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Feb 03 2014

Ignoring the Super Bowl Ads

I’ve never understood the hoopla over Super Bowl ads. People get so giddy with anticipation over them and talk about them endlessly and I just shake my head. They’re freaking commercials, people. They are designed to manipulate you into buying products. This old Daily Show clip pretty much expresses my feelings about them:

And it brings this to mind:

30 comments

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  1. 1
    doublereed

    Just because they’re advertising doesn’t mean they aren’t creative and fun.

    I mean stuff like this is friggin’ awesome!

  2. 2
    Chiroptera

    I didn’t find this year’s Superbowl ads to be particularly interesting.

    Well, except the Coke commercial where “America the Beautiful” was sung in different languages. I kinda thought that was sorta cute.

    Especially toward the end when I realized the Total Freak the Fuck Out that the conservatives were going to go into seeing such a Great ‘Merkin Icon desecrated like that. Did they freak out? I don’t frequent the right places to know.

  3. 3
    Chiroptera

    Oh, I take that back. The “Doberhuahuas” was hilarious!

    (I laughed at the tagline, too: Compromise scares us, too. Bad message, but still funny.)

  4. 4
    eric

    Having Sarah McLaughlan make fun of herself in the Doberhuahuas commercial was amusing. The Dylan commercial was well done. Not funny or anything, just well constructed in terms of messaging (IMO).

    Agree with @1 – commercials can occasionally rise to the level of worth watching in their own right. Not often, but sometimes.

  5. 5
    snoeman

    Chiroptera:

    “Especially toward the end when I realized the Total Freak the Fuck Out that the conservatives were going to go into seeing such a Great ‘Merkin Icon desecrated like that. Did they freak out? I don’t frequent the right places to know.”

    You needn’t have wondered. I don’t frequent those places either, but some friends on Facebook linked to a couple sites (PublicShaming dot com, or something like that) that had aggregated and mocked a large number of some vile, racist tweets responding to the Coke ad, as well as screen shots from racist messages posted to Coca-Cola’s Facebook page.

  6. 6
    colnago80

    Of course, the big news before the game was the ad by an outfit named Sodastream, which I never heard of until a week ago. The brouhaha over this ad has to be seen to be believed. Even before the Israel bashers swung into action, the Fascist News Channel censored the ad because it took a swipe at Coke and Pepsi. I didn’t see the ad but apparently, it was rather unimpressive, except for the fact that a Tinseltown glamor girl was the narrator.

  7. 7
    cry4turtles

    The majority of last night’s adds can be summed up in three words: buy a car.

  8. 8
    Olav

    Every time I find myself being touched or amused by a commercial, or admiring the creativity in a piece of advertisement, I realise: “Shit, they’ve got me!” and I make a mental note never to spend a cent on whatever product is being advertised.

    The fact that they are good at what they do makes it even worse.

    Commercialism is evil & it must die.

  9. 9
    Marcus Ranum

    commercials can occasionally rise to the level of worth watching in their own right. Not often, but sometimes.

    The interesting thing is that, when they do, you’re actually likely to miss the vendor’s message. It’s like those big fancy expensive BMW ads a few years ago, featuring people like Gary Oldman and directed by Ang Lee, etc — did it really affect sales? What, is there someone out there who’s so fucking stupid that they wake up and say “Marilyn Manson took $200,000 to appear for 3 seconds in a BMW ad, I think I’ll go buy one of those cars, today!” I mean, really, WTF?

  10. 10
    eric

    @9: it must affect sales, otherwise I expect they wouldn’t do it. Corporate America is not fond of just throwing away money on hunches.

    But I don’t think they are targeting most of us. The ads don’t get people to buy cars (as an example) out of the blue. They probably only influence the folk who were already planning on buying a car in the next few days. Its statistical; if 0.1% of Superbowl viewers are caught ‘in the process’ of buying a car, well hey, that’s still 100,000 customers you’ve reached.

    Completely agree with your first comment. I remember the Doberhuahuas, but I’d have to guess at the car company that they were supposed to promote. Same with the Darth Vader kid last year.

  11. 11
  12. 12
    abb3w

    @2, Chiroptera

    Did they freak out? I don’t frequent the right places to know.

    Pretty much.

    In addition, you may want to look at the ad again, because you probably missed its more subtle shot in the cultural wars. The conservatives are getting outraged over a Superbowl ad where people aren’t singing about America in “American” [sic]… and mostly missed that it’s also the first Superbowl ad to include a gay married family. (They’re so ordinary they’re easily overlooked.) I’m not sure whether that’s going to trigger a secondary blast, or instead may be a harbinger that the conservatives are finally retreating from that front as hopelessly lost.

  13. 13
    illdoittomorrow

    Eric, @ 10:

    “…it must affect sales, otherwise I expect they wouldn’t do it. Corporate America is not fond of just throwing away money on hunches.”

    Part of the marketer’s job isn’t selling his client’s crap to us, but marketing himself to his client. Sometimes the client is as dumb or dumber than the consumer. (See every ad where you’ve asked yourself, “what are they trying to sell?” or “am I supposed to want what they’re selling?” or both.)

  14. 14
    Marcus Ranum

    it must affect sales, otherwise I expect they wouldn’t do it. Corporate America is not fond of just throwing away money on hunches.

    Wellllllll…. yes, maybe. There are a lot of factors around whether any given ad campaign is successful or not and my experience with marketing professionals is that they are quick to claim credit for an uptick in sales, and are really creative at explaining why a downturn (or failure to materialize an uptick) was caused by something external. For example I was listening to discussion on NPR about the game ads and someone pointed out that with freakin’ cold temperatures it’s not very likely that people are out crawling around car lots shopping for cars. Good excuse. If the economy keeps turning around and people start car shopping, for sure the football ads will have been an important part of it.

    My opinion (I don’t know where one could actually put facts behind this topic!) is that the one thing marketing is good at selling is: marketing. Everything else, they kind of suck at, unless it’s something that more or less sells itself, like sugary drinks or alcohol or sex.

  15. 15
    lofgren

    Most marketing isn’t actually about convincing you to buy the product, it’s just to remind you that the product exists. Coke doesn’t buy ads because more people will buy Coke if as a direct result of any given campaign. They buy ads because they want you to open a menu when you sit down at a restaurant and when the waitress asks you what you want to drink they want Coke to be near the tip of your tongue. (It’s actually even more complex than that. They make more money from cans and bottles by a huge margin than from soda fountain sales, so what they really want is for you to be stocking up for your next party and buy a whole lot of Coke because you think that’s what everybody else wants because you’ve seen so many ads for it. Especially if the “you” in this scenario is a party planner or corporate event organizer.)

    After reminding you that they exist, the next most important thing is to make you feel comfortable with the product, which is why Apple sells you all the creative stuff that other people use the iPad for. Will you ever use an iPad to compose a symphony? Probably not. But it makes you feel good to have the same product that some imaginary genius could possibly use to do so. That’s why being funny or cool is more important than touting the actual benefits of the product.

    When a commercial is especially funny or artistic the benefit isn’t that seeing the commercial for the first time makes you run out and buy the product. It’s that you then say to somebody, “Hey, have you seen that commercial where…?” That other person then has a heightened awareness of the commercial and pays closer attention to it. Or you say, “Hey, what was that commercial about anyway?” And then they get another mention of the product from your friend who actually did catch the brand. Or you do a Google search, or you pay closer attention to it next time. Each of these scenarios means that the commercial and the brand occupy a little bit more of your brainspace, making the product a little bit more prominent in your mind than other competing products. As a result, a small fraction of the people whose minds are occupied by the product choose it over the competition because that brand comes more readily to the surface when they have to make a decision, giving them a predisposition towards it. And that’s how they make their money.

    If Coke is mentioned or shown in the background three times in the first twenty minutes of the a movie, something like five people are likely to decide that they are thirsty and run out to the concession counter. Three of them will buy Coke products. They’re not being subliminally tricked into thinking that they are thirsty. They’re just being reminded. They’re not buying Coke because the stars of the movie also drink Coke. That’s just what the theater stocks. The theater stocks it because they think that everybody expects Coke, and they think that because they see neverending advertising for it.

  16. 16
    Michael Brew

    I’m still blown away by people who say they watch the Super Bowl for the commercials. I remember as a kid when the commercials came on, we either flipped the channel, put it on mute, or did something else until the show came back on. Commercials were the thing the show was plying you to watch. Now the commercials are to attract people to watch the show? I feel like I’m in a Yakov Smirnoff joke.

  17. 17
    doublereed

    I believe the general idea with these kinds of ads, especially ads for the Superbowl, is to get people talking about the ad. Therefore people will remember the product.

    Which really means they just want to make an ad as impressionable/memorable as possible. Which is basically the same motive as any form of storytelling.

    I’m actually surprised people have such a philistine view of advertising. Shrug.

  18. 18
    D. C. Sessions

    I’m still blown away by people who say they watch the Super Bowl for the commercials.

    Granted — why waste several hours waiting to catch a handful of commercials that you can watch later online?

  19. 19
    eoraptor

    Folks, I think you’re underrating the Coca-Cola ad in a major way. What an exquisite moment of schadenfreude! About ten seconds in, I exulted to my family that fundagelical, rethuglican, heads all over the country were assploding at that precise moment. “America” sung in multiple languages, with lots of pictures of _brown_ people. That was almost worth the tragedy of the game.

  20. 20
    vmanis1

    I regard an ad as a piece of propaganda, and following Oscar Wilde’s dictum that there is no such thing as moral or immoral art, but only good and bad art, one can evaluate ads on exactly the same basis. When I saw the Coke ad, a nice feeling spread through me, amplified by the brief shot of the two gay men with the kid at the skating rink. This happened to me even though I’m not American, and had no interest in the Superb Owl (as some people are calling it). I think Coke (and their advertising agency) achieved something with the ad, even though it was an ephemeral achievement, and no doubt I will forget it in the near future.

    The same was true for me of the Audi doberhuahua ad, which definitely got me laughing, albeit with an underlying creepy feeling, those dogs are UGLY. :)

    Those who think that because Coke and Audi want to make money, and therefore their work should automatically be ignored, are invited to ponder Andy Warhol and his soup cans. The boundary between `commerce’ and `art’ is pretty thin in many places.

    That said, most ads are dreary and well worth skipping over, the propaganda equivalent of Soviet praises of the achievements of the current Five Year Plan.

  21. 21
    democommie

    “Everything else, they kind of suck at, unless it’s something that more or less sells itself, like sugary drinks or alcohol or sex.”

    I’m right copyrighting this cool name for a drink that’s got 150 grams–10 fucking tablespoons–of sugar and 5 grams of caffeine, dissolved in 190 proof grain alcohol and flavored with acai, blueberry, pomegranate, passion fruit, kiwi, cranberry, lingonberry and blueberry.

    The name: “FucKola!” (c)(TM)(SM) 2014 democommie ministries and media, LLC, LSD & PCP–Not to be confused with democommie media and ministries, PCP, LSD & LaLaLa.

    I think Bill Hicks might even approve.

  22. 22
    Marcus Ranum

    @democommie
    Wanna get rich? Make an energy drink for the colorado market that contains alcohol, caffeine and THC. Call it “bong hit” and watch it vanish from the shelves. Make a touchy-feely version for the health nuts that’s spring water, a hint of fruit juice and homeopathic bullshit, caffeine and THC – call it “bong water”

  23. 23
    Marcus Ranum

    While I have my +10 Hat Of Bad Ideas on, what about oxy-cola: sugar, water, and oxycodone? And “the rush” for dittoheads: water, sugar, alcohol and viagra. You know it’d break sales records.

  24. 24
    Area Man

    The funny thing about the Coke ad is that it never occurred to me that the wingnuts would go all batty over it because it showed “diversity”. Maybe it was the large amounts of beer I was downing as my team was getting spanked, but I figured that the objectionable part would be its co-opting of patriotism to sell sugar water. Coke = America is stupid. It’s not worth getting all worked up over, but that’s what annoyed me. That and the Seahawks.

    I should have known that the Fox crowd would shit their pants over it for all the wrong reasons.

  25. 25
    eric

    @19:

    Folks, I think you’re underrating the Coca-Cola ad in a major way. What an exquisite moment of schadenfreude!

    @20:

    When I saw the Coke ad, a nice feeling spread through me, amplified by the brief shot of the two gay men with the kid at the skating rink.

    Its strikes me that Coke may also have been making an intentional, strategic decision to support a more liberal position on multiculturalism and gay rights. After all, the issue of boycotting products because of the religious/cultural positions of their CEOs comes up pretty often, on both the left and right. Coke may have decided it’s in their best long-term interests to identify with these “winning” concepts now, predicting that support for both causes will grow in the future. They may be banking on (many consumers now, and many more in the future) picking coke products over pepsi products because those consumers now know the money they spend on coke will not go to anti-gay-rights or anti-immigrant political causes.

  26. 26
    dingojack

    RE: sugar-water advertisements
    Forgive me for being cynical of emotionally manipulative corporate ‘nationalism’* it simply smacks of psychopathy to me.
    :/ Dingo
    ———-
    * hey look an ad in a different language, and from 2009! Still feel warm and fuzzy, or merely cheated by lazy, overpaid advertising executives parroting each other while jerking your strings?

  27. 27
    lofgren

    After all, the issue of boycotting products because of the religious/cultural positions of their CEOs comes up pretty often, on both the left and right.

    Such boycotts so rarely achieve anything, especially against a giant like Coca-Cola, that their best bet is to just ignore them.

  28. 28
    Crimson Clupeidae

    colnago@6:

    …Tinseltown glamor girl…

    Don’t be that guy.

    I like the puppy/clydesdale commercial, for the pure cuteness involved. Yeah, I’m a softie. I’ll never drink Budweiser, though, because their beer is crap.

    I was watching the Coke commercial, and I told my wife there was going to be a right wing nutcase freakout. Apparently, I should have been a prophet, because boy was I right!

  29. 29
    andrewpang

    For a higher quality version of the 2004 Daily Show clip, see the Comedy Central Daily Show official site that has years and years of TDS archives.

  30. 30
    leonardschneider

    Dear Mr. Brayton,

    Thank you for the Bill Hicks clip. He shall be missed.

    Signed,
    A guy with a Lenny Bruce tattoo on his forearm.

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