AMERICANA: The Super Duper Bowl

I sit here impatiently awaiting the kick off of the 2015 Super Bowl in three hours or so, numbed by a week’s worth of pre-game analysis and speculation and just wanting the game to begin.  And wanting it to be a much better game than last year and believing it should be because the Patriots and Seahawks both look like very good teams.

I’ve heard the Vegas line makers are calling this a “pick em” game, meaning neither is favored in the betting, a first in Super Bowl history. Hopefully they are right and the game is tight at the end, so as not to detract from a number of likely splendid advertisements and leave the flat feeling of last year’s one sided romp.

While waiting for the game to begin my thoughts are less about it than the success of its promotion over the years that has made the actual game secondary to its pre-game hype and game-time commercials.  The game itself is just a hook upon which to hang the overall phenomenon.  Is there any other TV event in which we not only don’t avoid the commercials but actually want to see them?

The first Super Bowl back in 1967 was a deflated version of its present self.  In short, it wasn’t all that super because there was no real pre-game promotion to create the image of it being so.  The game didn’t attract many that did not already follow football. Only about 2/3’s of the seats in the Los Angeles Coliseum were filled and 30 second TV advertisements cost $37,500 a piece (click for more details).

The  Super Bowl label seemed corny, overblown at the time.  Even to Lamar Hunt, an influential team owner who usually is credited for coming up with it.  He later said he used it “kiddingly,” a place mark for something better to come along.  Nothing did and the press took to Super Bowl.

Fast forward to $4.5 million 30 second ads shown to over 100 million viewers who have become addicted or just drawn to the phenomenon through media hype of its every aspect and the development of commercials as an art form.  If Super Bowl seemed too inflated a name that first year, these days I think it a bit under inflated, given our penchant for hyperbole.   What is super duper is not the game itself, but its nature as a commercial phenomenon second only to Christmas.

The ads have a life of their own.   You can find sites with the best Super Bowl ads over the years, like a hall of fame, and sites with ads that were refused for being too racy, sort of a hall of shame, if this were around 1700.   A whole world of Super Bowl ads come and gone.

This year the ad people have developed a new commercial stream, releasing many of the ads days before the game to prime the pump for today’s watching.  So we already know that Bud Lite’s little puppy saved by a big horse will pull our heart strings once again, while Go Daddy knows not to show its take off on that ad in which it has a puppy that is saved, but twists it when the owner is happy because  she had already sold the puppy on Go Daddy.  Oh, yuck.  Don’t ask me if the ad team was high on something when they thought this was clever.

But no matter.  Go Daddy’s initial failure might prove more valuable than Bud Lite’s success.   In pulling that ad they are spared a yucky game time reaction, while also getting lots of attention for their services beforehand.   Also, it will be newsworthy if Go Daddy replaces that ad with something clever during the game. If they come up with something funny or touching (maybe something self-deprecating), they could do better in the labyrinthian publicity game than those who came up with an attractive ad first time out.

Since we are talking about the twists and turns in the realm of publicity, let’s jump to the attention Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch has received for his refusal to say much of anything on media day, other than “I’m only here so I won’t get fined” 29 times or so. While some may think he’s a jerk for doing that, others will like his rebellious attitude toward NFL dictates.

Either way, almost “all publicity is good publicity” and he received more attention this past week than any player other than Tom Brady, and if he has a great game, you’ll likely be seeing his face all over the place. If not, well, not so much.

I’m tired of thinking about the transmutations of the advertising game, so I will end this rambling.  I just hope a number of those ads live up to expectations and that the football game doesn’t detract from the overall experience.



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