Commentary

What Would W.C. Fields Think About Super Bowl Marketing?

Legendary comedian W.C. Fields used to say, "Anyone who hates children and animals can't be all bad." He said this long before the Super Bowl became a destination for commercials that, much to Fields' chagrin, include kids and animals as two of the top five selling points for many big game spots.

The others: Sex (of which Fields said, "Some things are better than sex and some are worse, but there's nothing exactly like it"), celebrities (again, deferring to Mr. Fields: “If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bull") and humor (no particular quote, he was just very funny).

Last year, during Super Bowl XLV, among the best-received TV commercials were Volkswagen's "The Force" (a kid dressed as Darth Vader finds his power in his Dad's Passat), Doritos’ "Pug Attack" (a small dog gets revenge on his owner's teasing boyfriend), Bud Light's "Dog Sitter" (a guy finds his friend's dogs can make a party rock) and Bridgestone's "Beaver" (which saves the life of a man who previously saved his).

Ads seen during that game with sexy intentions included Skechers (Kim Kardashian) and GoDaddy.com (Danica Patrick, Jillian Michaels).

And celeb-driven commercials included Richard Lewis, Roseanne Barr, Sean Combs, Justin Bieber, Ozzie Osbourne, Timothy Hutton, Joan Rivers, Faith Hill and Adrian Brody.

"Animals are big, whether it’s a dog, a Clydesdale or some other animal. We’ve got that," said Leonard Armato, president of Skechers Fitness Group, which this year is buying time in its third consecutive Super Bowl. "Celebrities are big, so [companies like to] put a celebrity in there. We’ve got that. Humor is big. We’ve got that. And sex is big. But we don’t have that this year."

The ads that will run Feb. 5 during Super Bowl XLVI  on NBC might drive Fields to drink, which for him would actually be a good thing ("I drink, therefore I am").

Among them:

  • Four of the five consumer-generated ads being considered by Doritos for its two Super Bowl spots feature kids or animals.
  • Kia has a 60-second commercial that includes super-model Adriana Lima in a barely-there bikini (which covers both celebs and sex).
  • GoDaddy.com returns with Patrick and Michaels and is also adding the Pussycat Dolls.
  • H&M will star David Beckham modeling the David Beckham Bodywear collection.
  • Skechers has Mark Cuban starring alongside a French bulldog and some greyhounds.
  • Century 21's rookie Super Bowl presence will feature Donald Trump, Deion Sanders and Apolo Ohno.
  • Bridgestone will have several current and retired athletes, including Troy Aikman and Deion Sanders. The company also is title sponsor of the extended musical interlude during halftime, this year starring Madonna.
  • Anheuser-Busch has four and a half minutes of commercial time, so expect to see a Clydesdale, some celebs and a mix of the other hot five ingredients along the way.

"In Marketing 101, they say that sex and babies are very appealing in ads. But we are a very conservative American brand so we are not following that rule," said Bev Thorne, CMO for Century 21."There are some very compelling and intriguing items and characters who will appear in our ad. But it is still our agents who will be front and center."

Any last words of wisdom from W.C. FIelds for companies that spent $3.5 million for a 30-second spot? “If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There's no point in being a damn fool about it.”

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