Hmm -- the new president spent his first week shredding the Constitution, picking fights with Congress and the judiciary, ruling by decree and giving a golden shower to the Statue of Liberty.
On the other hand, Super Bowl's coming up, so….
As many of you may remember, back in the day, before Snapchat and Fallout Boy and American fascism, I plied my trade as a critic of advertising. The week before the NFL championship was my busy season, when I was required to obtain in advance and offer capsule appraisals of every single ad in the game. It was a challenge, for this was also when people thought advertising was important, and companies were loath to surrender their brilliant commercials in advance, lest they be leaked to Unilever or Red China or whatever.
It was a week of begging, browbeating and sometimes bigfooting a world of p.r. Courtneys to just please shut up and put the U-Matic tapes (!) into a Fedex envelope (!!) before I tattle to the CEO. Yes, those were the days, when I -- you know -- mattered.
Of course, when the ads finally arrived, 80% of them were utterly unremarkable, except for the fact that millions had been spent to achieve mediocrity or worse. About 5% were wonderful and in some cases breathtaking. Another 15% were so bad as to actually, at extraordinary expense, damage or ruin the brands. (Just for Feet and Outpost.com spring to mind.)
In some ways, the stakes are higher now than they have ever been. Because Sunday will be the only day when a single commercial will be viewed simultaneously by more than about 15 people. It’s not just the Biggest Day for Advertising, it's kind of the Only Day for Advertising. As such, armies of frightened marketers, agency people and production houses are at pains to come up with something memorable. Naturally, this will not end well.
I say this without having seen a single spot. But isn't there always calamity in the making?
Hyundai is playing the God-bless-our-troops card, a tried-and-true means for brands to manipulate viewers' emotions and bathe their consumer goods in the sacred blood of our armed forces. The cult of military is actually a favorite NFL trope, enabling us to see the ritual of Sunday football watching as a sort of patriotic sacrament. Whether we wish to have a Korean car company borrow that reverence is an open question. The public seems to have no outer limit for this kind of vulgar exploitation in the camo-fatigues of tribute, but something tells me that one could be a bridge too far.
For added impact, Hyundai is filming the footage during the game and editing it together in time for the ad slot immediately after the game clock expires. That's one way to generate anticipation. Then there is the Snickers stunt: shooting their spot live. Adam Driver, the 113th most famous face in Hollywood -- obscure enough that they have to say his name aloud in the teaser video -- is going to perform in real-time.
Gosh. Live! Like those ABC musicals, or the TV news 24 hours a day or like Jack Benny during the Eisenhower administration. What a bold undertaking.
Will the drama of possible snafu be so gripping as to pay off the risk, and -- if so -- will any message about hunger management be lost in the process?
Dunno, but caveat Venditor. Let the seller beware; the greatest cause of Super Bowl advertising failure is brands screaming “Look at me and how bold I am!” and people glancing over while wolfing down nachos and just not giving a shit.
Spectacle, without spectators, is just distant noise.