TV ads that make so little sense, you can’t even figure out what’s being advertised

During today’s football playoff game, a TV commercial aired that made so little sense I couldn’t even decipher which product was being advertised (and no, I’m not talking about the Samsung ad which suggested its phones are only for nerds who obsess about unicorns). The ad in question had a new Aerosmith song playing the entire time, which is a fairly common practice for ads: use a popular song to give the product you’re pitching a cool factor. Except I couldn’t figure out what was being pitched. The ad showed extended scenes of the New England Patriots playing football, and then urged viewers to visit the Patriots website for more info. Okay, so it’s a football ad. The Patriots want to sell more tickets or merchandise. I get it. Except, wait, now there’s information on screen about the Aerosmith song in question. Aha, it’s an ad for the new Aerosmith album. No, now there’s a big logo for the Shazam app on screen. They can’t be suggesting I use Shazam to learn more about the song, as that would merely give me the same track info that they’ve already placed on screen. So, then, this has all been an ad for Shazam itself. Except, no, we get to the end of it all and there’s a Pepsi logo and slogan on screen. So perhaps it was a Pepsi ad all along. The question then becomes, who’s paying for this advertising and what exactly are they trying to accomplish? The answer is one which even they may not know…

Famous musicians have gotten smart enough that if their song is going to be used in an ad, they want a plug for the song and album somewhere within the ad. Shazam encourages brands to tie the Shazam app into their ads that use songs, which is enticing for the brands because Shazam has a cool factor, but then that has to be plugged at some point within the ad. The NFL has tremendous marketing power, and knows how to leverage it, so an NFL team like the Patriots aren’t going to appear in a soda ad unless they get their plug in there somewhere as well. The problem is that TV ads are only thirty seconds long. And when a company like Pepsi tries to tie its brand to cool stuff like rock music and sports and phone apps, the required pingbacks for doing so can end up taking up the entire ad…

For a company like Pepsi which is really only pushing you to drink its brand of sugar water over another brand of sugar water, such tie-ins may not be a bad idea even if they do end up becoming the ad. It’s not as if Pepsi has a decent thirty seconds of factual information to present to viewers about why its soda is desirable. Taste tests? That’s been done. Calorie and flavor options? Beaten to death. So the idea of telling viewers they should drink Pepsi if they like football and apps and Aerosmith isn’t necessarily a bad one. But in practice, when most viewers end up having no idea what the ad is even for, is Pepsi really getting anything out of its money? Pepsi must think so. Then again, it has nearly unlimited money to spend on advertising, and little of substance to advertise.