Ahh Superbowl Sunday. Most come for the game, some for the food, some for the Half-Time show, but we come for the ads. To see what the MadMen geniuses come up with in the beer, cars, junk food and other product categories where sports viewers are a key demographic. What tickled our fancy this year? Our top ten (or so) list includes (in order of appearance during game) “Das Happy” VW with the Minnesota sales rep so happy with his beetle he has a Jamaican accent, “Live Mas” Taco Bell and the retirement home all night rager, the man with the Sketchers built for speed running shoes racing a cheetah and tying it up, Blackberry “It’s easier in 15 seconds to show what we can’t do”, the eTrade baby back for more laughs (although not as good as prior year Lindsay milk-o-holic), selling pistachios Gangnam style with PSY, Audi at the prom, the Landslide Bud ad with the trainer/clydesdale reunion, NFL draft with Leon Sandcastle, Best Buy with Amy Poehler, “God made a farmer” Ram trucks, Tide Joe Montana stain, Mercedes using Willem Dafoe as the tempting devil, and of course Samsung’s Next Big Thing with Seth Rogan and Paul Rudd. (And for those who want more with laughs for lawyers — see here poking fun at the NFL and its trademark enforcement for “Superbowl”).
And there was the usual controversy, The Blackout, Beyonce and blown calls, but for a change this year not so much about the ads. Perhaps in part because of what struck us as the absence of claims in most of these ads. No “faster than the competitor”, “lose weight the easy way,” etc. We enjoy being marketing lawyers because we enjoy playing some small part in this creative process. If marketers stopped making claims, well, marketing lawyers would probably be out of business. And, for us that’s a thought even scarier than trying to block Haloti Ngata. But some of the bests ads do seem to focus on brand equity or nondisparaging humor that at most can be said to be puffery. We often hear that clients like marketing lawyers who are not just “no folks” but who can provide solution-oriented suggestions. And we strive to do just that, but at the end of the day, sometimes it is just better for the lawyers to back it up and let the geniuses do their thing. When having difficult conversations with clients in the “what do you mean we can’t say that at all” vein, maybe instead of a tweak for a fix, another option is to scrap a weak claim and focus on the essence of a brand. And when done well, it is as satisfying as a 109 yard return (well, actually a 108 yard return after some lawyer for the NFL undoubtedly decided they couldn’t substantiate the 109 yard claim.)