Bud’s Super Bowl spot could’ve killed but was so so

Super Bowl 2013 is history.   A game that began looking as if it would be a rout, ended a thrilling — dare we say unforgettable — football game.

But how about the 2013 Super Bowl advertising that every year is the focus of at least as much attention as the game itself?

Plenty has been written about Super Bowl advertising in the weeks leading up to the game and in the couple of days since it was played.

Yak. Yak. Yak. It’s almost been enough to make people think there was something really worth talking about in this year’s sorry lineup of Super Bowl advertising.

But at some point — when history is being written for real — those who really know advertising will look at what passed for Super Bowl advertising in 2013, and ask the tough but important question:  Is this the best they could do?

We aren’t in the business of writing history ourselves.  But it’s the question that’s gone through our mind again and again and again.  Is this really the best they can do?

Bud’s Clydesdale spot topped spot list

Let’s start with the most obvious point of discussion — that Budweiser Clydesdale spot called “Brotherhood” that inexplicably wound up at the top of most lists of exceptional Super Bowl advertising this year.

Surely you recall the spot from Anomaly/New York?  You must.  It’s been cooed about ad nauseum.  A breeder hands over his beloved horse to Anheuser Busch so it can become one of the brewery’s famed Clydesdales.

Three years later the man travels to Chicago (which isn’t even the real Chicago in the spot) for what is meant to be a tear duct-opening reunion with his beloved animal.

But our tear ducts most assuredly did not go into action — perhaps because we sensed about 10 seconds into the spot that it was warmed over.  A rip-off of other, better, more emotion-laden spots from longtime Anheuser Busch roster agency DDB/Chicago that aired in previous Super Bowls. 

Even current DDB/Chicago CEO Peter McGuinness, who started his tenure after A-B pulled its business out of the storied agency, told us the Clydesdale commercial felt derivative to him.

Still, most of the world was in awe.  But why?  Can’t people see what they’re looking at anymore?  Maybe the public’s assessment is a reflection more than anything else of a complete deterioration in critical faculties.

“Brotherhood” most traditional Super Bowl spot

But for the sake of argument, let’s put aside the matter of whether “Brotherhood” was a fresh, surprising take on the Clydesdales.  Let’s simply consider the fact it was — whether one likes it or not — probably one of the most traditional, non-cutting-edge commercials in the whole sorry lineup of Super Bowl advertising this year.

Surely we can all agree that “Brotherhood” is a simple, story-driven commercial.  The kind of work, we hasten to add, that we have insisted is the best kind of TV commercial there is — when done well.  The kind of work that will last the test of time when all the hype dissipates.

But is it the kind of work that should be winning in Super Bowl polls circa 2013? Remember, please, that all of this hoopla surrounding advertising on the Super Bowl really began with a spot called “1984” way back in 1984.

Perhaps you recall it?

Apple’s spot broke boundaries 

The commercial felt mind-bogglingly different and startlingly fresh at the time it debuted nearly 30 years ago. And the stunning spot that heralded Apple’s Macintosh computer still does to a large degree.

What, we ask, has happened to that urge to break boundaries in the advertising industry?  To chart new territory?

All gone with the wind, it would appear.

Now the Super Bowl — if we are to glean any conclusions from the 2013 lineup of work — has really come down to celebrating all that is most traditional.  Most familiar.  Most comforting.  And largely derivative — to use a term that’s been mentioned already.

Certainly such work — when done to perfection — still deserves a place in the Super Bowl.  But make no mistake. “Brotherhood” is no “1984.”  Like it or not, the highly-touted “Brotherhood”  just reminds us that we’re moving backward in this business of advertising.

Not forward toward an exciting future where bold creativity propels the business to new heights heretofore unimaginable. Sad. But true.

Contact Lewis Lazare at LewisL3@aol.com