2014 Winter Olympics Ad Special, or, the First Nick Nappo Ads Olympiad

Well, I said a couple of weeks ago after my Super Bowl Ad Recap that I would do the same type of post for the Olympics.  For the past ten years, there has always been at least one commercial airing during the Olympics that has taken my breath away.  The Olympics themselves are a celebration of the exuberant, invincible human spirit, and I believe the following commercials not only exemplified the essence of the Games, but like the Super Bowl ads, connected with consumers in ways that were introspective and profound.

Visa, “Amelia Earhart”, BBDO, New York


I always look forward to Visa’s Olympics ads, ever since they stole the show in 2006 with the launch of their “Life Takes Visa” campaign.  This commercial, depicting ski jumper Sarah Hendrickson in the inaugural Olympic women’s ski jumping event, is no exception in the history of Visa seeking to enter the hearts and minds of all people by being “everywhere they want to be” through its marketing initiatives.  As Hendrickson prepares to jump, the words of Amelia Earhart before she made her final flight play in the background as a reminder of the risks incurred when performing such a task.  Especially if people don’t think the person can do it.  Nonetheless, as Amelia Earhart was a pioneer for women because of her achievements in aviation, Visa reminds us that sometimes taking risks can not only develop a person’s character, but can move the human race one step forward.  As Visa is an official Olympic sponsor, I would not expect a better-executed message from them.

Chevrolet, “The New Us”, Commonwealth, Detroit


Chevy stressed the safety aspects of its Traverse SUV by focusing the ad for the vehicle on the family.  And not just any family, but the modern, 2014 idea of what a family really is and the importance of a family staying together.  The traditional nuclear family concept has rapidly been dissolving since the start of the twenty-first century, and Chevy recognized this by including families of all shapes, sizes, origins, and beliefs.  I love the risk the company took in doing this because it not only makes them seem more inclusive when reaching a target audience, but it tells critics, “This is who we are.  This is who we appeal to.  This is our definition of normal, of togetherness, of love.”  It made me believe that Chevy is not a company that makes cars for consumers, it’s a collection of people that make cars for people.  That’s why the message is everything.

General Electric, “Childlike Imagination: What My Mom Does at GE”, BBDO, New York


Fanciful representations of GE’s work as seen through the eyes of a child illustrate the magnitude of the company’s work.  To me, Olympics advertising should be all about heightening all the aspects of humanity through an aggrandized sense of achievement, dedication, and ultimately, legacy.  Consumers have known for years that General Electric constantly seeks to innovate and find solutions in technology and energy, amongst other fields, and this commercial portrayed in an allegorical sense the grand scope of the work the company does to change lives.  I think the girl in the ad understands this perfectly.  You can sense in her eyes that she has a lot of respect for her mother.

Walmart, “Lights On”, Saatchi & Saatchi, New York


This was actually the first great commercial of the games for me.  It aired the night before the Opening Ceremony, and I would have never thought such a phenomenal commercial could come from Walmart.  I guess that’s what expected, though, when a new agency is added to the company’s roster.  Many times in advertising (and in art), simplicity is the best method of effectively communicating a message.  Here we see an unglamorous, naturalistic depiction of American industrial life, the same life that Walmart vows to restore over the next year by buying billions of dollars worth of American products¹.  The simple imagery of the people working in the factory, combined with the artistic elements of the music and cinematography, create a captivating, optimistic image of the American industrial spirit coming back in full force.

And now, for the ad that is possibly my favorite (and I’ll explain why):

Cadillac, “Work Hard”, Rogue, Detroit


There’s been a lot of controversy on YouTube and elsewhere about this commercial.  Some people criticize the guy for being too pro-America.  Others say he’s overtly materialistic.  Others think he’s nuts.  I personally believe he’s all of these things, but I’ll be darned if this commercial wasn’t one of the most effective pieces of advertising I’ve seen in years.  Instead of the traditional route of showing the “luxurious” aspects of a luxury vehicle, Cadillac focused on one possible target consumer – the wealthy person who is incredibly (and perhaps even obnoxiously) proud of the fact that he obtained wealth through hard work and persistence.  As an American brand, Cadillac prides itself in the values of this nation, which include those two I just mentioned, and this message does come across, mostly in the last few lines.  I’m afraid, however, that it comes across rather backhandedly, overshadowed by our hero’s overconfidence and somewhat chauvenistic attitude, which is accentuated by the quirky Aaron Sorkin-esque dialogue.

I will say this, though.  He’s made me want to buy a Cadillac ELR as soon as it’s in the charts for me.  I mean, he does look great in the suit, he has a nice house, and he seems passionate about his lifestyle.  It’s enough to grab your attention, at least.  N’est-ce pas?  (Wink.)

And there you have it, my favorite ads of the 2014 Winter Olympics.  I look forward to the commercials just as much as the actual games, and I’m glad you stopped by so I could share my thoughts with you.  As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts.  If you watched the Olympics, what were your favorite ads?  What were your opinions of the ads above?  What did you think about the Cadillac guy?  To continue the conversation or suggest a new topic, find me on Twitter at @HeyNickNappo.  Take care!

¹McMains, A.  (2014, February 7).  Saatchi Breaks First Work for Walmart on the Olympics.  Adweek.  Retrieved from http://www.adweek.com/news/advertising-branding/saatchi-breaks-1st-work-walmart-olympics-155561.


2 thoughts on “2014 Winter Olympics Ad Special, or, the First Nick Nappo Ads Olympiad

  1. Nick – great post. I have to say that I watched some of the Olympics and missed half of the one’s you wrote about.

    What did you think about Proctor & Gamble’s “Thank You, Mom/Pick Them Back Up” campaign: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=57e4t-fhXDs
    I love it! And I love their tagline at the end, “Proud Sponsor of Mom’s”.

    • Hi, Kristen! I really enjoyed that campaign. That’s a continuation of the work they did for the Olympics two years ago. It’s funny, for my Principles of IMC class in the fall, we did a forum post about that campaign where we discussed its marketing aspects and the relevance it had to the tone of the overall games. I think the “Thank You, Mom” campaign is not only effective in targeting specific audiences, but it tugs at the heartstrings, which in my book makes for great advertising.

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