Super Bowl Ads Flops

This undated file photo provided by Ram Truck Brand shows a scene from the company's Super Bowl spot. Last year, a Ram truck ad showed people doing service-oriented tasks set against audio of King’s speech, which urges people to be “great” by serving the greater good. The ad was supposed to highlight the volunteer program Ram Nation. The ad was criticized by people who objected to the use of King's speech to sell trucks.

NEW YORK — Advertisers that spend millions of dollars on the Super Bowl are trying to avoid what the Ram truck com­pany did with a Martin Luther King speech or what Groupon did spoofing promos for charities.

Though such messages can get attention, it’s the wrong kind of attention. Groupon got buzz all right, but most of it was negative.

Here are some Super Bowl ads that flopped, despite months of planning and great ex­pense.

2018: Ram promotes volunteerism

Last year, a Ram truck ad showed people doing service-ori­ented tasks set against audio of King urging people to be “great” by serving the greater good. The ad was supposed to high­light the volunteer program Ram Nation.

Instead, viewers and ad ex­perts criticized it for forging too ten­u­ous a connection with the civil rights hero. On Twitter, many people felt that the use of King’s speech was merely ex­ploiting emotions to sell trucks.

Fiat Chrysler, which owns Ram, said it worked closely with the King estate on the ad.

2013: Volkswagen’s

‘get happy’

Volkswagen’s ad for Passat de­picts a white American so happy with a Passat that he starts speak­ing in a Jamaican accent, much to the consternation of his co-workers. The company said it was trying to stress the op­tim­istic nature of VW users and chose the Jamaican ad for show­casing that message in a funny, easy-to-understand manner.

Volkswagen released the ad ahead of the Super Bowl, only to run into criticism. Some peop­le said it bordered on ra­cism because it portrayed the Jamaican accent as a caricature.

The furor was eventually quelled, however, by Jamaicans them­selves, and the ad did run dur­ing the Super Bowl.

2013: Godaddy ‘perfect match’

Web hosting service GoDaddy has made a name for itself dur­ing the Super Bowl with crass com­mercials starting in 2005, but its 2013 ad outdid itself in the taste department.

The ad showed supermodel Bar Rafaeli making out with a bespectacled nerdy man in a very tight, extended close-up. While the ad succeeded in grab­bing attention, some dubbed it “gross.”

The company — and Super Bowl advertisers in general — toned down ads after that. For the past several years, GoDaddy hasn’t advertised during the Super Bowl at all.

2011: Groupon’s pseudo PSAs

Deal site Groupon wanted to make a humorous debut as a Super Bowl advertiser but ended up striking the wrong tone .

Groupon ran three ads that made fun of public service an­nounce­ments. In one, Timothy Hut­ton says “the people in Tibet are in trouble, their culture is in jeopardy,” as pictures of Tibet are shown on the screen. The punch­line? It turns out he was talk­ing about a fish curry deal Group­on was offering. Other ads poked fun at charities for saving the whales and the Brazilian rain forest.

Groupon was actually trying to raise money for the charities the ads were spoofing, but the ads didn’t make that clear.

The ads sparked widespread negative reaction on Twitter and Facebook. According to research firm Alterian, which produced a “Buzz Bowl” score of online activity, Groupon was among the five most-discussed advertisers online. But the buzz was twice as negative as it was positive.

Groupon returned to the Super Bowl last year with an ad starring Tiffany Haddish but is sitting out this year.

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