Sunday, February 04, 2007

The Decline and Fall of Super Bowl Ads

The first Super Bowl ad this year consisted of two guys deciding something via rochambeau and one of them actually throwing a rock at the other one’s head instead of symbolizing one with his closed hand. That was followed by the image of people jumping off a cliff, street muggings, scores of men taking off their clothes in a city street, a survivor like camp for was it job seekers?,an axe wielding hitchhiker, and two mechanics in a ménage a trios with a Snickers Bar. There was one inspirational type black history ad, but there was a technical problem so I never caught the punchline. I know that the Super Bowl is mostly watched by guys and guys younger than I at that, but talk about post-literate culture! It was as if every account executive at every major ad agency had seen only two movies, Mad Max and The Matrix.

For 2.6 million dollars a minute, I thought someone would come up with imagery or story that I’d remember. Instead, the state of the art in thirty second storytelling is to do endless takes on Roadrunner episodes come to life.

It’s probably that I’m just getting old, but it seemed like everything that was being advertised was crud. Doesn’t it make any difference that they’ve banned cigarette commercials and ads for hard liquor. Most of what they were selling was beeer, Doritos, soda, or non-competitive vehicles. I give Chevrolet credit for having one of the few non-violent ads, but what’s it tell you when they run nostalgia commercials for their cars? You watch those ads and I would short any stock I owned in Detroit-based product. In the old days, they used to brag, sometimes erroneously, about having the most advanced technology on the road. Now GM wants you to remember whatever you were driving when the Beach Boys were in the top 40.

The most famous Super Bowl Ad of all was twenty years ago when Apple took on Big Brother. Even though the Mac wasn’t all that new, the ad projected a confidence in our capacity to do things better. Perhaps the days of the “informational” approach in advertising are long past. Perhaps too, we have gotten past telling stories in ads that have little to do with the product, but at least appealed to our better instincts. The current wave of Super Bowl ads attempted neither (with the possible exception of the Coke ads), they sought little more than to jolt the viewer into some primitive reaction. For instance, does anyone know what does?

It’s almost as if each time the technology moves forward, the content turns more primal. I could easily see someone recovering a disk of Super Bowl 2007 ads and seeing clearly that this is a country at war, in the midst of recklessly destroying its own environment, neglecting its children, and steadily becoming less civilized. Even the sexual references, long a mainstay of advertising felt off center. Compare some of the torso shots from this year to say Gunilla Knutsen’s Noxzema ads from a generation ago. The people who these ads were made for are mean-spirited idiots living in a culture in obvious moral decline. If this is capitalism at its apex, why do our politicians speak of the free market in such hallowed tones?

At one point, I did consider the fact that the current ads weren't aimed at people my age. Not only did it make me feel really old. It just made me feel worse. About the only consolation was that it looked like CBS had to run more ads for its own shows, possibly because they couldn't sell more time at their prices. Maybe the companies with a more positive message about their own customers just stayed away.

Oh, about the game. I can see why All State Insurance passed on putting down its 2 million dollars for time in the first half. The “good hands” game this was not. I’m very glad for Tony Dungy. What a year for that family! The guys been one of the best coaches in football for many years and had to suffer through having people say he couldn’t win the big one after he built Tampa Bay only to be removed on the brink of a Super Bowl. Peyton Manning too had paid his dues. He’d watched his father spend a career as the quarterback who never had the surrounding cast to win the big one. The son spent his career as the quarterback with the big numbers but not the big wins. It felt like the family curse got lifted. Even though it was a rough game to watch for any non-Colts fan and it was hardly a storybook game, the team had a storybook back story.

The game seemed to be telling a story about the value of hard work and patience. I just hope those values still matter.



At 2/05/2007 03:59:00 PM, Blogger None said...

That was a great post. I, actually, really like the super bowl, but for all its blatant faults. It is a great symbol of how messed up things are. Everything disposable is up for grabs in the game. The commercials just appeal to that lizard part of our brain .After four hours of football, this may be the only part working after we have finished clogging our arteries and ingesting large amounts of nitrogen. The game itself is equally as horrible. The overly masculine, excessively aggressive and possibly drugged up players bash heads for four quarters. This, some how, passes for great skill.

PS: I really liked the connection you made between the Christian, African-American Dungy and the morally bankrupt capitalist-loving politician.

At 2/06/2007 10:20:00 AM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

Thanks Parklife,

I rather like watching lizards and sometimes think that we don't give the lizard part of our brain enough credit. Without those basic hard-wired functions down there in our limbic system, most of us would be dead.

It may be a very good thing that we have a few times a year when the inner-lizard gets to run free, feel good about itself, etc. Might be a lot more humane. Still those of us watching at home are just watching and chatting which tends to be the "higher" brain system so they can still fix the ads :}

Tony Dungy has been through some pretty tough things over the last couple years. He's modelled his personal beliefs and I'm glad to see him get his first Super Bowl victory.

Part of what I liked about Bill Walsh was that he too had to be extraordinarily patient before he finally "made it". Of course, once he got his chance, Walsh's success was much more sudden.

At 2/08/2007 02:05:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Two back-to-back fumbles in the same game were the highlights.

At 2/08/2007 09:21:00 AM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

The turnovers were pretty brutal. Oddly, the last time the Colts won the Super Bowl, way way back even though the game ended on a Jim O'brien field goal, the only thing most people remembered was that there were way too many turnovers.
Sad in its way. In pre-merger days, the Colts were maybe the greatest franchise in football. Unitas, Berry, Marchetti, Lenny MOore, etc.

At 2/14/2007 11:16:00 AM, Blogger Elizabeth McQuern said...

Dude, one of my writing partners did a little sleuthing about rumors that a Chicago ad agency, along with Budweiser, totally ripped off a comedy group with their Superbowl ad (they'd seen a VERY similar sketch from the comedy guys a few months before they came up with the "slapping" ad).

Okay, I was under the influence of beer and pizza during the game, but some those ads were WEIRD and disturbing.

At 2/14/2007 04:00:00 PM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

Thanks for the link Bella. So the Bud ad wasn't just in bad taste, it was stolen bad taste?

Actually, I could see the thing being funny when done as a sketch or purely for laughs. It didn't translate to commercial well for me.

I hope they get somewhere with the suit.


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