With the global economy on the mend, and tech companies in particularly feeling confident, tech companies made sure they got a piece of the advertising action this Super Bowl Sunday.
Particularly notable: the presence of ads from two of the hottest consumer internet startups, and the iPad app that a publishing mogul hopes will blaze a path into the future for news publishers. The presence of the startups brought back memories of the .com boom, in which young, high-flying tech startups flush with investor money spent big bucks to promote themselves to the world.
But how did this year's ads fare for the companies plunking down millions? Here are my comments on five of the tech ads, which can all be viewed at www.foxsports.com/ads.
Groupon is one of the tech media's favorite subjects, and its Super Bowl ads are sure to create more buzz for the company. Those ads, created by Crispin Porter + Bogusky, turn hot-button issues like whale conservation, the environment and Tibet into a vehicle for promoting the savings Groupon offers. Some already question whether Groupon's ads are as callous as Kenneth Cole's recent Twitter faux pas.
We'll see if the initial criticism turns into a larger backlash, but in the meantime, one has to wonder whether the ads will help Groupon achieve its goal: expose its brand to consumers who haven't yet become acquainted with the company's daily deals. On that front, it's debatable whether the ads sent a strong enough (and clear enough) message about what Groupon is and why consumers should care.
For those in the tech world already familiar with Groupon, perhaps the bigger question worth considering: are the needy souls who Groupon pushes aside to promote its brand really metaphorical versions of Groupon merchants?
Groupon's largest competitor, LivingSocial, used some of its $175m Amazon funding to buy its own Super Bowl ad this year. The ad tells the story of a LivingSocial user who has become addicted to deals, so much so that LivingSocial has changed his life. Sporting a red dress, he invites the viewers to let LivingSocial change theirs.
Although LivingSocial definitely didn't risk a backlash with its ad, it's not quite clear whether it sent any more effective a message than its quirkier competitor. One can only hope that LivingSocial got half-off on its ad.
Rupert Murdoch is betting big on his new iPad daily, which is aptly named The Daily. So he used the house spots News Corp.'s Fox has on Super Bowl Sunday to promote it.
The 30-second ad does a good job at introducing consumers to the iPad experience News Corp. has created in a visually-engaging fashion, but one has to wonder if The Daily is really ready for Super Bowl-style prime time given the widespread complaints about the iPad publication's performance, which The Daily has already been forced to issue a public response to.
GoDaddy isn't new to the Super Bowl and there's nothing new about GoDaddy's ad strategy: show as much skin, and add as much risque dialog as possible. There's just one problem: even if you thought it was interesting/amusing/alluring originally, it's no longer interesting. Even with Joan Rivers thrown in.
HomeAway.com, which connects consumers to vacation homes, sought to pit consumers against hoteliers through the Ministry of Detourism, "A secret government agency saving vacations, one vacation rental home at a time." The ad itself isn't bad, and clearly states the value proposition for renting a vacation home. Unfortunately, compared to some of the other ads, I suspect that HomeAway.com's ad is neither funny enough or creative enough to be memorable in a Super Bowl lineup.
While there were a number of other tech and tech-related ads, including some really good showings from CareerBuilder.com and Cars.com worth viewing, it appears that brands far more familiar with Madison Avenue, such beverage, CPG and auto manufacturing companies, far outgunned their tech competitors yesterday.