Advertising is very good at ruining stuff. As an industry, we love to insert ourselves where we’re not wanted and generally make experiences worse.
Whether through dumb luck or smart moves, the Super Bowl is different. People want to watch advertising during the Super Bowl. We created a long tradition of making the ads worthy of people’s attention.
People love the thrill that comes with seeing something great. Something that genuinely surprises them, touches them or makes them laugh. People so very much want our advertising during the big game to be amazing and mind-blowingly cool. They expect remarkable. This is the rare time people care about us, and it’s on us to deliver beyond expectations.
But most of what people got was big-budget versions of average.
There were spots we’d already seen: Google Home, Coke, Fuji Water. There were less-good versions of great long-running campaigns: Snickers, Skittles, KFC. There were a bunch of movie ads that were just like every movie ad we’ve ever seen. And there was a lot of stuff that tried too hard and left most folks confused.
There was some greatness, sure. But the ratio is about 1-out-of-10. This is a massive opportunity and we’re blowing it. It’s not good enough to drop $5 million just to be there. These spots don’t command that price because so many people are watching. They command that price because people care. I’m worried if we don’t reward their attention, people will soon stop caring.
The stuff that did resonate this year understood that the job is to connect with people — not just yell their message more expensively.
They understood people love to be entertained: Melissa McCarthy’s Kia ad was funnier in 60 seconds than most movies are in two hours. They understood that long copy works beautifully when it speaks human: Audi’s impactful “What do I tell my daughter?” feels like poetic version of real conversations I’ve had with friends. And they understood that simple beats bombastic: I laughed out loud at the Bai spot with Christopher Walken and Justin Timberlake, even though it’s nothing deeper than a well-crafted and engaging play on words.
(My agency, RPA, created the Honda “Yearbooks” spot, so to be fair I’ve left it out of this conversation.)
So here’s our challenge, as an industry: let’s step up our game for the big game. Let’s stop ruining stuff — and instead create remarkable work that people love and that helps our clients. Let’s surprise people again. Let’s change the conversation from “remember when Super Bowl ads used to be great?” to “remember when Super Bowl ads used to be kind of average?” Instead of a 1-out-of-10 level of greatness, let’s get to a 7-out-of-10. We can do that, right?
The Patriots just came back from 28-3. So, no excuses. Yeah we can do it.