The winner of the 2019 Super Bowl (blah) advertising spectacle: corn syrup!

This year’s Super Bowl ads were largely blah. Most ads were so predictable and boring that even for the 30-45 second duration, I felt like fast-forwarding them (while watching them online, of course)!

Two ads stood out, not for being wildly interesting, but for the technique they both adopted – to name competition up front and use that as a way to generate attention.

One was Pepsi, which starts the ad with a customer asking, ‘Do you have Coke?’. The waiter responds with the famous quip that seemingly annoys most Coke lovers and has since been turned into a meme: “Is Pepsi ok?”.

Advertising Agency: Goodby Silverstein & Partners, USA

The rest of the ad though, featuring Steve Carell, rappers Cardi B and Lil Jon is standard-issue Pepsi style big budget masala. Tame ending to an otherwise clever thought of using a supposed negative to their advantage.

The ad and the idea reminded of a much better effort by Pepsi, in the 90s, featuring Ray Charles. This was part of the, “You’ve got the right one, baby, uh-huh” series (Pepsi changed it to, ‘Yehi hai right choice, baby, aha!’ in India. In that ad too, Pepsi includes a oh-so-subtle Diet Coke plug before mercilessly mocking it even more subtly 🙂

The other brand that goes attacking rivals is Bud Light. Bud Light’s ‘Special Delivery’ film humorously pokes rivals like Miller Lite and Coors Light, with a huge barrel of corn syrup.

Advertising Agency: Wieden+Kennedy, New York, USA

It’s a clever ploy by Bud Light, to shame the rivals by implication, in the assumption that consumers are worried about corn syrup in their beer (though technical commentary says it doesn’t matter at all). But, it’s one way to differentiate and this controversial film does that really well.

There is so much outrage on the film that The National Corn Growers Association (of USA) tweeted that “America’s corn farmers are disappointed in you”…

…and the group’s VP posted a video of himself pouring cans of Bud Light down the sink.

Miller Lite ran full-page ads in The New York Times countering the claims of Bud Light where they actually sounded like Maggi, in the recent ad campaign (“lead is available naturally in X, Y and Z; we do not add lead”) – “What might have gotten a little lost between the parties and the wings on Sunday is the distinction between ‘corn syrup’ and ‘high-fructose corn syrup,’” the ad continued. “To be clear, ‘corn syrup’ is a normal part of the brewing process and does not even end up in your great tasting can of Miller Lite”.

Bud Light responded on Twitter with the same irreverence they showed in their ad film! It looks like all this has been anticipated and well-planned by the folks at Bud Light given the speed of reactions and responses.

Bud Light has stirred the corn barrel and in the process made people talk about ingredients, even when the debate is actually pointless and bloated. It’s a perception game, at the end of it, much like Maggi’s ‘lead’ content!

PS: You can watch all the Super Bowl commercials from 2019, here.

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