Alexa Got Her Voice Back. When Will Advertising?
For the folks like us who tune in on Superbowl Sunday primarily for the commercials, this year’s array was more than a little underwhelming. Sure, we chuckled when Alexa lost her voice, and who wouldn’t enjoy an NFL rendition of Dirty Dancing? But in the end, nearly all of this year’s contenders seemed to lack that special something. Creativity? Undoubtedly, and perhaps a bit of courage as well.
Back in 2015, we designed and developed the app for USA Today’s Ad Meter, the most widely recognized measure of viewer response to Super Bowl ads since 1989. What emerged was a rich experience that included editorial content, a social sentiment meter, real-time data feeds, reviews, and analysis. Clearly, advertisement was evolving. Our job was to help bring it into the digital age, and more importantly, to create a platform through which advertisers could connect with viewers and gain real insight into what resonated, and what didn’t.
We have always believed in the power of brands as a force for good, but what happens when that force has lost its voice? Scrolling through this year’s Ad Meter results, you can’t help but feel like advertisers these days are uninspired, or worse, afraid. In a desperate effort to steer clear of even the slightest chance of controversy, advertisers cautiously stick to their bread and butter: cheap laughs, flavorless nostalgia, and patting themselves on the back for the good they do in the world (“Everyone likes water, right” Lookin’ at you, Budweiser).
And that makes for some pretty lackluster ads.
The criticism came down hard and swift for Ram Truck’s “Built to Serve”, for the questionable placement of a 1968 sermon by Martin Luther King Jr. in a car commercial, but the real question for advertisers is, why are we using other people’s words in our ads, anyway? When did the art of copywriting become the art of copy-pasting?
Back in 2017, Marriott International launched their “Golden Rule” campaign, which featured the poem by Joe Flach, “Humans Being Human.”
It would be great if human beings
Were great at being human
And if all of mankind
Were made up of kind men
It would be wonderful if common knowledge
Was knowledge commonly known
And if the light from being enlightened
Into every heart was shown
A real tear-jerker, isn’t it? (No seriously, we did love that ad). But you know what else would be great? If advertisers didn’t need to borrow from poets in order to create great copy and great ads.
– Giorgia Popermhem