Posted By Simon Montford on Feb 9, 2016
As everyone in the free world knows, it was Super Bowl 50 on Sunday, and due to the 8hr time difference between London and San Francisco, live coverage of the game didn't commence till 11pm. This meant that an early night was out of the question; not a great start to my busy working week. In fact, I didn't hit the sack (no pun intended), until 5am so when my alarm went off at the usual time, I felt more than a little bleary-eyed.
Now that I've had sufficient time to recover from the annual junk food and light beer bonanza, if you're a fan of my work, you'll be glad to see that I'm finally able to operate my keyboard. If you're not, well too bad! I spend Super Bowl Sunday evening in a West End sports bar surrounded by a mixed group of die-hard NFL fans and clueless locals willing to forgo their usual pints of Real Ale, in order to get drunk like an American. In addition to serving chilled pints of Bohemian-style lager in clear receptacles, the organisers also provided authentic American Red Solo cups that we Brits associate with teenage frat parties, and iconic coming-of-age movies. This meant only one thing - Beer Pong.
For those that don't know, Beer Pong is an American institution. In simple terms, it's a drinking game in which players throw ping pong balls across tables with the intent of landing them into red plastic cups of beer. It remains a mystery as to why the cups are always red (please let me know by commenting below this post), but my theory is that when the room starts to spin, and eyesight becomes blurry as a result of too much watered-down beer, the red cups are easier to see than the white or clear variety.
Watching young Londoners attempt to play Beer Pong during the pre-game show was like watching a bunch of dads dance at a wedding. It just looked wrong for all the right reasons. Finally the madness drew to a natural conclusion when a few young American students entered the bar to explain the rules. Finally the scrum of British lads left the expert cup flippers to it, and retreated to their seats, and we got back to the business of watching America's finest sporting event. Our eyes shifted back to the assortment of big screens that plastered every wall of the venue, and I decided it was time for a Super Bowl selfie (that's me below middle photo, on the left). The guy next to me was about to become a very disappointed Panthers fan. In contrast, the lady on the right became increasingly joyous as the evening progressed, for obvious reasons. As a 49ers fan, I wasn't rooting for either team so was able to relax, sit back, and enjoy what turned out to be a decent game, but not what you'd call a "nail-biter".
As you can imagine, after my cheese-and-nachos drenched coma, Monday was not a hugely productive day! Like the winning QB, I really did drink a lot of Budweiser. What I didn't do, however, was lose my dignity by sharing that information on live TV with millions of other people! Manning's comment will surely go down in infamy for being one of the most shameless commercial plugs in sporting history. I know this because, it was one of the most talked about things on Twitter yesterday, and when the world's most commercially-saturated TV viewing audience takes to social media to vent their disgust, you know something has gone badly wrong. In the US, it's perfectly normal and acceptable, for athletes to shamelessly plug everything from their favourite airline to their underwear supplier, but there's a time and place for Chrissake! When you mentioned family, Budweiser and God in the same sentence, haters are gonna hate, and maybe rightfully so in this particular instance, but you can judge for yourselves.
Some may argue that, like most premier sporting events these days, the Super Bowl has become too commercial and Manning's slip-up will undoubtedly be used by them to fuel the fire of that argument. Protagonists claim that putting the monitisation of eyeballs ahead of a genuine love of the sport will eventually kill the game. Others take a more pragmatic view claiming that, with regards to the Super Bowl ads at least, they actually enhance the viewing experience. Maybe this is because over the years, brands have become increasingly good at delivering ads that amuse, shock, touch, educate, and influence. Of course the agencies that create the ads have only one goal in mind, and that's to generate a healthy financial return for the select few that are able, and willing, to pay the eye-watering sums that these primest of prime-time spots command. In fact, it's estimated that if your company wanted to buy a 30-second Super Bowl commercial this year, your P&L would be down by a cool $5 million!
Every year there's a battle to be the most talked about Super Bowl ad, and this year was no exception. All the usually suspects jostled for position, and in my opinion the best ad was Amazon's "Alec Baldwin's Super Bowl Party" featuring Dan Marino, Jason Schwartzman, and Missy Elliott (see video below).
The 60-second ad featured an extravagant Super Bowl party hosted by Alec Baldwin. It start with the camera panning across a room full of people chatting and dancing. NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino, is seen "dad dancing" with one of the other guest. This is suddenly interrupted when the host stops the music using only voice command. This is not only a clear attempt to impress his guests, but also a way to get Marino to stop dancing. It appears that the nuisance guest has, for some reason, irritated him. Perhaps there's some hidden context I'm not aware of (again please feel free to comment below), or he wanted to stop Marino from embarrassing himself as his dance moves were so poor, or perhaps Baldwin's actions have an ulterior motive, as the person dancing with him was the infamous Missy Elliot.
Either way, when Baldwin puts the party on hold, and there's a hushed silence, Amazon Echo takes centre stage. The device constantly listens out for the word "Alexa", and upon hearing it, the smart home hub responds obediently to do its master's bidding. In this case, after stopping the music it is then told to light up an insanely intricate food display, which is also a scaled-down replica of Levi Stadium, that the egotistical host has naturally called "Baldwin Stadium". It has flood lighting, a pitch, goal posts, a big screen TV, all surrounded by layer upon layer of snacks, canapés and other sweet and savoury delights. It also has hilarious little screens that sport scrolling LED displays with the hashtag #BaldwinBowl. It's brilliantly done, and highly amusing in my opinion.
In addition to lighting up elaborate in-home stadiums, Alexa can also voice control an increasing number of connected devices produced by other smart home OEMs such as Philips (Hue), Belkin (WeMo), Samsung (SmartThings), Insteon, and Wink.
The ad does a really excellent job of communicating how homes of the not-so-distant future will increasingly be operated by artificial intelligence. By using the gift of comedy, the ecommerce giant will have successfully entered the minds, and soon the homes, of millions of consumers across America, making it a major player within the smart home sector. This well-deserved PR coup will be at the expense of the likes of Apple, Google, Samsung, and Microsoft, all of which are aggressively vying for a slice of what will soon become a multi-billion dollar market. For further details, see my previous post "Who will Rule the Connected Home in 2020?".
My second favourite was Hyundai's "First Date". This ad starred Kevin Hart, who most famously appeared in a comedy called Ride Along 2. The actor and comedian plays an over-protective father who sneakily lends the keys to his Genesis to his daughter's date, because the car comes with GPS tracking. Like Amazon, the agency that created this ad for Hyundai utilised the powerful combination of comedy and celebrity endorsement to communicate the benefits of connected technology, not just in our home but also in our vehicles.
Throughout the remainder of the commercial, Kevin Hart is seen stalking the couple; poking his head out of a big pile of soft toys while the poor boyfriend chaperones the father's daughter to a fun fair. He then follows them to the cinema, and continues to comically scupper any chance of romance. Finally the boyfriend abandons the date, all thanks to the father's ability to track the movements of his Hyundai Genesis - mission accomplished! As a result, methinks sales of the Genesis will do poorly among males below the age of thirty, but very well among what is presumably the company's target demographic - older males, especially those who feel the need to keep an eye on their teen daughter's whereabouts!
Finally my third favourite has nothing to do with the Internet of Things, or technology of any kind, but who cares, because it's funny, weird, and I like it! Congrats Mountain Dew for "Puppy, Monkey, Baby" featuring their energy drink Mtn Dew Kickstart.
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