Opinion

The top five Super Bowl ad gaffes

The Super Bowl is now recognised as a time when brands show off their very best work. But for every fantastic ad aired and shared there's the odd howler, too. Social video experts Be On have rounded up the very worst in Super Bowl advertising.

5. Snickers (2007) 

While Lady and The Tramp hit the nail on the head with a romantic exchange of spaghetti, this peanut and caramel chocolate brand proved less successful with a similar gag for the Super Bowl back in 2007. This ad see two car mechanics accidently lock lips as they enjoy a Snickers bar at work. In an effort to ‘do something manly’ they tear hair from their chests.

The ad sparked complaints from The Human Rights Campaign and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation for being homophobic. Since then, the brand has taken a new direction for the better, with its 'You're Not You When You're Hungry' campaign.

Rather than cementing its brand image around an out-dated representation of masculinity, Snickers created humour from a well-known cliché based on eating habits, with great success. Last year, it aired a Super Bowl spot featuring Danny Trejo and Boardwalk Empire star Steve Buscemi, proving a hit with audiences.

4. Doritos (2010)

In 2010, Doritos revealed a Super Bowl ad that certainly set tongues wagging. When one gym buddy steals a packet of Doritos from the mysterious Tim’s locker, he causes a wave of panic. Apparently, Tim ‘LOVES’ Doritos and the punishment for taking them away from him is having one lodged into your vocal chords.

Apart from lacking a clear message or creative punchline, the alignment between this carby snack and fitness fanatics is tenuous. For the past decade, Doritos has hosted its 'Crash the Super Bowl' competition, encouraging viewers to get artistic by creating their own 30-second spots.

This year, Doritos is going all out to celebrate the fiftieth edition of the Super Bowl, offering the chance to win one million dollars and work with the legendary director of Man of Steel, Zack Snyder. This brand has certainly ramped up its A-game, and understands the value in engaging audiences through more than just a funny video.

3. Macintosh Office (1985)

Since its launch in 1976, Apple has ridden the wave of change over the years. While change has no doubt worked in its favour, it can’t always be said to have been for the better.

For example, when Apple released Macintosh Office, a year after the Macintosh was launched, it was accused of insulting both its existing and potential customer base with the ‘Lemmings’ spot for the Super Bowl. Thoroughly dark and eerie, the ad is set to the ‘High Ho, It’s Off To Work We Go’ tune made famous by Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs.

Aiming to sell its new suite of products, the campaign points out that consumers can either ‘look into it’ or go about ‘business as usual’. The subtext being, that if you don’t ‘look into it’ you face the same fate as those marching off a cliff, as orchestrated by director, Ridley Scott.

Costing a total $1.5 million, the campaign aired during the third quarter of the Super Bowl, causing controversy. Seen as innovators in the tech space, Apple now takes a far sleeker and more upbeat approach to its advertising campaigns.

2. Groupon (2011)

Opening with a picturesque landscape of mountainous Tibet, money-saving guru Groupon calls this ‘one of the most beautiful places in the world’. That is, before swiftly causing upset to their entire population.

This 2011 Super Bowl ad, ‘Save the Money’, was accused of trivialising global activism. In the ad, created by Crispin Porter + Bogusky, actor Timothy Hutton explains how the people of Tibet are in trouble and their culture "is in jeopardy" followed by the punchline: "But they still whip up an amazing fish curry".

Groupon enlisted the support of non- profits such as Greenpeace and The Tibet Fund and agreed to match up to $100K in donations. According to those non-profits and Groupon, the goal of the campaign was to help raise funds for Tibetan refugees. It was Groupon’s services, rather than the situation in Tibet, that they had planned to trivialise, they claimed. Unfortunately, their bold tactics did not have the desired effect, and serve as a lesson to brands regarding the tone of content.

1. Holiday Inn (1997)

In an attempt to appeal to the universal dread many of us feel when we attend a school reunion, Holiday Inn Worldwide’s Super Bowl ad sparked controversy back in 1997. One chap is shocked to find out that a beautiful woman he encounters at a school reunion has undergone a transformation having previously been known as ‘Bob Johnson’ at school.

The narrator lists the various surgeries and costs associated with each one as she moves across the room, representing her as more of a commodity than a person. The campaign effectively compares this transgender woman’s alterations to hotel ‘upgrades’ in a bid to demonstrate how its chain has changed during the years.

Rather than attract the younger audience they desired, Holiday Inn sparked a number of complaints from individuals that felt the ad made fun of the transgender community. Safe to say, the ‘Bob Johnson’ campaign was canned after the first instalment.