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Scott McKay is a Toronto strategist, writer, creative director, patient manager, half-baked photographer and forcibly retired playwright.

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    "They had their cynical code worked out. The public are swine; advertising is the rattling of a stick inside a swill-bucket."

          – George Orwell






    "Advertising – a judicious mix of flattery and threats."

          – Northrop Frye






    "Chess is as an elaborate a waste of time as has ever been devised outside an advertising agency."

          – Raymond Chandler


    « the Borg is less than 48 hours from Earth | Main | his name is earl »

    the bowl which is super, or not

    I have to confess that I don't really understand the whole Superbowl ad phenomenon. Obviously any event which exalts the creativity of our product is a good thing. And the buzz can only be good for those of us who toil to make ads which air the other 364 days of the year, right?

    Consider the mere build up, the foreplay to the big day. The GoDaddy spot got some 3 million views based on not be allowed to air by CBS. The Focus on the Family spot got acres of coverage for their point of view for weeks before the actual game. After all that, the real live spots can only be brilliant, right? Well, of course not. Apart from the Snickers spot with Betty White and Abe Vigoda, which actually operates on the classical model of having a campaign theme and executing good creative that delivers against it, most of the spots seemed a little sad, like simple embodiments of the brief, or carny sideshow exhibitions, or spots guaranteed to be intertubed around the world... for about five seconds.

    In some ways it's a wonderful synergistic model of consumer engagement across multiple media platforms. I know all the arguments about why something this big has to be good for clients. In other ways it's not good that much of the actual value provided by the millions being spent is not found in the TV eyeballs conjured up by the media buy itself, but in the cloud of accompanying hype and discussion and linksharing. How much lasting value are companies getting out of advertising like this? How much real consumer engagement is happening after you view a few of these things? How long until clients try to find ways of getting that kind of hype at a cheaper price?

    It all feels somehow, well, wrong. People talk about the spots as a commodity, like race horses or chickens bred for cockfighting. The Betty White spot is well ahead of the field, with the guys staring at the camera spot a distant second and the talking babies lagging well behind...

    The only thing that matters is being funny or weird or cute or stupid enough to be passed to your friends. The clients, apart from a few obvious exceptions like Apple with the 1984 spot, get forgotten, their logos and URLs slapped on for the last few seconds as a tip of the cap to the idea that advertising is supposed to convince consumers to feel something, as a means of getting them to buy something.

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    Reader Comments (3)

    You must have missed the Audi Green Police ads.

    The build-up before the Super Bowl

    The teaser right before

    And the money spot on Super Bowl Sunday

    And yes. That is a spoof of Cheap Trick's "Dream Police"

    February 8, 2010 | Unregistered Commentersuperdifficult

    Yes, Superbowl advertising is overblown in general, especially for brands that are trying to "make it big" by piggybacking on the game. But I think it works better for established brands.

    When done right, a spot on the SB can really reinforce the goodwill a consumer has towards that brand, or remind someone who's forgotten how much that brand has to offer.

    I look at this year's as from Google as a god example. This is their first time advertising on the SB (with an ad that was produced last year actually). The ad really shows the depth of services that they provide. Instead of showing a dancing platipus or some other inane thing, it's a good old fashioned product demonstration spot wrapped in sentiment.

    The bigger they get, the harder it is for people to believe their "don't be evil" motto. This spot does a nice job of misdirecton, making you feel all good about having your whole life living within their servers.

    Does this always work for established brands? Nope. The Coke Simpsons spot was just lazy and did nothing to promote the brand or benefits of the product. The Monster ad was cute, but didn't hit the emotional mark their famous "what I want to be when I grow up" effort.

    It all come down to substance over style.

    February 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDan Gaede

    Superdifficult: yeah, the Audi stuff is pretty amusing. It's just the irony of a car company pushing something so green is so thick, so outrageous, it almost makes me think it's intentional. Almost as if Audi were sharing a wink with us. Almost.
    Dan: I tend to agree with you; it seems to be a better venue for established brands to do something new, rather than launching your company. (In 1984, Apple was already established, just launching new product.)

    February 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterScott

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