Product or place card? For all the hype about Superbowl commercials, why so little about the stuff being advertised?

February 8, 2012

During the hullabaloo surrounding Superbowl ads this year not one article, blog post, comment, or poll had anything to do with the actual stuff that was being advertised. Plenty of lip service was given to product recall and product relevance but precious little to the thing itself. Is that because no one cares about products and services enough to discuss them or because there isn’t anything really new to talk about?

Take the automobile industry. There were plenty of extravagant commercials on the Superbowl for 2012 models. Indeed, some of the best work came from Honda, Acura, Kia, Chevy and others. But what about the cars themselves? For the most part they’re all good products. We know them well. Maybe that’s the thing (I’m not saying problem): We are all so familiar with car brands that new models do nothing for us. I loved the Kia Optima “Sand Man” commercial driven by the Bombastic metal of Motley Crue but calling it a “dream car.” Really? It’s just another sedan with some whistles and bells. Yet, I’m not calling Kia out. Perhaps this thrilling commercial is what’s new about the Optima. That a sedate car brand like it has the stones to be in an ad like this. Maybe that’s enough.

Frankly, the only really new car on TV Sunday was the Acura NSX. Now that’s a dream car. And yet, it was Gerry Seinfeld we remembered. The spot rightfully garnered high praise for its production. The vehicle, awesome as it was, held silent vigil, appearing only briefly, ignition off.

In terms of actual product news, beyond the ad itself, other advertisers fared no better. From yogurt to beer, the products were but placeholders or, said another way, commercial enablers. What little news there was (more alcohol in Bud Light Platinum) got lost in translation. Oh, look. A new bottle…

Gee, I wonder if it glows in the dark.

That’s the blessing and curse of advertising. It exists to trumpet stuff but the stuff is blown out. We are conditioned to not believe anything is new or improved or better than ever. We accept these come-ons like a sailor walking past a string of brothels. Been there. Done that.

Yet, the sailor is going to make a purchase. Therefore, the only sin worse than advertising would be not to advertise. The other brothels are fronting their goods. Therefore they all must.

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Those who suggest the sailor may have already chosen a brothel online, thereby eliminating the need for advertising are only half right. Now the girl out front must convince the sailor to break his appointment and choose her instead. Or, in broader terms, the brothels need to take their marketing online. Suddenly, we get loyalty programs and tiered memberships. And, of course, the messages get evermore creative. Yet, the girls remain the same.

Which gets me back to my original point: the more we turbo-charge the messages (as with Superbowl commercials) the more the products feel the same.


3 Responses to “Product or place card? For all the hype about Superbowl commercials, why so little about the stuff being advertised?”

  1. Tracy said

    Not since Apple’s “1984” has there been a product compelling enough to talk about… and I winced a little bringing that one up. The new Samsung should’ve had the potential, in theory, but no one (at least where I was watching the game) got that it was supposed to bridge the gap between smart phone and tablet. “Jesus, that phone’s big. Is it supposed to be that big?” They were too stunned by its size to even mock the stylus. Great moments in missed opportunities…

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