves his new business cards and sniffs them like roses, received a few nods from observers.

“I liked it, it’s like a theme of life,” Barry said. “Life is short so be happy with your job.”

Dave Robb, creative director at Riester~Robb, Phoenix, said the ad carried through with a “nice, simple, clean thought.”

Another spot that caught some attention was the Levi’s donor-jean ad for a reissued brand the company is bringing “back to life.”

“It was effective because they told me they were bringing back the jeans, which made me want to check them out,” Moses said.

Mixed bag

A few ads aroused mixed responses, such as the Cingular spot featuring a disabled artist. The man has no use of his arms or legs but uses a paintbrush strapped to his head to produce beautiful art.

“The spot was about the ease of communication, and it stood out for me as very provocative and uplifting,” Robb said.

Miraglia said it separated itself as a powerful one that emphasized the “importance of expressing yourself.”

But others weren’t so sure it connected well with Cingular’s product, cell phones.

“It was metaphoric and cerebral, and it was beautiful, but I still don’t know what Cingular does,” Moses said.

Jeers to others

There were some that did not escape criticism, such as the much-hyped EDS “Running of the Squirrels” spot. Last year, the company gained attention for its cat-herding cowboys, and some suggested that big expectations leading up to this year’s ad may have caused the disappointment.

Others that failed to impress: The Doritos commercial that featured model Ali Landry, getting knocked to the ground by a Dorito flying out of a tennis ball machine; Subway dieters inspired by Jared’s diet; the Accenture campaign; and even the Legacy Foundation’s anti-smoking ads.

“I’m so tired of being told not to smoke, it makes me want to start,” Moses said.

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