February 12, 2013
Rethinking Our Addictions
I have a little ritual.
Each year, I wait about 10 days after the Super Bowl and then I go back and look at the spots.
The event is still fresh but the hysteria is gone. It gives me a little perspective on what marketers did and what I can glean from it.
Advertising always tends to reflect trends in the larger culture. That's a nice way of saying we steal shamelessly from whatever is popular. Sometimes the stealing is overt. Sometimes it is cleverly disguised. Sometimes we don't steal the actual ideas, just the styles and the structures.
This year, the advertising was unusually evocative of popular culture -- the comic book aesthetics of the movies; the trashy morality of "reality" TV; and the horror of pop music.
The advertising was beautifully executed but mostly vapid -- all muscle, no brains.
A few spots stood out -- Budweiser's "Clydesdale"; Ram's "God Made A Farmer"; and VW's "Get Happy."
We can argue all day about whether we liked the spots, and we can argue over their creative value and political meaning, but regardless of our professional opinions, there is no doubt that these spots struck a chord with viewers.
The interesting thing is that they may have stood out because they eschewed the thrash-pop sensibility. They were gentle, innocent, and positive. They were not evocative of pop culture in their style and structure.
Perhaps there is a lesson in this. Maybe we need to rethink our addiction to pop aesthetics in advertising. Maybe in the 21st century we like our culture trashy, but our ads innocent.
Hey, a guy can dream, can't he?