The Super Bowlis Advertising'sFashionThe big game is coming up. I’m primarily aware of the Super Bowl every year for two reasons: 

  1. it often falls on my birthday (as it does this year)
  2. the commercials

You might notice that “football” isn’t on that list. If you’ve met me or seen the pictures of toys, superheroes, and science fiction that I use to illustrate my posts, that should come as no surprise. What is surprising to me is that nearly half of the viewers of the most widely-watched event in television are also not there for the game. The commercials are on display. It’s why we show up.

Now, Steve is going to talk about how advertising during the Super Bowl is a poor marketing choice. I’m not here to take that away from him, and I agree. For a brand, there’s two options: either you have a ubiquitous brand and there is no reason for you to sink the money into overpriced advertising (Coke and Bud), or you don’t have that kind of budget and there’s no reason for you to sink the money into overpriced advertising (essentially everyone else).

You know who the Super Bowl advertising benefits? Ad agencies. These creative production powerhouses compete year after year to produce the best storytelling under 2 minutes this side of Sundance.

Whether it’s heartstring plucking or gut-busting, agencies are given carte-blanche by their indulgent benefactors to come up with something awesome that will live beyond its purchased timeslot on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Cable News, entertainment blogs, business blogs, and marketing blogs.

The buzz generated by these ads becomes the result of a solution that the ad agencies sells for a problem that the ad agencies create.

I’m not suggesting that all television advertising is ineffective. But 60% of it is, according to Communicus—a Tucson, AZ-based firm that independently rates advertising and does special reports on Super Bowl advertising each year. They say that 60% of television advertising does nothing to increase purchase or purchase intent…And 80% of Super Bowl advertising is wasted money.

Which puts us in the position to ask the purpose of it all…

30-90 seconds of entertainment is not going to convince me that I suddenly need to purchase a specific car, a specific beer, or a website URL. Unless there is a special discount, an interesting event, or an entirely new offering from a brand, commercials don’t do much besides create noise…and in the best cases, create entertainment.

I posit that television advertising is ornamental to brands. Like designer clothes for people. And in order to be popular…to present an air of professionalism, respectability, and worthiness, one must dress the part.

This metaphor makes ad agencies into design houses, typically striving to ride the lines between quality, cost, and effectiveness. But the Super Bowl…?

That’s Fashion Week!

Houses are allowed to run free in order to produce the haute couture that will win awards and bring in buyers from all over the world. There are over 110 million people sitting along the runway and watching to see what will set the stage for the next year in advertising…i mean, fashion. Crap, I lost the thread.

That makes sense, right?

Let me wrap this up more succinctly than I set it up.

Advertising is the cost of doing business. But most companies don’t need a $6,000 cashmere shrug in their Fall line…most companies don’t have $4.5 million to blow on a runway walk and a cocktail party.

photo credit: TAYLOR149 via photopin cc