Maybe it’s because I always have to work on Super Bowl night so don’t seen many of the ads, but I really wish we could do something to suffocate the manufactured hype about the commercials.
It’s not the ridiculous cost that bugs me, or the fact that Saatchi, Saatchi, and the Other Advertising Bigshots Whose Names Nobody Knows try so hard to make such an impression. It’s not even that newspeople recycle the same stories every year (Hey, look how much the ads cost this year! And hey, remember that 1984 Mac ad? And hey hey — the ads just ain’t what they used to be. Etc.), or that they’re giving loads of free advertising to a bunch of advertisements.
What’s really frustrating is this whole tradition/charade continues as though ads mean anything anymore. Not that ads can’t boost sales and drive traffic and eyeballs to desired places (not like that, you dirty devil). But in terms of cultural impact, commercials haven’t been more than a blip for a long time.
What’s the last ad campaign that became a cultural touchstone, inspired a widely used catch phrase, or that had any kind of cultural effect beyond a bunch of one-off chuckles? The Budweiser “Wassup” campaign comes to mind (I still semi-ironically try to revive that one). Ipod and iTunes ads, maybe, but that kind of impact is hardly what people are talking about when they imagine the “water-cooler” possibilities of Super Bowl ads (and please note the quote marks; I hate the “water-cooler” cliche even more than I hate Super Bowl ad hype).
I’m not anti-adverts. If it were up to me, American schoolkids would have to say “Set it — and forget it!” at the end of the morning Pledge of Allegiance. I like to add a whispered “From Calvin Klein” to half of my spoken sentences. But the idea that this would actually happen — that advertising is still so powerful in the Ironic Age that once a year it can shape the culture by multiple-$2.7 million fiat (fiats?) — doesn’t hold up.
UPDATE: Dan Hopper makes a similar point at Best Week Ever. My favorite part (though mostly unrelated to his main point):
This isn’t to say that this year’s ads weren’t garbage. Those parodies of “The Godfather” and “Rocky” were pretty topical, weren’t they? Why don’t we spoof “Duck Soup” while we’re at it? What about “The Great Train Robbery”? Or some of Thomas Edison’s wax cylinder recordings? And why stop at references to “Dick in a Box” and “Night At The Roxbury” when we could have the Church Lady hocking Dr. Pepper or Chevy Chase’s Gerald Ford impression talking about Careerbuilder.com? Tons of untapped potential here, execs.