The new home of one of Richmond’s longest-running production studios played host Tuesday night to this year’s “Ad Bowl,” the Advertising Club of Richmond’s annual critique of Super Bowl spots.
Several dozen marketing professionals converged on BES Studios near Rocketts Landing for an evening of schmoozing and armchair quarterbacking this year’s crop of multimillion-dollar ads, which ranged from the political (84 Lumber’s immigration-friendly “Journey”), to the funny (Kia’s Melissa McCarthy spot), to the forgettable (T-Mobile’s Justin Bieber spot).
Beside a faux football field, mini goalposts and a cornhole set, attendees sat atop a pair of bleachers to listen to – and take part in – critiques from a panel of local creatives, including Jason Anderson, creative director at ndp; Caley Cantrell, strategy chair at the VCU Brandcenter; Aaron Dotson, principal and creative director at Elevation; Jay Adams, assistant professor at the VCU Robertson School of Media and Culture; and Ken Marcus, a senior writer with The Martin Agency.
The panel took kindest to the Kia Melissa McCarthy spot, if only for providing some big-budget humor to an otherwise largely ho-hum crop of commercials.
“This is the way we think Super Bowl spots should be,” Dotson said, adding to others’ comments that the ad stood out among a bevy of mainly emotional spots.
They weren’t as kind to T-Mobile’s Justin Bieber football dance history spot, which panelists dismissed as trying too hard to reach the millennial audience. Some allowance came from Marcus, however, as the copywriter empathized with how a good idea can sometimes get lost in the production process.
Panelists also noted the involvement of Brandcenter alumni in several spots, including Allison Hayes and Mike McGuire in Venables Bell & Partners’ Audi “Daughter” spot. A total of 11 Brandcenter alums were involved in nine of this year’s commercials, according to a rundown on the school’s website.
This year’s event was sponsored by Fox Richmond, with beer provided by Triple Crossing Brewing. BES Studios provided equipment and additional touches, such as a football-themed sculpture and video of an electric football game in action. Props were provided by Sunny Zhao of Dreams Factory, which is providing BES with much of its set pieces.
“Ad Bowl” is one of several events the recently rebranded Advertising Club of Richmond puts on throughout the year. Last year’s event was held at Shockoe Bottom studio The Branching.