Best (and worst) tech ads of Super Bowl 44

11:05 AM PST 02/08/2010 by Andrew Wallenstein, AP

Brands challenged to balance entertaining and explaining

"Who dat" isn't just the rallying cry of the New Orleans Saints; the phrase may have been employed whenever a Super Bowl commercial aired featuring a little-known technology.

The tech sector was well-represented among the advertisers at Super Bowl 44, but this industry has a burden all its own to bear. For many of these products, commercials aren't simply refreshing reminders touting the company name; they are introducing themselves to a broader market that has never heard of them nor knows what they do.

So let's put aside Google's fantastic "Parisian Love" ad or returning Super Bowl players like E*Trade, CareerBuilder and ick-tastic GoDaddy.com. There was a host of other companies who had something specifically new to promote, which meant juggling entertaining and explaining. Many did so brilliantly; others, not so much.

BEST

1. Vizio: "Forge"
At first, it's hard to know what to make of this visual assault, which depicts everyone from Beyonce Knowles to Tay Zonday getting scooped by giant robot arms "King Kong"-style. But the confusion becomes intriguing as Vizio establishes an elaborate metaphor for its HDTV-based TV apps. Who says you can't spend big bucks on big names and special effect without stinting on an explanation for the product? Vizio did more than the last two CES conventions to put widgets on the mainstream map.



2. Flo TV: "Injury Report"
Strange as it it to say, Qualcomm's two spots were among the best and worst of the Super Bowl because they went in completely different directions (see below, "Moments"). "Injury" was a terrific two-fer: offering a clear explanation of the product and its audience-relevant offering, but doing it in hysterical fashion. You can't ask for more than that.

3. Intel: (tie) "Lunchroom" and "Generations"
Awww, robots have feelings, too. And so does Intel, which may not explain exactly how its newest core processors are a cut above, but then again the company doesn't really need to do that. Intel already has considerable brand traction; now it needs to de-wonkify it for the average consumer, and did so brilliantly right down to the group recitation of its trademark 'bummmmm-bum-bum-bum-BUM' sound cue. "Generations" also delivered that same emotional punch, linking historical milestones in computer innovation to its new product courtesy of LOL-worthy line readings.

4. HomeAway.com: "Griswold Trailer"
As Priceline.com and William Shatner have shown in Super Bowls past, a good dose of humor goes a long way toward marketing online travel planners. Which made HomeAway.com's choice of the notoriously vacation-challenged Griswolds of "National Lampoon" fame so perfect. Rather than go with a boring direct pitch about the product, strong comedy does the same. Better to bypass the brain and aim atour nostalgic cultural hearts to make the message hit home.

5. Motorola: "Megan Fox"
Megan Fox satirizes her sexpot image and still keeps it clean with a bathtub-based tour of Motorola's Blur functionality. Unseen nude photo wreaks havoc, but Motorola may have taken the Blur a bit too literally: Precious little time is devoted to explaining what Blur actually does--even its logo flies by too quickly. Still, there's enough bait to hook the curious on inevitable repeat viewings online in search of soap-bubble slippage.

WORST

1. Flo TV: "Moments"
If Flo TV were a breakout sensation 10 years into its life cycle, "Moments" would be a nice brand-enhancing victory lap. But Flo TV is a low-profile but promising product that needed the kind of memorable demonstration Qualcomm gave it in its other spot, "Injury Report" (see above). It's a head-scratcher why Qualcomm though a rather cliched stroll through recent history has anything to do with the product it is plugging. An expensive waste of 60 seconds that could have been put to better use.



2. TV.com: "TV.com"
A website that positions itself as a competitor to Hulu comes into the Super Bowl with the chips stacked against it: Hulu did memorable work last year featuring Alec Baldwin. Which is what's so puzzling about this 11-second blip that sets itself up to suffer by comparison because it's so downright humdrum. Not to mention confusing: The tagline "There's one TV that never turns off" makes it sound like an eternal-battery device. TV.com picked the wrong choice in the go-big vs. go-home debate.

3. KGB: "Sumo"
Here's a rare instance where good humor may have actually worked against itself. Yes, demonstrating human-assisted mobile search with a bizarre set-up featuring colliding sumo wrestlers was funny. But with such a distinctive, unheard-of service to tout, wouldn't KGB have just been better off with a straightforward real-life-situation dramatization of what it does? Probably.

4. Monster: "Fiddling Beaver"
A beaver that plays a mean fiddle is cute as all get out, but seriously, what does that have to do with Monster's "New Precision Job Search" capabilities? If this was just another Monster branding effort, it's OK, but if the point is to tout the new features, not OK.

5. Boost Mobile: "Boost Mobile Shuffle"
Granted, there's not much to clarify as to what Boost is about, but this cornball exhumation of the Chicago Bears' once darlingly daffy "Super Bowl Shuffle" was just not funny. And next time, less Jim McMahon, more William "Refrigerator" Perry, please.

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