When did advertising get so small?
I’ve come around to agreeing that the best Super Bowl spot (above) only ran in Canada.
I don’t know about you, but I haven’t run into anyone in the advertising or marketing business who wasn’t hugely disappointed with the commercials that ran last Sunday. It made all of advertising seem tired, old and in need of a serious makeover.
Even among the 25 students in the class I teach at Boston University, consensus seemed to be that all we got were recycled ideas (Honda), agencies struggling to extend past successes (VW, Chrysler), and sad attempts to replace humor with something more sophisticated (Bud Platinum).
Granted, it’s difficult to make great advertising of any kind. Add the pressure, money, judgment and expectations of the Super Bowl and the challenge is 10-fold. And today, with everyone having a microphone to express his opinion, in real time no less, it’s unlikely we could ever get consensus on what constitutes great.
At a Brand Bowl kickoff last Friday, held at the Boston Globe’s innovation lab, 60 people previewed half a dozen spots. They texted their reaction so we could quickly gauge a winner. Interestingly nearly all the spots split the audience. A slight majority disliked Ferris. A twinge more than half gave the VW dog the thumps up. But nothing stood out or made a lasting impression.
Granted come game day consumers and viewers pay attention to the spots. By adding their two cents, they elevate brand mentions and visibility across all of the social channels. And as Mullen’s Brand Bowl revealed, classic advertising humor still works at inspiring volumes of chatter. Doritos generated tens of thousands of tweets and M&Ms proved that a new female character can charm the pants off viewers.
But is that good enough?
There was a time when advertising helped define pop culture. “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing,” or “Take it all off,” or “Wassup,” or “When I grow up,” were ideas that started with an ad and then migrated outwards. Today, however, most great ideas begin somewhere else. Hollywood. Silicon Valley. The app store.
That should bother anyone who still works in this business and be a challenge to the next generation ready to enter it. Maybe it’s too late. The new frontier has moved well beyond message based marketing to engagement, utility and collaboration. But it appears that good old advertising still has some role to play. And if it’s going to show up for a competition as fierce as the Super Bowl, it better start bringing its A-game.
All the spots: Ad Age
Non Brand Bowl analysis: Media Works
Charming to Smarmy: NY Times