Maybe Super Bowl Blah Means There's Just Virality Fatigue

A long time ago, a wise guy proclaimed, “almost all of life is two stars,” a statement of such accuracy it stopped me in my tracks for a second because it was so obviously true.

Most movies, most meals, and most Super Bowls are two stars and this year, almost all the Super Bowl ads were, too. Last night, the Super Bowl may have exhausted its run as the viral showcase for advertisers.  

This below-average game evened out some of above-average ones in recent years. This year’s ads did something like that, as well.

I saw them, and because I know these ads are supposed to be the best, the most expensive, the most-talked-about ads of the whole year, I viewed them that way.

By that measure, these were just an average bunch of ads for which corporations paid a sinful amount. (I give high marks to the Esurance ad in which actor John Krasinski claimed the company paid $1.5 million less than others by agreeing to have its ad run after, not during, the game.  Seen at that time, when viewers must have reflecting on the buzz-less-ness of it all, Esurance looked even smarter.)



I’d also give some props to Radio Shack for doing some business with its ad—repositioning a retail business that by its very name seems an anachronism. It was clever, and it conveyed a message. (And in the link I provided, you’ll see one example of just how overdue one viewer thought this re-do is.)

Immediate stats say I’m wrong. According to Visible Measures, Anheuser-Busch’s “Puppy Love” ad has had 43.2 million views and is on its way to becoming the most viral Super Bowl ad ever:

 “Not only did 'Puppy Love' make a splash online, but also Anheuser Busch had two other hits in Bud Light’s 'The Perfect Beer for Whatever Happens' and Budweiser’s 'A Hero’s Welcome.'

…In total, these three Anheuser Busch campaigns have garnered more than 73.7 million views. That is more views than all of Anheuser Busch’s campaigns received during 2013. Last year, its 67 live campaigns (dating from 2009 to 2013) only garnered 45.6 million views, 28.1 million views less than the company generated in several weeks before the Super Bowl. It seems as if the combination of puppies, patriotism and Ping Pong paid off for the American beer giant.”

I will admit this, mid-column. I have no love for the Super Bowl and its wrapped-in-the-American flag jingoism, in which we are always saluting returning veterans--in beer or Coke commercials. And in which, when Fox airs the game, it precedes the kickoff by having NFL players read the Declaration of Independence, each player given a solemn line to read. What a mockery.

But here’s the main thing, from an online standpoint. In the days to follow, I'll bet we'll see the viral factor is vanishing. Because we are awash with advertising.

I was thinking about this last week. Despite the algorithms and research, there are just too damn many must-see pieces of video around so that the “you’ve got to see this!” attitude is replaced by “This is the ad everybody is talking about.” (Translation: See it so you’re current.)  That's a slippery platform.

There’s no scarcity. When everything is awesome, then awesome just becomes a word we say. Consider this: According to comScore, in December, Americans saw nearly 35.2 billion video ads, with AOL, in first with 4.3 billion ad impressions. One December before thatjust one—viewers saw 11.3 billion video ads.

And in that short time, ads have become longer and native advertising has taken off, creating a much better stage for creative advertising than the Super Bowl platform.

Since television news shows figured out a long time ago that clever Super Bowl commercials do interest viewers, all of them, from the “Today” show to “Entertainment Tonight,” play the hell out of them. That gives the ads free exposure; it also helps push them off the consumer cliff. By Tuesday or Wednesday at the latest, all of America will be asking the Madison Avenue mad spenders, what have you done for me lately?

The NFL is more popular than ever on TV if not in the stadiums. Advertisers are still going to put spots in the Super Bowl.

But the hope that any/many/most of those commercials are going to elicit extraordinary attention seems to be old-school thinking. The beer, soda and car advertisers will always be there, but I’d be surprised if new entrants—the Wonderful pistachio nut manufacturers of the world—don’t take their $4 million elsewhere.

1 comment about "Maybe Super Bowl Blah Means There's Just Virality Fatigue ".
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  1. Doug Garnett from Protonik, LLC, February 3, 2014 at 11:18 a.m.

    Love the 2-stars comment. And we spend our lives in the ad biz trying to convince consumers that it'll all become a 5-star life by softening their laundry with Downey. That said, it seemed to me that the commercials had succumbed to "content disease"...showing the same dis-connected blandness we are seeing in branded online content. Cheers...

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