Editor's Cut: Sometimes, you just want to watch the game.
As a marketer, it is so easy to forget that simple truth. We turn any major sporting event, most notably the Super Bowl, into an advertising super-fest, forgetting that sometimes, the people on the receiving end of all that spend might be there just to see their teams play. Yet each year, I sit, dutifully watching each and every commercial break to gauge how brands fared in their annual outings. But this year’s “brand bowl” extravaganza was the first that made me sad and a bit nostalgic for the good ol’ days when the games were great and the ads in between were something special.
Do you remember the 1984 Super Bowl? Chances are that unless you are a San Francisco 49ers fan or a Miami Dolphins fan still smarting from the loss, you might not remember that game. But there are lots of people who remember a commercial break during the third quarter when a young blonde woman in red running shorts hurled a sledgehammer at “big brother,” and the mind-shattering Ridley Scott-directed Apple ad was seen by the world. That ad is widely regarded as an advertising moment in time that could never be replicated—that is, until 2014, when it was updated to include an iPod.
But when I think about the ads in the 2015 outing of the Super Bowl, I can’t think of one that could stand the test of time, let alone stand the test of 2015. Yes, that dang Budweiser puppy got me, I’ll admit it, but as I have said in years past, the bigger question is whether that puppy drove me to engage with Budweiser or even buy a beer. And the answer is no.
Let’s add to this that most of the ads were likely already seen days before the big game after being “leaked” on YouTube or Facebook to get people buzzing earlier. As I watched the Super Bowl with friends, most of the big ads were being followed up with “Oh, I already saw that on Facebook,” or “Yeah, they had that on YouTube earlier this week”…which translated into permission to leave the room, stop watching the ads and reload on nachos.
In our mad dash to make the ads bigger, better and more buzzed about, I have started to question if we have zipped up the marketing bubble, taken a huge swig of the metaphorical Kool-Aid and totally forgotten why advertising and attempting to engage during large sporting events like the Super Bowl make sense for our brands. Have we forgotten that what we are looking to do is engage with a “captive” audience that is gathered around a singular medium? Have we lost any chance of capturing a real return on these mega-moment roars, instead turning them into weeklong slow, dull buzzes?
All I know is that this year, I remembered more about the actual game than I did about the ad game. I had pretty much seen all of the Super Bowl ads before the actual Super Bowl, and quite frankly, I don’t remember many of them just a couple of weeks later. I actually spent the game watching the game, and I have to admit, it was fantastic! That’s right, even for us marketers, sometimes it’s nice to just sit back and watch the dang game.