Super Bowl Sunday, the one day a year when ads really seem to matter to people outside the ad industry. Or at least that’s what the sports fans in the US think. For the rest of us in Canada and everywhere else who might happen to be at a bar or looking for an excuse to exhibit our machismo, the ads will be the same schlock we get everywhere else due to CRTC regulations that mandate we watch the Canadian stuff, so cable companies just splice in their scheduled sponsor interruptions. Yet the hype and the extent to which these commercials are touted before they are even aired would lead you to think this was blockbuster summer condensed into several 10 minutes segment over the course of a few hours of football. Truth be told, outside the world of advertising and American football fans, nobody cares unless you fuck it up.
Sad, but true.
Sure the US is a major market, and there is a veneer of shared interest around the world for just about everything American, but the whole business of media people blowing huge chunks of their budgets on buying a few minutes when viewers are likely to be drunk or watching the nachos getting nuked by the second-most important box in their house has always struck me as rather bizarre.
Almost as bizarre is the risks agencies take when the stakes are high, you’d think somebody that has just gotten the Super Bowl spot would go with something they know everybody watching will like, but instead creatives start foaming at the mouth for the craziest demographic. Maybe it’s because they get a blank check for whatever they want to produce. Check out some major failures below:
Ironically enough, these are the ones that people do remember, and some might even be able to name the men behind the curtains. Especially if their names are on the endside of the vs. in lawsuits plastered over papers in the coming days. With so much already spent, the cost of the ad itself probably becomes relatively insignificant, but planning-wise I’d keep in mind that it’s the word-of-mouth an ad generates as much as the ad itself that sells the product. The ad is there to sell the product, not the ad itself. People may want to watch your suicidal ad campaign after they’ve heard all about it, but few will actually buy the product. If I had to choose between a conservative commercial that nobody sees or a crazy commercial that everybody hates, or worse–turns the product into a boycotted one–the choice is obvious. Sure, lots of people do stupid shit during Super Bowl Sunday, but stupid shit on such a stupid scale is a lot of shit you’ll come to regret. Don’t just take it from me:
This is not to say advertisers shouldn’t take big risks, but with market fragmentation and time-shifting, why not save them for when the people you know who want to will see them while the people who don’t will not? As for being everywhere, there are cheaper more effective ways to do this, use them.
Meanwhile, you want to see the most effective Super Bowl ad? You probably already have, several times. Just think of what you are going to do next.