Nostalgia, Celebrities, Easy Cultural References and Dumb Laughs: What Grinds My Gears About Super Bowl 50

By David Quinones

Last week, our RockStars ranked their favorite Super Bowl commercials of all-time. Now, on the heels of one of the least exciting games in recent Super Bowl memory, during which the world’s attention drifted from the subpar play on the field to the 30 and 60-second spots, we thought we’d take stock of this year’s crop.

Frankly, the slew of offerings was about as underwhelming as Cam Newton’s postgame press conference. Mildly entertaining? Sure. Memorable? Maybe a couple. But where were the game-changing, imaginative and innovative campaigns we’ve become accustomed to?

The creative process for conceiving a Super Bowl commercial, which this year cost some $5 million per 30-second spot, seems to have been reduced to a paint-by-numbers template approach: find a celebrity people know, surround them with a few widely shared cultural references, and pepper in a few easy sight gags.

Comparing this year with years past, we see some trends:

Absurdist humor: Whether its aliens dryly joking about Scott Baio and murder or a gaggle of Ryan Reynoldses hawking Hyundais, the humor has gotten decidedly more random and scattershot. This is likely an outgrowth of the general trend in comedy, which has been led by the likes of Upright Citizens Brigade alumni, Louis CK, Will Ferrell and Judd Apatow. A lot of today’s commercials echo sketches from The State 20 years ago.

Remember when?: Nostalgia and a yearning for a time-gone-by drive a lot of creative choices in the modern Super Bowl ad.

Multi-celebs: One famous person will help your brand get noticed. So it stands to reason a bunch of famous people will really help your brand get noticed. Ensemble casts are in.

Cars are more than cars: Almost every car commercial—the leading industry among Super Bowl advertisers—is focused less on function and more on lifestyle. Car commercials on this stage have become exclusively “what the car says about you,” not what the company has to say about its car.

Cinematic look’n’feel: It’s becoming increasingly common to see brands make 30 or 60 second commercials that rival big budget Hollywood blockbusters in production value and tone.

Animals work: Dogs, Clydesdales, bears and #puppymonkeybaby. Anthropomorphism is so hot right now. So is dressing up animals. Even though they probably hate it.

Not all of these elements are required, but they are almost universally adopted.

Sometimes, it comes together quite well. Case in point…

Here, the right celebrity (Janelle Monae) is paired with an inventive throwback through-the-years soundtrack concept and visuals that hit all the right notes.

Sometimes, it doesn’t work:

And sometimes, it just feels like they’re trying too hard.

These celebrity ensemble casts in commercials always seem to come across as a group of people thirsty for attention with their own products to shill. In this case, they came right out and said as much. We couldn’t remember what the commercial was for after it was over (Amazon Echo).

A few more celebrity-driven low fruit entries…

Amy Schumer and Seth Rogen get all mumblecore in this Bud Light spot that seems more like a parody of a Bud Light spot in a Judd Apatow movie.

Liam Neeson for LG because… ?

T-Mobile convinced Steve Harvey to poke some fun at himself in this spot:

Another celebrity smorgasbord, this time a bit more pretentious, from Mini USA:

Plus Helen Mirren sweating drunk drivers on behalf of Budweiser:

And Kevin Hart starring in a commercial trope as old as time, except this time Kevin Hart is in it:

From “people we know” to “things we know”, Coca-Cola used an odd couple of Avengers (without actually using the actors’ faces):

Apartments.com traded on the recognition of the Jeffersons theme song:

Audi using David Bowie’s Starman:

And Acura using David Lee Roth’s vocals:

Maybe it’s best to understand rather than lament the lowering of the brow and bar. As a brand, if your budget is already hamstrung by a $5 million buy-in, the deep, difficult creative work of devising a truly nuanced, compelling ad campaign might not be worth the investment. Better to just dress up some wiener dogs like… wieners?

Unless you are Avocados from Mexico, that is. Their commercial, #Avosinspace, was legit funny. Moreover, it was a truly original commercial that did not take the easy way out by relying on nostalgia, celebrities, easy cultural references or dumb laughs.

(Ok, we hear you, but one second of Scott Baio doesn’t technically count as nostalgia, and the commercial didn’t hinge on it.)

A few others are worthy of credit for originality and not pandering to the easiest common denominator of celebrity/call-backs/cute animals.

Colgate devoted their time to a message more powerful than dental hygiene:

A group of character actors who once upon a time played the Sobotka clan in season two of The Wire got back together on screen as a group of goofball bank robbers for Prius:

And then there was this, which we’ll just leave right here…

Top 10 Most Memorable Super Bowl Ads

Millions are getting ready for the biggest sports event of the year, those of us in the PR and advertising industry are paying close attention to the highly anticipated commercials that Super Bowl 50 will bring this weekend.

Each year, brands pay millions of dollars for a 30-second spot during the game in hopes of connecting with consumers, and this year is no different — the base price for a spot in 2016 is estimated at $4.5 million.

As we prepare for the Big Game this Sunday, our RockStars looked back at some of their favorite ads, and put together a list of their top 10 most memorable Super Bowl ads:

The Force: Volkswagen Commercial

Budweiser Super Bowl XLVIII Commercial Puppy Love

Doritos Superbowl Commercial Contest 2015

Budweiser “Lost Dog” Superbowl 2015 Commercial THE FEELS

Betty White Snickers Super Bowl Commercial 2010

Bud Light: Satin Sheets

GM Robot Super Bowl Commercial

BMW i3 – “Newfangled Idea”

Newcastle Brown Ale Commercial 2015 – Aubrey Plaza Prepares You for Band of Brands

Taco Bell: ‘Viva Young’

ENJOY!

Happy Holidays featuring Adelf

While we’re always working to deliver solid, fresh ideas for our clients, one of the best parts of the holiday season is that we get to have a little bit of fun thinking out of the box for our more festive projects.

This year, once again, we wanted to share some humor and holiday joy with you, our friends and clients that have made 2015 such an incredible year for us. In our first year, our Elf on the Shelf came to life. Last year, our Elf showed you how to take an Elfie. And this year, we’re excited to bring you… ADELF.

We had a lot of fun producing this parody — but we went the extra mile and held a Fresh Ideas Challenge among our RockStars, too. Everyone took key scenes from the video and created some pretty funny memes. It was a true roller coaster of emotion — from the awkward, to the heartbreaking, to the hilarious. Take a look below!

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Adelf on the Shelf
 

Join in on the fun by making some memes of your own and use #AdelfontheShelf!

 

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10 Ways to Rock It in PR, by a Pro in the Know

By JEANETTE NARANJO

I’m writing this on a plane bound for Washington, DC as I prepare to accept the Rising PR Stars 30 & Under Award from PR NEWS. I’m incredibly excited and humbled (thank you again, PR NEWS!) The team at my agency RockOrange, thought it would be a good idea for me to share a positive top 10 list of advice for millennials and other aspiring PR pros.

I don’t have every answer, but I know what’s worked for me, and maybe it’ll work for you!

1.  Always answer the phone… on the first ring!

There’s no better way to learn the job than being on the front lines. And in our business, the front lines are the phone lines. Be eager to grab incoming calls, and take the time to really listen. Lessons can be learned from the most surprising people.

2.  Show up early, stay late. First in, last out.

Whether it is with your time, or in the way you dress or speak, show your dedication to your teammates and your boss that you are aspiring for the job you want, not the job you have.

3.  Always ask questions.

Something can be learned from everyone you meet. You should think before you speak, but never be afraid to ask when you do not know—the risk will outweigh a mistake down the road. People that sit quietly on the sidelines and never ask questions don’t have the answers. They’re just scared to speak up.

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4.  You’re only as good as your team.

Trust in them, and let them trust in you. Help elevate them, put them in a position to succeed. It’s good practice for being a leader one day.

5.  Always be a team player

This sometimes may mean doing things you don’t want to do (including riding in the trunk, if you are the smallest member on the team!) Collaboration is key to taking ideas and building them into something even bigger and better!

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6.  Learn everyone’s name.

At RockOrange we share a building with our largest client. During my first few months with the agency, I made it a point to have a personal conversation with everyone I could—not just the executives and decision-makers, but cleaning crews, custodians, security, lunch crew, interns and everyone else. Along with just being a nice thing to do, it’s also a strategic advantage that cannot be quantified.

7.  Do the stuff no one else wants to do.

If you do it now and don’t complain, you won’t have to do it for long. It’s the nature of agency life.

8.  Embrace new challenges.

Not in a fortune cookie kind of way, but in a real, I’m-too-petrified-to-even-think-about-doing-this kind of way. Take challenges and learn from them to grow.

9.  Don’t let yourself be pigeonholed.

Be open to diversifying your skills. It will open more doors for you in future career opportunities.

10.  Most importantly, have fun!

We could have chosen to do a lot of things with our professional lives, but we picked this field. There’s a reason. At the end of the day, we’re passionate about this work and we enjoy doing it!

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RockOrange and Our Partners at Cotton, Inc. Win PR News’ Agency Elite Award

We are excited to announce that RockOrange and our partners at Cotton Inc. have won PR News’ Agency Elite Awards for our SOLID and FRESH work for Cotton’s 24-Hour Runway Show, where we set a Guinness World Record for the World’s Longest Fashion Show.

From the pitch to the runway, we worked with Cotton Inc. to elevate their signature program, Cotton’s 24-Hour Runway Show on Miami Beach’s Ocean Drive. We created a multi-pronged strategy for the fashion show that increased live-stream viewership and generated 636 media hits, representing a 479% increase in coverage from the previous year and reaching an audience of 579 million viewers. Cotton’s 24-Hour Runway Show was featured on national outlets including Good Morning America, E! News, Extra, and many more.

The PR News’ Agency Elite Awards salute the year’s most outstanding communicators, initiatives and organizations that set benchmarks of excellence in client PR efforts. We are honored to be among the list of recipients that were recognized at the Platinum PR Awards & Agency Elite Awards luncheon on October 26 at the Marriott Marquis in New York City. Please see the complete list of this year’s winners here.

Back to Basics: Helping Supply Chain Services Tell Its Powerful Brand Story

Supply Chain Services (SCS), a company that provides customized purchasing and supply chain solutions to companies in the hospitality, food, retail and service industries, approached RockOrange with a challenge many companies face: does your brand tell a powerful story?

The best brand stories are those that are compelling, emotional, and proactive. Often, they just need to be simple so that the target audience can connect with it. SCS wasn’t telling its brand story in a way that helped them differentiate themselves from competitors or communicate the achievements of their seasoned team. As a result, they weren’t generating the buzz and awareness they wanted among their target market.

RockOrange worked closely with SCS to craft a more inspiring story that will humanize their brand and make it more consumer-friendly by simplifying their message. Their initial messaging utilized a lot of industry jargon that was confusing for the general audience.

We knew that their content had to change drastically so anyone could understand the work they do. But content was just the beginning. We needed to take an integrated approach to completely rebrand them in order to accomplish their goal.

First, we created a tagline for SCS that summarized the message they wanted their audience to walk away with: “Leave it to Us.” SCS’ main message to their clients is that they don’t have to worry about anything, because the company will work as an extension of their team through collaborative efforts. With a relationship with more than 300 suppliers, SCS helps companies develop the supply chain strategy that best fits their unique business goals, including purchasing, contract negotiation, distribution and logistics, and global sourcing and fulfillment solutions.

Second, we revamped the look and feel of their website and worked with our digital and creative team to make some magic. The website is the most important tool any brand can have. If it seems difficult to understand or navigate, then you’ve lost your audience, and you are most definitely losing out on business. Along with the website makeover, we also created a manual to help them manage it long-term.

As we gave the site a new look, we worked closely with SCS to schedule a photo shoot that would allow us to convey a more collaborative and consumer-friendly attitude through imagery. A picture really does say a thousand words, and we needed to make sure those words were fresh and aligned with the new messaging.

And finally, the hardest step: simplifying ALL of their content to make it rock solid. Let us tell you, that was one heck of a challenge but we LOVED it! We made it easy for anyone to understand their services: what they do and how they can help businesses. The best part? They now get to leverage the new foundation we have laid out for other projects, including digital and social media efforts.

We leave it up to you to judge our work. Check out SCS’ new website and let us know what you think!

Working with Inaugural Poet Richard Blanco Ahead of a Historic Moment

Richard Blanco, who became the first Latino to be chosen as presidential inaugural poet, is becoming a part of history once more. The poet has been selected to participate in the ceremony to formally re-designate the U.S. Interests Section in Havana as a U.S. Embassy, and RockOrange is working with him as he gets ready to head back to the country of his roots.

The historic ceremony, where Secretary of State John Kerry will raise the American flag over the embassy, will take place on August 14. It marks the first time an American secretary of state visits Cuba since 1945. Blanco will read a poem he has written especially for the occasion, evoking the stories of the people on both sides of the Florida Straits, separated by 90 miles of sea, yet connected by complex emotional ties.

“As a poet, and as a Cuban-American, I am proud and grateful for the opportunity to be part of this historic moment,” Blanco said. “It is a true honor to return to the country of my roots in this capacity, and commemorate this step in improving relations between the United States and Cuba.”

This poem is sure to be as emotive and poignant as “One Today,” the poem he recited at the second swearing-in ceremony for President Barack Obama in 2013. Blanco wrote “One Today” taking inspiration from his own life story, which now comes full circle. A Cuban-American raised in Miami, he has become a public voice since the presidential inauguration, and is now called upon once again to take the emotional pulse of the nation at this historic moment.

Blanco was born in Madrid to Cuban exiles, and shortly after his birth, his parents settled in New York. A few years later, their journey took them further south, and they finally settled in Miami, where Blanco grew up surrounded by Cuban culture, but not visiting the country of his parents until 1994.

Today, he has become an example of Hispanics reaching the American Dream, and taking it further than others have before.

Bringing Crisis Communication Expertise to PR News’ Digital PR Conference

RockOrange Managing Partner and Principal, Miguel Piedra, co-hosted an interactive clinic titled ‘How to Manage an Escalating Crisis in Real Time’ at the PR News’ Digital PR Conference. The conference brought more than 700 public relations professionals from across the country and different industries to South Beach, Miami in early June.

Miguel along with Cynthia Martinez, director of global corporate communications for Royal Caribbean Cruises provided an overview of crisis situations they managed. News goes viral in a matter of minutes, and how a company handles a crisis may determine their long-term business survival.

Miguel has been handling crises for a variety of clients throughout his career, but even though these clients have differed in their fields, the same key ingredients have been at the core of managing each occurrence.

Crisis management goes beyond issuing a statement and going on a major broadcast network. Miguel provided five key takeaways that are essential in a crisis management plan.

1.  Have the Right People, Right Setup

At the start of a crisis, the organization needs to create a dedicated crisis team comprised of a multi-disciplined taskforce — from operations, to social media, to communications — to address the problem from every angle. In this taskforce, you establish who the leader is and create separate workstreams.

2.  Be Transparent

When managing a crisis, it is important to give the company a face — for example, have the CEO take responsibility publicly. What stakeholders want at this time is accountability from the person who will solve it. Don’t blame others. You will also need to apologize — sometimes even more than you think you need to. And more importantly, you need to provide tangible actions and solutions.

3.  Be Authentic

It’s important to tell the brand story and provide experience to emphasize the brand messages. This builds equity and insulates you when crisis occurs.

In addition, you must provide faces and stories. Deal with the issue head-on. You need to be real and honest — no phrases, no bare figures.

4.  Be Fast

In crisis communications, it’s critical to decide on activities fast. You have to decide on activities quickly and put out statements within hours, not days. However, you can issue a holding statement until you know all the details and facts. Don’t hurry to issue a statement without all the information. The long-term success of your brand will be determined how well you fulfill promises you make.

5.  Address the Real Issue

You need to be brutally honest with yourself and define exactly what is the root of the problem and address it. It’s simple: don’t focus on who is to blame, focus on the solution. Acknowledging and proactively owning up to it is a step in the right direction.

Iconic brands have survived corporate crises and lived to tell the tale, but there are far too many brands that have failed to recover from these types of crises due to failures of leadership, communication, awareness, or all of the above. You have the right ingredients to handle the unthinkable — now it’s up to you to use them well and get your client to fight another day.

Shaping an Unprecedented Announcement for the Miami Children’s Health Foundation

What happens when a golf legend decides to pledge $60 million to South Florida’s leading children’s hospital? An unprecedented partnership.

In March, golfing legend Jack Nicklaus — the “Golden Bear” — and his wife Barbara made a $60 million pledge through their Nicklaus Children’s Health Care Foundation to the Miami Children’s Health System. In recognition, the system’s flagship hospital changed its name to Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, and its eight outpatient centers in South Florida took the Nicklaus name as well.

The move presented a few challenges for the Miami Children’s Health System, and the RockOrange team worked closely with our client, Miami Children’s Health Foundation, the system, and the Nicklaus Children’s Health Care Foundation to create an integrated communications plan. The plan included the announcement of the amazing pledge and the new hospital name, in addition to the unveiling of the new logo. As if this wasn’t enough, we also planned the official kick-off event for the Together for the Children Campaign, the fundraising campaign for Nicklaus Children’s Hospital.

As we tackled the various communications challenges at hand, we had to stay focused on our ultimate goal: to position the hospital and the Miami Children’s Health System as the ultimate global destination for pediatric care. Part of the challenge was to educate consumers and internal audiences, letting them know that the Nicklaus family wasn’t just pledging funds to the system. The “first family of golf” has been an integral part of the Miami Children’s family since 2010, when they joined the hospital for the creation of the Miami Children’s Hospital Nicklaus Care Center in western Palm Beach County.

It was also key to communicate that only the hospital and its outpatient centers would take the new name. Both the Miami Children’s Health System — as well as its fundraising arm, the Miami Children’s Health Foundation — would keep their name.

Once the new name was announced, we worked with the foundation to reveal that Jack and Barbara Nicklaus had become the chairs of Together For the Children Campaign, and would lead fundraising efforts with a goal to fundraise $150 million dollars through 2017. This announcement was crucial, as it proved that they were committed to the partnership for the long run.

The next move on the game plan included the unveiling of the Nicklaus Children’s Hospital logo in a press conference, just in time for the hospital’s 65th anniversary. It was followed by a VIP donor luncheon to officially kickoff the Together for the Children campaign.

At the same time, the campaign’s celebrity ambassadors were activated through social media. This included pop artist Romero Britto, “El Gordo y la Flaca’s” Raul de Molina and supermodel Nina Agdal. Social media activation of these high-profile individuals, coupled with traditional long- and short-lead media outreach, allowed us to generate media buzz and each served as a catalyst in informing our global community about the positive impacts of the new name and logo.

RockOrange, along with the Miami Children’s Health System team, secured coverage on top-tier media like CBS Miami, NBC 6, WPLG 10, El Nuevo Herald, South Florida Business Journal, CNN, Palm Beach Post, Univision, Telemundo, ESPN and many more.

With exposure in over 130 media outlets, we created over 150 million media impressions, delivering solid results for our client!

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