A holiday for advertisers

No, I’m not talking about advertising going on holiday, I’m talking about the one day a year devoted exclusively to the celebration of advertising. Nope, not Christmas. I’m talking Super Bowl Sunday. This is one holiday I definitely miss since coming to the UK. (Ok, I miss Thanksgiving too). After all, when and where else does the average punter celebrate the wonderful world of advertising? Certainly nowhere is quite like the US on a Super Bowl Sunday.

I could, of course, be talking about the great, and the not so great, ads that were made this year. About how advertising style sometimes seems to be like fashion – it follows a trend without anyone being aware of it. About how I noticed a general dog theme. And a general car fantasy theme. Not to mention the usual celebrity over-use theme. About how many advertisers previewed their ads via social media. And whether or not those lived up to the hype (ahem, VW). About how Coke took the retrospective path, similar to the brilliant Hovis campaign of yesteryear.

But I’d rather wax lyrical about the phenomenon itself. It’s built up gradually over time, for sure to become the event it is today. It’s difficult to explain just how much this day is about advertising – to some people it’s more about the ads than about the game. At Super Bowl Sundays many moons past, I’ve sat in a room full of people, most of whom were happy to talk throughout the game play but shushed each other loudly whenever the ads came on air. Today, people can rate them as they air across any number of sites and tools, thanks to the wonderful world of social media.

So, what exactly is it all about? First and foremost, it’s about being entertained. The bar has been set high, so people expect advertisers to come with something very powerful on the day. Mostly, they expect that entertainment. If your ad is serious, you’d better have an extraordinary message. This means that the rules of clutter are even more pronounced. An ad that has fabulous stand-out in the average every day world can pale in comparison to some of the gems that debut during the Super Bowl.

And of course, all of this makes it even more challenging to have an ad that actually does something for the brand – be that building a buzz, connecting emotionally or making people jump out of their chairs and rush to the shops. When ads are so powerfully entertaining, cluttered with celebrities, babies, dogs and all other manner of distractions, it’s difficult for the brand to stand out, let alone any sort of message. Hats off and waving to those who manage to do it (a la Doritos dog) and condolences to those that don’t. (I’d tell you who I think they are, but I can’t remember them).

Tara is a Director at Ipsos ASI.

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