Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Olympic Advertising

Every Olympic Games carries with it a plethora of corporate sponsors and supporters, and each of these sponsors gets the chance to inundate the television coverage with a ton of Olympic-themed advertising touting their contributions to the event. But as Uncle Ben said to Peter Parker in the Spiderman comics, "with great power comes great responsibility." If advertisers are going to flood the airwaves with relentless repetitions of their spots, those spots better be worth watching.

It blows my mind that some advertisers don't realize the impact of the heavy media buys they make during the Games. Like the rest of Canada, for the last week or so I've been glued to my TV set, soaking in as much live Olympic coverage as I can. Olympic-watchers are passionate, captivated viewers, watching nothing but the Games for two weeks. One of the results of this is that they are exposed to just about every Olympic ad there is. Many times. Talk about frequency!

When the advertising is good - when it truly taps into the Olympic spirit and/or provides entertaining and endearing content - it's fun to watch, no matter how many times you see it. Some ads, like the riveting Coca-Cola hockey spot or the beautiful Buick spot, I can watch over and over again.

When the advertising is bad - when it uses the Olympic spotlight to relentlessly pitch a brand's benefits or when it lacks any form of consumer or brand insight - it can get unbearably annoying. Despite the fact that there so many different versions of them, the Bell spots are driving be insane. They're all the same. In some, two people are put in a situation where they end up talking up a Bell feature - one usually convincing the other of their stupidity for not being a Bell customer. Others feature unfunny scenes of people enjoying the Olympics - scenes that in no way reflect any identifiable situations. It's getting difficult to sit through them.

Below are my picks of the Olympic spots that are good, bad, and just plain ugly.

The Good

An amazing spot from Coke that captures the essence of Canada's love for hockey, with a riveting score that gets your heart pumping.

A beautiful, patriotic spot from HBC that plays upon the heritage and history of the Hudson's Bay Company, outfitters of Canadian pioneers and now Canadian athletes.

Tim Hortons is a Canadian icon - and this spot only ads to the brand's canon of iconic spots. A compelling and patriotic story.

I'm not sure why the Royal Canadian Mint feels the need to advertise ("look in your change" isn't you're usual call to action, after all), but this spot does a good job of playing with the coin-athlete images. Interesting.

Another spot which I love (but couldn't find a video of) is the Buick "New Class of World Class" spot featuring beautiful imagery and classical music.

The Bad

The only thing I really like about this spot is the hilarious music. Otherwise it's a bit of a chore to sit through and you have to really watch the ad in order to understand the point - Bombardier made the durable Olympic torches. Whoopie!

This spot isn't terrible, it just doesn't make much sense. Go far? What do you mean. You're an airline, of course you're going to encourage me to travel. Besides, isn't the Olympics about the world coming to Canada?

These Visa ads are becoming annoying because nothing much happens in them (other than "Go", of course) and you can only listen to Morgan Freeman's voice for so long!

The other spots that are becoming unbearable are any of the RONA "Made in Canada" spots. They're just plain boring, depicting bleak, desolate scenes (devoid of people) rather than celebrations.

The Ugly

If I see one more of these Bell commercials I'm going to gouge my eyes out. They're formulaic. The production values are terrible. The banter between the characters is uninsightful and unfunny. Terrible ads.

Another ad that I despise (but couldn't find on the net): RBC's "Advice you can bank on" ads feel fake and annoying, and fail to leverage the Olympic spirit.

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