Sunday, February 3, 2008

Big game, big ads

I missed most of the SuperBowl, although I did catch most of the 4th quarter and New York’s down-to-the-wire victory over the previously undefeated Patriots. (To the degree that I cared, I was rooting for someone to dethrone the Pats, particularly since they eliminated my Chargers two weeks ago).

However, the reason I normally watch the SuperBowl is the ads: certainly I remember the ads long after the game. For example, the 2000 EDS “herding cats” ad marked the end of the dot-com era but still ranks among the top 10 of all time. B-school profs have been using them to teach marketing for years. This year, the ads have the side benefit that they help us forget the torrent of insipid political ads that have been running on TV for the past month, particularly for the Indian gambling initiatives.

However, technology has changed the one-time nature of the ads. For the last few years I’ve caught the ads and read the articles on the WSJ paid site. But this year with Fox (and last year with CBS) the broadcast network has run them again online. (Presumably the business model is offering extra exposure to the advertisers). The NFL — one of the most vigilant about protecting its IP — is also running the ads on its site.

Of course in this era of Web 2.0, YouTube and even MySpace are getting into the act with their own replays. MySpace has it nicely organized by quarter. Of course, I learned about the MySpace page from the Fox broadcast (presumably since they’re a Fox subsidiary).

Normally, the memorable ads are either gimmicky or genuine. I disliked the and E-Trade ads, while many others left me indifferent. (Of course, I’m an annoyed E-Trade ex-customer so I may be biased). The Verizon ad for the LG Voyager managed to make a hot product cold. (the once-cheap domain registrar) has milked its sex-sells approach of the past four years (starting with the 2005 “wardrobe malfunction”) to become a lame parody of itself.

On the plus side, the Taco Bell was mildly amusing, with a combination of mild warmth and edginess (rathe than the usual over-the-top campiness of the beer ads). The American Idol house ad was a clever tie-in linking the game, the NFL brand and the network’s biggest hit.

My favorite ad features NFL players Ephraim Salaam and Chester Pitts, talking about Pitt’s improbable path to college and pro football. The spot is heart-warming, an improbable happy ending — and is (mostly) true. It also involves SDSU, the alma mater of my mother-in-law (and my father’s first two years of college). What more could you want?

The ad was selected from 240 submitted by NFL players. It does exaggerate a musical instrument over a handheld calculator, but it’s still touching.

Oddly enough, due to the NFL legal beagles (or is it viewer indifference?) this heart-warming story is not posted to any site other than the NFL’s. The other odd thing is that the Fox ads are posted via MSN but playback is in Flash, not Windows Media.

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