MEDIA WATCH: Super Bowl ads fumble opportunity to score big with media

The Super Bowl is the biggest day of the year for the ad industry, as it provides an opportunity to reach an audience of approximately 140 million viewers. Super Sunday's ad festivities also provide the media with much fodder for discussion.

The Super Bowl is the biggest day of the year for the ad industry, as it provides an opportunity to reach an audience of approximately 140 million viewers. Super Sunday's ad festivities also provide the media with much fodder for discussion.

A quick review shows Super Bowl XXXIV in 2000 was the Dot.Com Bowl, in which nearly half of the ads were for dot-coms, but they were so offbeat, no one knew what they did. Super Bowl XXXV was marked by the absence of dot-coms, as Cedric the Entertainer sprayed beer on his date in an otherwise boring slew of ads. Super Bowl XXXVI is perhaps best remembered for the ads' somber tone in the wake of September 11. This year, juvenile humor and gross-out scenes made a comeback, but the Monday buzz was the familiar refrain of two views that have been frequently expressed following each of the last four Super Bowls. First, critics like Jim Hanas of AdCritic.com continued to push advertisers to understand that "things that are the most popular aren't the best ads. Making audiences laugh isn't enough. Ads also need to leave a brand impression, describe the product, and hit a broad demographic" (Chicago Tribune, January 29). This comment was most often made regarding Reebok's ad using the fictional character of Terry Tate, Office Linebacker. Although it was one of the most popular ads, there were widespread questions about how his office tackles related to Reebok. USA Today (January 28) wrote, "The biggest knock on the ad...has been [that] it's hard to tell it is for Reebok." Second, media coverage continued to lament that the ads were just not great overall. They failed to live up to the lofty standards that consumers have come to expect from Super Bowl ads. The New York Times (January 28) wrote, "Madison Avenue...seemed to fall short compared with memorable pitches from past Super Sundays." The ad that earned the most press was Anheuser-Busch's spot featuring a zebra as a referee watching a replay in a football game played by the brewery's famous Clydesdales. USA Today (January 27) cheered, "The King of Beers still reigns as the king of Super Bowl advertising...A-B also walks off with untold millions of dollars' worth of free media coverage and image enhancement after several ads that will be talked and laughed about today at water coolers nationwide." Two other ads that won praise were the FedEx spoof on Cast Away and Ozzy Osbourne's Pepsi Twist spot. CNNfn (January 27) admired the way Pepsi "got a lot of free publicity out of this one" by generating buzz beforehand and afterwards by having the media play the ad over and over again as it was assessed by the critics. There was no obvious loser, though the Dodge ad featuring the passenger choking on beef jerky earned several gripes, as did the use of Celine Dion for the new Chrysler Crossfire. While there were a few hits here and there, this year's ads did not earn a very enthusiastic response. Several columnists suggested that advertising budgets being cut could be one reason, while others just said perhaps inspiration was running dry. Either way, the public appeared to be left wanting for just a bit more out of the commercials.
  • Evaluation and analysis by CARMA International. Media Watch can be found at www.carma.com.

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