Super Bowl Ads -- The Exception, Not The Rule

So -- we're heading up to the Big Weekend Showdown. A proverbial clash of the titans, where the best in class and most expensive of their kind roll out to do battle in a bone-crunching, arduous contest for the ultimate prize -- and that's just the ads. Rumor has it there's some sort of ball game squeezed in between the lavishly produced commercials and the half-time extravaganza, but that is something of a sideshow to all but the fans of the teams involved.

The other thing we can expect plenty of is the usual hype around the commercials themselves. Nothing wrong with that, in principal. I'm all for the ruthless leveraging of any marketing campaign through secondary media and PR activity -- it's a time-honored tradition that's become part and parcel of the Super Bowl.

I do, however, have a problem with the claims that the Super Bowl fuels relating to viewers' willingness to watch advertising, the "fact" that it "proves" people like advertising, and so on.

It goes without saying that people like advertising they find relevant, informative, entertaining and worthwhile. Much like food that we find nourishing, tasty and otherwise satisfying, this kind of advertising hits some kind of a spot, even if it isn't the main event / course.



However, to use advertising in the Super Bowl as an example of how people view or feel about advertising in any other context than -- well, the Super Bowl -- is little short of mindless. After all, when you consider the amount of air time and column inches that are given over to discussing the ads before and after they air (not to mention the repeats of the ads in so-called program air-time in the following days) one begins to get an idea of just how unlike any other moment in time this is. These are not just TV ads, they are the centerpieces of massive marketing efforts that are un-replicated for the rest of the year and by any brand advertiser not included in the parade The fact that people will talk about their favorite Super Bowl ads is great (for those ads included), but it means little for the rest of the year.

Similarly, the fact that this focus of attention on the advertising has become enshrined in the ritual of the event makes for an even less representative experience. We might as well talk about attentiveness during the moon landing or the announcement of the results of presidential elections.

While all this would seem obvious, and some of you may be thinking "who would be so foolish as to cite the Super Bowl ads as being representative of viewer engagement with ads in general?," the sad fact is that it still happens. I even heard someone who should know better do it in the last week.

So how about we turn over a new leaf this year? Let's continue to leverage the hell out of the event and all things associated with it, but let's avoid the flights of fantasy when it comes to what it means for viewer behavior and ad engagement.

And if you have a favorite team playing this weekend -- I hope it wins by coming heroically from more than 15 points down in the last quarter.

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