Despite costing nearly $3 million just to air, a barrage of Super Bowl ads managed to be not just unfunny or uninformative but aggressively unpleasant, clawing at viewers' attention with nothing more clever than national or racial stereotypes, anatomical gross-outs or baldly implausible claims. That American corporations waste money so visibly is, by now, unsurprising. But it can be fascinating and even fun to watch.
CareerBuilder's Follow Your Heart Ad
Three good things about this ad: It communicated a clear, positive message about the product; it takes you by surprise; and it makes you pay attention. But in the end, a heart leaping out of a woman's chest is too gross and disturbing and the punchline too obvious.
Bud Lite's Foreign Lortharios Ad
Have you heard? Apparently foreign accents and cultures are totally funny! Well, actually, they can be, but not like this. The South Asian guy says the girl has "the thighs of a Sherpa," the East Asian guy says "Hai" all aggressive and Japanesey; the African guy is carrying around a chicken; the leading Lothario is of course Latino. Not racist or xenophobic, just dumb and awkward.
SalesGenie.com's Two Salesmen Under the Gun ads
In the first ad, an Indian guy named Ramesh with seven kids (just one less than Apu on Simpsons!) uses SalesGenie.com to meet a deadline for his loudmouth boss. In case we miss the point that he has seven kids, we are hit over the head with it twice.
In the other ad, a Chinese couple named Ching Ching and Ling Ling, which are actually pandas, speak in broken English about how to save their business with a "sales miracle" and end up owning a superstore thanks to SalesGenie.
Racial, national and religious stereotypes can be employed in the service of humor; the Simpsons and, arguably, South Park and King of the Hill have used them to deliver some solid punchlines. But if they are pretty much all you got; and you're not obviously making fun of the stereotype itself; and your ad isn't actually funny then deploying accents and stereotype is just going to make you look desperate for attention.
Slightly less dumb
The E-Trade baby ads. They were fun enough as a visual gag, but the stock market fell steadily in January. With the market becoming less predictable by the day, do you really want to emphasize how unsophisticated your target customer is, or mount the implied claim that it's really easy to make money trading stocks right now?