Monday, February 2, 2009

For advertisers, it's not the Super Bowl, it's the Desperation Bowl

As you may have noticed, Adverganza has assiduously avoided doing anything about Super Bowl advertising (and posting, for that matter). In both cases, it has to do with having too much work right now and not enough time, a situation I'll take, especially with the economy continuing to tank. But it yielded a surprise benefit: a completely fresh eye last night on Super Bowl commercials in the context in which they were meant to be seen, with pretty much no early look at what the ad-fest had in store. As it was as much of an outsider's perspective as I've had in 25 years, this is what I came away with: the strain employed to make Americans laugh is painful to watch. It's never been so clear to me how desperate the subtext of nearly every ad is, which is a pleading, "Please, pppllleeeeaaasssse, puh-leeze laugh." As an armchair ad-watcher this year, it also made me wonder what the hell the ad industry is up to during the rest of the year, when it's not busy trying to win the USA Today Ad Meter. Is everyone just phoning it in during the other 11 months?

Given that the commercials seem to carry a similar, over-the-top tone, the net effect for those of us who've been able to avoid the pre-game hype is that it's one big blur of (attempts at) over-the-top comedy, which sucks everyone and everything into its vortex. I cringed at Conan O'Brien for Bud Light, and winced at the "I'm good" commercial for Pepsi Max. A former Adweek colleague, who was hosting the party I attended, couldn't believe that Pepsi Max has actually gone and forthrightly declared it is a diet drink for men. Are men going to order that now because Pepsi told them to? The cars.com commerical started off well, but the payoff didn't work at all. It's not that such commercials are supposed to be plausible, exactly, but a guy who performs open heart surgery with a ballpoint pen can't buy a car on his own? C'mon.

It's somewhat amusing to read that the winner of the USA Today Ad Meter (which itself, like individual commercials, has gotten lost in the hype), was a consumer-created ad for Doritos, but don't jump to the conclusion that this means consumers make better ads. It just means that they've gotten really good at copying BBDO.

2 comments:

Alan Wolk said...

>>Are men going to order that now because Pepsi told them to?>>

Well that's the whole thing Cathy: just what are most of these advertiser hoping to do?

I already know whether I like Doritos or not. (I don't.) So no matter how funny I thought the spot was, I'm not going to eat them. And if I already thought Doritos were delicious, I'm not going to start eating more of them because they entertained me for a while.

Hulu was the only ad that made sense: introduce a wide audience of TV viewers to a new service that lets them watch TV online. I'm sure it was the first time many of them heard of Hulu and even if they hated Alec Baldwin, they're going to go check it out.

Lest we forget, the fabled "1984" was introducing a new computer to America. That's a big part of why it was so successful.

Tom Messner said...

The best thing about the Doritos spot is that Frito-Lay paid the people who did the spot a decent amount of money.