I write this as I reel from all of the Monday-morning quarterbacking after yesterday's Super Bowl...only the media coverage isn't focused on the game, but rather on the ads.
Nary a hint of reality intrudes on the coverage. It's as if the ads exist in some absolute, ethereal world of creativity, wherein consumption amounts to little more than reactions registered during game breaks. Nevermind that the marketplace is tanking, and even the bestest branded products are rotting on store shelves. NBC still broke records for what it charged for the spots, and lots of reporters and bloggers are talking about them now.
Welcome to the bizzaro world of branding.
It's silly to try and debate the utility of the ads, as there are no rules that apply consistently to them. Most of the quarterbacking today is ranking the spots based on which ones were the funniest, or the most likeable.
There's a glib branding answer for every possible criticism of the exercise: in dire times, people want to be entertained; it's a great way to deliver awareness on a national stage; the spots were better or worse than last year's.
So we get reviews as if the spots were movies or songs. Simply matters of taste.
Stay tuned for a parallel narrative to emerge in a few days as bloggers report on the social media lifespan of the spots. Conversation about funny spots on TV is another metric for the Platonic idealism of branding. It's worth it because, well, it's worth it, don't you understand? Just look at the volume on Twitter!
Like I said, welcome to the bizzaro world of branding.
There's no broad correlation between ads on the Super Bowl and subsequent business performance. I've been tracking it for a few years now; for instance, after Super Bowl XL in 2006, about half the companies did OK during 2007, and the other half didn't. Further, many of them -- car companies were notable advertisers, as were financial services -- have done progressively worse year-over-year.
When you drill down to the immediate "benefits," the returns on web traffic are hard to link to any subsequent sales result, and any bumps in sales don't sustain themselves. Stock prices blip up, maybe, and then fall back down.
This isn't surprising when you consider that the only real deliverables we get from Super Bowl ads are variations on the theme "Boobs, Buzz & Buffoons."
You'd think that advertisers would use such broad exposure to tell us things that actually mattered. Or maybe hint at stuff that warranted some action, or had relevance to our lives? Like I said, the economic world is collapsing all around us, and it was worth many millions for them to merely distract us for a few minutes?
This disconnect was all-too apparent for me. I love a laugh, and I thought the spot when the guy lit the horse fart a few years ago was hilarious. So I'm stupid. But weren't the job search spots just surreal? I mean, who has the luxury of finding a new job by choice these days? Add to them the love story of horses, the guy drinking gold and, well, you get it if you watched them. I thought the Alec Baldwin spot for hulu.com was utterly brilliant.
But the mere fact that we watched them, or that I'm blogging about them now, doesn't constitute a business strategy, does it?
f we think the only reason we talk about brands is to get other people to talk about them, we've invented something akin to a perpetual motion machine for brands. And that's bizzaro world technology.
Here's a reviewer observation:
We should seriously question the internal processes and decision-making capabilities of the companies that chose, effectively in conscious disregard of every sensible indication, to waste money on ads that didn't sell anything.