Most of us can agree that the Super Bowl this year was a bit of a dud. In a similar theme, most of the ads were a bit uninspiring too, though there were some notable exceptions to that. Considering how much money is being invested in these ads, I’m wishing for much more creative, exciting, and inspiring results than we’re getting – even the controversial ones aren’t that controversial.

But despite that, there are some things to discuss (and I don’t mean Tom Brady’s sixth Super Bowl win – but HOW ABOUT THOSE PATRIOTS?).

That’s right, it’s time for my annual review of Super Bowl Commercials.

In my book, there are a couple of clear winners, with lessons for lawyers and law firms, to share with you. You may think I’ve omitted some important spots, but you’ll understand why when we get to those next week. Stay tuned…

Google | 100 Billion Words

Oh boy, do I love this ad.

Yes, Google is a bit pervasive these days, but in a world that is increasingly divided and divisive, this ad is about hope. It’s a bit staggering to think that 100 billion words are translated every day (and that’s using Google, one would assume). And to know that the most translated words are words like “how are you,” “thank you” and “I love you” is something that reminds us that we are more alike than we are different, and that we want to connect more than we want to be apart. I still get chills when I watch it.

What are the lessons for lawyers and law firms?

  • Google doesn’t talk about what they do in this ad, but they SHOW you. I think that’s brilliant. You see their products at work, and understand how you can use them in practical terms. Is that something you do with your clients and potential clients? How can you show them what you do, rather than just telling them?
  • Google is a behemoth company, but it’s up to all of us to provide hope – whether we’re large or small. Doing that in our work, in our messaging, in our relationship building – it both helps to change our small corner of the world, but it also makes people want to work with us. And that’s not about being pollyanna-ish – this is good business. Law firms very often DO provide hope for their clients – who else is guiding them through sticky and sometimes scary situations? Who shares with them opportunities and navigates their challenges with them? It’s their lawyers. People will joke that you might be happy to see a package show up at your door, but you wouldn’t be happy to see your lawyer show up there – but why not? Remind your clients and your potential clients that what you do for them IS providing hope – for success, for prosperity, for value.

Microsoft| We All Win

Everyone is hitting me right in the feels this Super Bowl.

Try to watch this ad without tearing up, particularly when Owen’s dad gets choked up. Not only do I love that Microsoft DID this, but I love that they made this their featured Super Bowl commercial. And their message is spot on – “when everyone plays, we all win.” YES.

What can lawyers and law firms learn from this?

  • You may have guessed it, but the number one lesson is inclusivity. We’ve been hand wringing in the profession for too long now about diversity – diversity of race, gender, sexual orientation, and we haven’t even touched on physical ability. I know there are firms trying to work on this and some who are just paying lip service to it. But we need to dig deep as an entire profession and identify how we really support and make changes in a way that drives true inclusivity. It won’t happen right away, but it must happen. Remember, “when everyone plays, we all win.”
  • The other thing this ad reminds me of is that we’re all the same on the internet. So whatever size firm you’re in, whether you’re a mega firm, or a solo practitioner, that almost doesn’t matter online. You get to define your expertise yourself. It’s become slightly less even over the last few years as social networking platforms have changed their algorithms and monetized, but there are still ways to make your voice heard that were not available fifteen years ago. You can put your online reputation to work for you, while you focus on client work. Are you making sure that your online presence is working as hard as it should be to compete

Alexa | Not Everything Makes the Cut

You may not know that I’m a Super Bowl commercial purist, who insists on watching the ads for the first time during the game. But I did happen to see this one in advance, and it’s just so darn funny. I generally get annoyed with brands who rely too much on star power for their spots, spending money for money’s sake (it’s lazy), but who can resist a crochety Harrison Ford arguing with his dog about ordering too much food, or Mark and Scott Kelly accidentally causing nationwide blackouts from space?

What are the lessons for lawyers and law firms?

  • This ad shows us how in a few short years, Alexa has become fairly ubiquitous (and could be even more ubiquitous). It’s amazing how fast technology improves, but also becomes pervasive in our lives. Bearing that in mind, don’t then be afraid to embrace it in your legal practice. But, and this is a bit but, while it’s fun to bring home an Amazon echo just because it’s cool and new, that’s not the ideal solution when you’re considering technology for your legal practice. Instead, start with the problem that you want to solve, and then identify if a technological solution is the first one you should look at. It may be a people or a process solution instead. Either way, change is coming, and we’ve got to embrace it.
  • It also reminds me about Alexa’s listening capabilities – like, sometimes when she’ll say “thank you” when I’m not even talking to her. We haven’t yet seen the impact of this on the legal profession, but if you have one in your office, you may want to be careful about sensitive client meetings, calls, and data that may be spoken aloud in there, and leave the Amazon and Google devices at  home.
  • Amazon again does a good job in this commercial of showing, rather than telling. While these are all products that they don’t produce, it gets you thinking about what’s possible in a funny and clever way. How do you get your clients and potential clients thinking about what’s possible with you and your firm in a funny and clever way?

Kia | Give it Everything

This is another excellent ad, that gives me chills when I watch it. It’s brilliantly done. Let’s talk about the why in the lessons.

What are the lessons for lawyers and law firms?

  • If you read last year’s post, you’ll know that I find storytelling to one of the most important tools you can use – not just in advertising, but in making a human connection with people. It tells them what you’re about, why you matter to them. This ad tells a story, about the town of West Point, Georgia, a town you’ve probably never heard of. And they’re okay with that. Because it’s not about the who, it’s about the what and the why. But by telling the story, you know more about the who, and you connect with the people better. Telling your story, getting vulnerable and sharing it with clients and potential clients, is incredibly valuable. I’m not talking about telling people your deepest, darkest secrets. But sharing who you are as a lawyer, as a law firm – that means something to people. Share it.
  • “Because we’re not known for who we are. We hope to be known for what we do.” What a line – isn’t that what law firms should be aspiring for as well? Not being known for who they are, but what they do. Do you know what you do?
  • “No we are not famous. But we are incredible.” Again, more chills. And again, isn’t that a message you could get behind with your firm? We are not famous…but we are incredible.

Pepsi| More than OK

Speaking of storytelling – in a past life, I was in market research, and worked on a team that did market research for Pepsi. As a result, we drank only Pepsi products. Pepsi is my preferred soda, though I’m a fairly equal-opportunity cola drinker, if I’m honest. But my love of Pepsi isn’t why I really liked this ad – I thought it was really clever that Pepsi embraced what they’re being known for “is Pepsi okay?” and ran with it. Yes, they did go slightly crazy with the celebrity cameos, but they tried to be broad enough with them to capture all their audiences. I still can’t decide if that was a win or a fail, but I credit them for their efforts.

What can lawyers and law firms learn?

  • Sometimes the market dictates who you are. Everyone, and I mean everyone, knows that most places carry Coke products and so if Pepsi is available, they likely will say to you “Is Pepsi okay?” I love that Pepsi knows that about themselves, and instead of trying to pretend it isn’t out there, they embraced it. They’re saying, not only are we “okay” but “okay” is a great thing – look at these celebrities who say so! What does the market say about your firm? A perfect example of this is Morrison & Foerster, who realized that everyone referred to them as MoFo and not only accepted, but embraced it in their branding. It made them MORE likable as a brand for doing so. If people are going to say something about you (as long as it’s not terrible), why not turn it to your benefit?
  • Do you know what the market IS saying about you? If you don’t, ask around. Clients, potential clients, your younger lawyers, friends from other law firms, even gossip websites about the legal industry. Find out what’s being said about your firm and whether you think it’s accurate, or something you need to address strategically, embrace, or ignore.

Honorable Mention:

There were some really great spots, that I can’t fail to mention a few other ads that I really enjoyed.

  • Washington Post | Democracy Dies in Darkness: This was another favorite of mine. The message is really poignant, especially in today’s environment. From a strong, mostly bi-partisan paper, this is a great reminder.
  • Girls Inc | Girl Power: This was another spot that I loved. It’s a PSA more than a commercial, but it’s a great spot supporting Girls Inc, an organization I’m a fan of, and reminding us all about the importance of strong girls working together.
  • Olay | Killer Skin: I got such a kick out of this commercial. It may be slightly too targeted to a certain generation, but for those of us who watched I Know What You Did Last Summer and are also battling wrinkles, it’s hilarious.
  • NFL | 100 Years: This commercial was the hit of the year, and it should be no surprise, considering the audience. I was also a big fan, particularly since they included Sam Gordon in the ad (though apparently, some shorter clips cut her out, which is a big oversight).
  • Bubly | Bubly vs Buble: This was another funny commercial and excellent brand recognition. I love that they get Michael Buble to poke fun at himself a bit, and it’s an extremely clever way to get us to remember the brand name.

What were some of your favorites? Stay tuned for my Bad and Ugly posts, which are still to come!