Close-Up: Perspective - Schmaltz wins the day again in battle of Super Bowl ads

How do you impress the world’s most sophisticated television audience during the most-watched television spectacle of the year? If you are a US ad agency, creating spots for last Sunday’s Super Bowl, you simply cast a dog, a cheetah, a snake or even a sock puppet, then sit back and watch Joe Sixpack coo.

How do you impress the world’s most sophisticated television

audience during the most-watched television spectacle of the year? If

you are a US ad agency, creating spots for last Sunday’s Super Bowl, you

simply cast a dog, a cheetah, a snake or even a sock puppet, then sit

back and watch Joe Sixpack coo.



That way you win over the USA Today Ad Meter panel - sample size: 237

viewers! (sic) - which helps lead the crucial national media coverage as

to which spots proved a success or not. And believe me, there was almost

as much debate about what made Budweiser’s Rex, the movie star dog, a

hit as there was about the St Louis Ram Mike Jones’s game-saving,

last-second tackle on the one-yard line.



Those of us jammy enough to be there missed the on-screen commercials

action. Inside Atlanta’s Georgia Bowl, we were treated to re-runs of

classic Super Bowl moments. No advertiser was allowed to own the Bowl,

not even Atlanta’s own Coca-Cola, which shared the extremely limited

stadium advertising space with the likes of Pizza Hut and a brassy,

themed restaurant chain named Hooters (you work out the theme).



Of course, there was the E-trade sponsored half-time show, but the

branding was surprisingly discreet. Having suffered through Phil

Collins, Enrique Iglesias and Christine Aguilera, there are only two

conclusions: a) new-media marketers have as little taste as the good old

car and beer advertisers they supplanted, b) Madonna was

unavailable.



Back in the real world of the television coverage, the dotcoms that

piled into Super Bowl XXXIV were judged to have come unstuck. Sixteen

brands we’ve never heard of (Ourbeginning.com, LifeMinders.com,

Kforce.com ...) were trying to outgun Budweiser, Mountain Dew, M&Ms and

Motorola. The one that did was pets.com, the moving tale of a sock

puppet singing Chicago’s If you leave me now as owners leave their pets

to go shopping.



Too many dotcom advertisers tried to cram too much information into 30

seconds. Conventional wisdom has it that they therefore wasted the

dollars 2 million they forked out on average for a 30-second spot. I’m

not so sure.



Spots from the better-known dotcoms in the programming (pets.com and

E-trade) could focus on their more single-minded advertising

propositions buoyed by months of previous advertising. The problem lay

with those advertisers that tried to explain who they were via the

single hit.



The real trick in an event like the Super Bowl appears simple: entertain

us. Agencies and clients like DDB Chicago (Budweiser), BBDO New York

(Pepsico) and TBWA Chiat Day (pets.com) know this. At dollars 2 million

per 30 seconds, the risks are huge, but Super Bowl XXXIV pulled in an

impressive 130 million viewers. For that, every dog and his dotcom would

want its chance.



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