TBWA Chairman Lee Clow Tells Fast Company 2017 Was a ‘Pretty Weak’ Year for Super Bowl Ads

By Erik Oster 

With Super Bowl LI in the books, everyone is looking back at the ads, which didn’t shy away from politics and, for the most part, continued to move away from sexual objectification.

One advertising veteran, at least, was not a fan of this year’s batch of big game spots. TBWA chairman Lee Clow served on the Super Clio judges panel which selected McCann New York’s spot promoting National Geographic’s new series Genius as the best of the big game. While a fan of that ad, Clow told FastCo this week that, as a whole, this year’s ads were a letdown.

“I thought it was a pretty weak year, even in the context of entertainment value, ” he said. “I thought there wasn’t as much charm, humor, creativity as usual. I personally felt like trying to go to some of these political places, when we’ve maybe had all the politics we can handle week in and week out, was a mistake.”

He added that he was unsure whether, say, an auto brand should make such a bold statmement on gender equality. (Some criticized Audi, a company with a disproportionately male executive team, for doing just that.)

Despite his involvement in perhaps the most famous Super Bowl ad of all time, Apple’s “1984,” Clow thinks brands and agencies place too much emphasis on the event. “I’ve never considered a Super Bowl ad to have a higher threshold than any other ad,” he told FastCo.

In fact, he thinks the spectacle of the big game may detract from advertisers’ goals.

Something tells us our readers may have some thoughts about his thoughts.