Commentary

I Must Have Missed That One

I had two phones holstered and ready for frantic texting during last Sunday's Super Bowl. I understood going in that NFL partner Sprint would have a lot to offer. Pizza Hut and Bud were tying mobile code hunting and ad voting into their expensive TV spots. And I was curious how CBS itself might get a piece of this on their mobile extensions.

I must have been out of the room, talking to a cohort about the last tepid ad, or just getting my usual Super Bowl drowsies, but I pretty much missed any instructions to do anything of import with my phone. If I was supposed to vote on something, decode something, text anything anywhere, I missed it. Apparently Bud was letting you rate each of its 10 Bowl spots via text. In return, you got a code to unlock the 11th un-aired ad at the Budweiser site. I missed the instructions, but when I checked the site on Monday, it seemed that the ads received about 1,400 entries each. As part of a pool of 40 million viewers, most armed with a cell, I guess I wasn't alone in missing that promo.

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Emerald Nuts' un-funny Robert Goulet ad had free ringtones attached to the promotion, but you had to go to the EmeraldNuts.com site and drill into Goulet's portrait to find them. And Pizza Hut's revival of the Cheesy Bites Pizza product will involve embedding hidden codes in TV spots over the next few months. But I'll be damned if I got that from the Jessica Simpson spot that ran, and I haven't picked it up in any of the repeated viewing on iFilm. What did I miss here? Was there another ad?

OK, I admit I am not the ideal Super Bowl viewer. Rather, I am that hopeless media dweeb who tried to embrace sports for about twenty seconds at age seven in a vain attempt to prove he is a red-blooded American male. Honest to God -- I had no idea that the Colts were no longer in Baltimore. When did that happen? I didn't do that many drugs in grad school. I didn't miss the '80s entirely.

Apparently, when it comes to sports, I miss a lot.

But I am that ideal "other" audience for game day, that media maven who is there for the ads and the cheesy half-time pyrotechnics, enjoying the opportunity to be smug and smirk at this legendary nadir of American taste. And yet, the opportunities for crappy free ringtones and pointless text voting passed me by. Smug I am -- but not delusionally self-assured. It is quite possible that I just was not paying close enough attention to the 60-inch HD behemoth that was six feet from my chair. I can admit that it's possible I just zoned out. After all, we've established that I am not a red-blooded American male.

The one mobile promo that did come through was from NFL partner Sprint, which kept pushing me to its NFL Mobile product and promising real-time parallel coverage. Not on my phone. I got a pile of more insufferable pre-game clips of ex-players retreading all of the stuff I was already seeing all week every time I turned on my TV. The NFL Network section of the application seemed to be filled with clips from the recent playoffs, not the streams of ancillary Bowl content I heard I was going to see.

Ironically, it was the Sprint phone deck itself that did the best job of any media platform in pushing me to Bowl-related mobile content. While I was underwhelmed by the NFL Mobile content itself, the deck pushed it from the time I opened the phone. The Sprint WAP page for the event may have been the most effective piece of game-related mobile content I saw all day. This portal effectively corralled the content from most Sprint partners for one-click access to things like AirPlay's great real-time play prediction game and good catch-up articles for dunderheads like me who only go to sports-church once yearly for the high holy game day. The free Sprint Power View video channel had a special Bowl section of more talking head clips. But Sprint's first attempt to become a media company with this homegrown ad-supported video channel actually is shaping up nicely. The clips are short and well-polished for mobile.

What I was really missing in all of this was using the "third screen" as a third screen. Aside from AirPlay's perennial play-along mobile game, there was little effort to use the phone as another real-time interactive data path into the living room. We have seen so many good examples of TV-to-phone linkage throughout the past year, it is surprising that some of these strategies didn't get suited up to play. The Bravo reality show series "Project Runway" had a very effective text alert system that sent comments from characters to my phone during the show. This year's "Survivor" series is sending wallpapers of show members via MMS to my phone weekly. It seems to me that real-time game content of substance could easily have been sent to the phone. Wallpapers of that best play of the previous quarter? Links to mobile video of that Bud ad you just missed? Text commentary from the columnists and commentators who are not part of the CBS on-air team?

I would have paid my $1.99 just for a wallpaper of the silhouetted Prince dangling that satanically phallic guitar during the half-time show. Was I the only one who found that sequence with the flowing giant curtain unabashed and overt? There was a national uproar over Janet showing a pasty for less than a second, and here is a gender-traversing imp clearly playing with our heads and shadow-dancing with his symbolic erection in front of 40 million viewers. I saw no mention of this in the news coverage today. Not a peep.

For me, Super Bowl viewing is getting worse. Not only am I missing the promotional offers, but I am seeing things no one else is seeing.

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