Five things to learn from the most ‘kind of ok’ Superbowl ad of 2020.

I’ve been watching superbowl ads with interest for, quite literally, decades. And it’s easy to remember the great ones. Sometimes the worst ads are just so bad that they’re memorable too.

But what I find fascinating are the ads that are simply ‘meh’.

How can it be that with every tool you could imagine at your fingertips and an almost unlimited budget, the result is still wallpaper? Sure, it’s a creative arms race and it’s harder to stand out. But you’d think the resources available would compensate for that.

So, today we’re looking at the most mediocre ad of Superbowl 2020 according to the USA Today Admeter.

Right there at number 28 of 56 (not including political ads and movie trailers). Bang in the middle of the bell curve: the Genesis ad featuring Chrissy Teigan and John Legend.

Now to be clear, it isn’t a failure. It simply isn’t a success. It’s mediocre. They got their message across – albeit clunky – and the audience saw it.

In some boardrooms, that’s enough to justify its existence.

It’s important to note that Innocean, the agency behind it are a good agency and advertising is hard sometimes. Remember, they made the second most loved ad in Superbowl 2020 as well as this one (Smaht Pahk – it’s great), though I understand the client team for Genesis is different to Hyundai so that might have influenced the outcome.

Now what makes this Genesis ad fascinating as a case study is as fate would have it, one of the most celebrated Superbowl ads of all-time had EXACTLY the same brief.

And there are actually a bunch of similarities between the Chrysler ad featuring Eminem here and this Genesis spot. Check them both out here.

It’s readily apparent that they both want to shift the automotive luxury discussion away from Europe, and they’re doing it with a manifesto-style ad. Same so far.

So how did they go in such different directions?

1. A strategy is not a script.

Whereas Chrysler chose to draw viewers in by contrasting luxury with a gritty spirit, Genesis just – says – they’re luxurious without giving us a reason to believe. It’s a strategy deck put into script form. Genesis had the idea of setting up a “party” where the guests are somehow happy to be lectured to and called out-of-touch. Yeah. Give me an invite to THAT party. (Shudder).

To be fair to the agency, the final shape of the script looks to have the client’s fingers all over it. The phrase ‘new luxury’ probably looks good in a strategy deck , but it sounds clunky and has no natural cadence when it is spoken out loud.

2. If they’re not an actor, don’t let them act.

Eminem actually can act a little – his performance in 8 mile was credible, if not quite Oscar worthy. Even so, the team behind the Chrysler ad were wise to only give him a single line and otherwise to look moody. It’s not a stretch for Eminem.

Genesis on the other hand, overused their talent. They gave a non-actor a lengthy monologue that required her in quick succession to be curious, derisive, inspirational, frustrated, comedic, plaintive and flirty. It was the wrong script for the talent they picked. Emily Blunt and John Krasinsky might have pulled it off, but an instagram star and a musician? Not a chance.

3. Building up to a moment? Make it worth it.

Chrysler confidently escalated the storytelling throughout the film to culminate in a moment of utter beauty. The choir was both an unexpected visual and true to the brand voice that Chrysler wished to embrace.

Genesis had fifteen seconds left over at the end of the script and it needed to be filled. So they filmed a reprise made up of possibly the lamest joke ever committed to screen. Yes, we get to glimpse the interior of the car, but it is an incredibly clunky way of doing it. It would work much better as part of the story, not as a bolt on.

4. Who you are is more interesting than who you aren’t.

The Genesis ad tried to identify their place in the market by telling us who they are not. Deriding caricatures of people they consider ‘old school’.

However, Chrysler gave us a glimpse into their soul. It makes Chrysler likeable, but Genesis comes off as nasty. Chrysler comes across as authentic, Genesis looks a little shallow. It has to be said, telling people who you aren’t is actually a well-worn trope in advertising, and it has a place. However, that place is not in a manifesto ad. Neither is it as the main focus of the communication.

5. Deliver on your endline.

The Genesis ad finishes with “Somebody had to make luxury fun”. But, where was there any fun in the entire ad? It was a lecture with a brief moment of levity. Chrysler got it right though. Imported from Detroit. Yep. That makes sense to what we had seen in the previous 2 minutes.

Again, it’s important to remember that Genesis isn’t bad.

It’s just ‘meh’. But it’s a very, very expensive ‘meh’ that when you add up talent, production budget and media I wager would be pushing $20 million USD. That’s a lot of cars you have to move off a lot to make this piece of work worthwhile.

In the end, a whole bunch of rookie decisions relegated it to the ‘almost’ pile that so many pieces of communication fall into. God knows we’ve all been there. The best we can do is honestly reflect on the weaknesses of mediocrity and learn from it.

And that will help us do ‘great’ in the future.

We’re experts in brand communications. If you’d like to chat, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Mike Lind at Thunderous for a chat.