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Super Bowl Ads: End of the Glory Days


by Stephen Becker 8 Feb 2010

Guest blogger Bart Weiss is the Artistic Director of VideoFest. The superbowl is what old TV is all about. It’s one of the few times in this media-fractured world that we all gather and watch the same program like the old days, when a TV show was what it was all about. There just aren’t […]

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Guest blogger Bart Weiss is the Artistic Director of VideoFest.

The superbowl is what old TV is all about. It’s one of the few times in this media-fractured world that we all gather and watch the same program like the old days, when a TV show was what it was all about. There just aren’t may of those events left anymore, which is why networks are struggling and being sold.

As a game, the event has almost been a let down.  Lots of hype and a one-sided result. So at some point the day morphed into mostly being with friends and watching the commercials. For years, the commercials have been a big deal – expensive to buy, but worth the bucks for giving advertisers the same national stage the players get.  Probably the best know is the 1984 Apple spot that introduced the Mac computer.

In the go-go dot-com days, the creativity of those adds went over the top.  And the next day on talk radio and around water coolers, the commercials were the main topic of discussion.  There was always something special about a Super Bowl ad.

But not anymore.

All of those cooky animals, talking babies and other bits have run their course and just seem tired. There wasn’t one brilliant commercial this year,  nothing that stuck out and wowed you. Does this say something about where we are as a culture?A bout where TV ads are? About creativity allowed in ad agencies? About not having enough money to spend on creative thinking? Does a downturn curb risk taking and thus creativity? Or are the creative marketing minds thinking of how do hit iPhone/iPad/Facebook users rather than Super Bowl watchers.

Either way, it was probably the best actual Super Bowl game I have ever seen.

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  • Having spent 30 years in that industry, I sense another problem in what I’d call the Sequel Syndrome. The original talking-baby E-trade ads resurrected one of the most tired tricks in the book, but did it like it had never been done before. Now that same campaign shows all the fingerprints of an agency (or client) who has concluded they had something they could ride til it dropped, without even themselves being able to recreate the subtleties that made it such a success. The ideas are weak, the writing is mediocre and the production looks like it was done in iMovie.