The Top 7 #PRFails of Super Bowl XLVIII

money bowl

Ummmm … no.

So, on behalf of my cronies at PRNewser, we know this is not the forum for advertising and what more than 102 million people saw on display (other than that atrocious football game — no offense, Seattle). And yet, this topic is here. Why? A simple aphorism that has been a fundamental tenet in this biz forever:

What you pay for is advertising; what you pray for is public relations. 

As soon as each :30 ad came on TV, America began buzzing — in homes, in bars, on the phone and all over social media. Yes, that’s “free advertising” but is it what the brand paid for when prospect consumers are torching the advertisement in effigy? No. And that is why flacks were born — understanding perception. Get it? Persuasion. Ads. Perception. Spin.

So, let’s turn those umpteen bajillion frowns upside down and discuss the #PRFails of what is affectionately called #BrandBowl 2014.

Before we list the resounding PR fails of the evening’s advertisements, we would be remiss if we didn’t celebrate a couple of the PR Wins (because there were only a couple):

RadioShack-and-T-Mobile1. Tim Tebow & RadioShack. These two beleaguered entities used a time-honored tradition of comedians across the land — self-deprecation. On one commercial, you have a guy who is arguably the best collegiate football player ever but the only job he can land in the pros is talking about it. In another, you find a brand that has been drowning in the wake of the competition for decades. Now, Tim Tebow is a T-Mobile carrier for life, and children of the 80s rejoiced with the surprising winning ad of the night as RadioShack brought back Kid N’ Play, Teen Wolf and the (really?) California Raisins. Now that the elephant in the room has been pointed out, let’s see how both handle the recent PR love it will certainly receive. Well played to them both!

Cheerios2. Cheerios. Last June, Cheerios made a commercial featuring its cereal and a good homogenized section of this country partied like it was 1899. As our Lizzy S. Mitchell reported, the ad featured an interracial couple and you would have thought its parent company General Mills poured out some Alpha Bits and spelled “The KKK Sucks!” Did that stop the love? Oh no. In fact, the interracial couple came back and discussed their growth by adding another child … and a puppy. Why a PR Win? Because those schmucks don’t make their ads. Something good has to be said for a company that just wants to sell toasted oats cereal and anyone who chooses to eat it, right?

Now remember, this is about PR, so we won’t be sharing our grades on Budweiser’s “Coital Cattle Call” (Genius), Microsoft’s “What Can Technology Do” (Literal Genius) or Doritos “Time Machine Hijinks” (Indie Genius). We’ll let the ad wunderkinds discuss that.

On with the fails…

VW Wings1. Car Makers. Enough, already. We get it. You have money to burn, so you hire celebrities who will never drive your hoopties and burn $4M for :30 because it’s fun to be on TV. Only one thing — most of your Super Bowl ads sucked. And you want people talking about you why, again? This will prove to be a PR nightmare rather than an advertising lollapalooza.

  • Maserati — Sneaked in a spot to remind 99.99 percent of the folk watching the big game that they can’t afford a Maserati. And with a fake movie trailer?! Our own response:
  • Audi — “Dober-Hua-Hua.” I woke up in a cold sweat thinking of this CGI contraption. Oh, and PETA would like a word.
  • Chrysler — Nothing says “power to the people” and hearkens anti-war tributes like selling out to shill for a car, right Bob Dylan?
  • Honda — They dump Michael Bolton for Bruce Willis, and hugs? Yippee-Ki-Yay-Mother-Hugger.
  • Toyota — Okay. Nothing wrong with the Muppets but I doubt people are clamoring to buy the new Dr. Tooth Mobile.
  • Kia — Digging Morpheus on the tube but is the Matrix still a thing? No one was looking at the car because the great Laurence Fishburne’s Aria-wailing mouth filled the back seat.
  • Volkswagen — Just … no. And, shout out to Gloria Steinem who sharted rainbows herself when she noted that women can’t be German engineers.

2. Joe Namath. Botched coin toss? Hunting Sasquatch who wants his fur back? Enough said. More fodder for the critics. Struggle-LING.

3. Go Daddy. It’s untold what is more perplexing — if that woman in the commercial who quit in national TV was real, or why that puppeteer wasn’t Danica Patrick quitting NASCAR. In a tube top. Either way, no one cared.

4. GEICO & Sonos. A PR hit to two sponsors who wanted to get on TV, but used all their money to do it and didn’t have enough left over to pay for new spots. Your investors are on the white courtesy phone.

Budweiser military5. Budweiser. We’ll just overlook that Bud Light party on-the-go because if that sold one beer, I’ll start drinking again. As the proud son of a Purple Heart veteran, is this honoring our vets or exploitation to sell a beer? Unfortunately, I’m not the only one with that question. The commercial made us cry. The meaning made us think twice.

6. Scientology. Wait, what? Given all the celebs they have on the payroll, of course, this “church” can afford the $4M bill. However, we were all thinking the same thing, “You still have Tom Cruise leading the charge.” So, I think America just passed on the offer. Thanks though.

7. Time Warner Cable. Bringing up the rear in the court of public opinion is a company used to that position. And they wanted to use a Super Bowl commercial to say, “It’s a-ight. We’re a cool brand after all.” No, it just reminded the country of all the griping you did to get all that money back — and then you gave it to all those retread celebs. Classy.

For PR reasons that most of us can’t explain, I think more than half of those brands would like to get into the Doritos time machine, fire their ad agencies, apologize to the public and get their money back.