February 24, 2011

Ego Disguised As Advertising

I did a little experiment the other day. I went back and watched Super Bowl spots out of context. In other words, I watched them two weeks after The Big Event.

My hypothesis was this -- in order to get a true perspective on the merits of these spots required me to view them out of the context of hysteria in which they ran.

Because the Super Bowl is such A Big Deal it's easy to lose perspective. It's easy to adopt the amateur POV that the best spots are the most expensive or the most entertaining, rather than the most persuasive.

What my experiment found, not at all surprisingly, was a lot of corporations, agencies, and creatives flexing their egos. In fact, in many cases I found more ego than advertising.

I found a lot of spots that probably had some kind of logic to the creators, but were clearly incomprehensible or irrelevant to a potential customer.

Here are three lovely examples of ego-driven advertisers talking to themselves.

The first is remarkably unintelligible. There is absolutely no point to this thing except, I guess, to spend as much money as possible on inane special effects.

Next is for something called Chatter. It is indecipherable. Unless you have a copy of the script in your hand, I can't see how it is possible to know what the product even is. Oh, but it has a celebrity, so it must be awesome.

When the creative director was presenting the next spot (for the Motorola Xoom) to the client in the conference room, I'm sure it tickled the client to death. Who wouldn't want to be the guy who takes on the most famous Super Bowl spot of all time? Unfortunately, when spots go on the air, there is no creative director to explain what they mean. Here is a spot that probably made no sense to 98% of the people who watched it, and had absolutely nothing to do with the product it was supposed to sell. But it must have made the client feel quite self-satisfied..

It is remarkable that an industry that claims to have a special understanding of consumer behavior can so often have no ability to see beyond itself.

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