The real Super Bowl battles

It’s Super Bowl Sunday, or, for millions of Americans, the most wonderful time of the year.

If you’re not a football fan, it’s a great day to be out on the roads, which will be noticeably emptier late this afternoon and evening.   But if you’re into the game it should be a good one, with two smash-mouth teams doing what they do best, and that Brady guy’s not too bad either.   Not a fan?  Do what uninterested Super Bowl spouses have been doing for decades:  endure the game to enjoy the commercials.  Both get roughly the same amount of airtime.

Personally, I don’t have a dog in the hunt for this year’s title, but I enjoy watching football played well.   I also enjoy the commercials—if only to see which ones are worth the five million bucks it cost to buy the thirty seconds of air time.

Normally, commercials are just something we put up with.  They’re noisy, unsubtle and obnoxious—the good ones, anyway.    The boring, uncreative and dull ones are the marketing equivalent of flushing hundred dollar bills down the toilet.

But during the Super Bowl we completely change our attitudes.  Suddenly chips, cars and Clydesdales are more than just an excuse to go to the bathroom.  For a few hours once a year we care enough to watch the ads with open eyes, hearts, and (they hope) wallets.

And this, my friends, is why Super Bowl ads are worth a cool 5 mil.  It’s the one day each year when your attitude towards advertising does a one-eighty and you enthusiastically embrace what you’ve barely tolerated over the last 364 days.

I heard a smart marketing guy once say that the purpose of advertising is to drive an idea into your brain like a spike into an overripe melon.  And like it or not, that’s a great guide to measuring if a commercial is worth what it cost.   Do you remember the name of the company—even if you deplored the way it was presented to you?  Mission accomplished.   Lately when I’m running on the treadmill and listening to Pandora I’ve been hearing ads for Fabreze vocalized by urban rappers.  I had no idea that Fabreze was both funky and sassy, but I guess I do now.  And there’s a stupid musical hook in the ad I can recall with perfect clarity as I’m writing this.  Arrgh!  The spike has been driven into my melon of a brain.

Lots of surveys have been done on the marketing deluge in which we are collectively drowning.  Best guesses are we are exposed (I’m not making this up) to more than 4,000 commercial messages a day.  Modern marketing theory may include things like product quality and low price, but every advertisement breaks from the starting gate with only one mission.  Your brain is a vault to be broken into.  That’s what’s important.  How it happens—not so important.

It’s like this:  Got somethin’ to sell?…and it don’t look good?  Who ya gonna call?  Brain busters!  It’s a voice you hate…but you can’t forget.  Who ya gonna call?  Brain busters!

Pretty sure you knew the tune.

Because in the final analysis victory doesn’t go to the classy, calm and understated.  As the saying goes, sex sells.  So does the catchy, loud, strange, and weird.  Oh, and kids.  Kids and animals.  They still work great.

But the marketers know they’ve got a narrow window.  It’ll open like a sci-fi intergalactic worm hole for about five hours this evening, when you inexplicably turn from hating commercials to loving them, then it closes up tight for another year.  Consider:  what do talking frogs, good smelling Jamaicans, little kids in Darth Vader suits, nothin’ but net, where’s the beef, and Mean Joe Green in a stadium tunnel have in common?  They all got their start in the Super Bowl.

The competition on the field today will be fierce.  But it’s nothing compared to the battle that begins whenever the announcer says, “we’ll be right back.”


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