The Super Bowl, Its Ads, And The Fuzzy Line Between Pro And Amateur

Posted by: Jon Fine on February 5, 2007

The Doritos consumer-generated ads (please, someone invent a better term than that) that ran in the Super Bowl were not among my favorites of the game. But that’s not the point. The point is this: they didn’t seem out of place, they didn’t look chintzy and cheap; they weren’t measurably stupider or clunkier or worse than much else around them.

Add TV ads as one more place where the line between ’professional’ and ‘amateur’ is revealed to be an artifical construct. We learned this in movies and music in the 1980s, when an explosion in indie film and indie music proved conclusively that there was much more good stuff—in some cases, the best stuff—out there that was either escaping the attention or was simply ignored by the major labels and big studios. (Or, to be charitable, there was more talent out there than the existing distribution system could accommodate.) We learned this a while ago about political commentators. No serious reader of the better bloggers out there can doubt there is more top-tier commentator talent than there are jobs for them at places like Newsweek and the New York Times. We are learning it now about producers of short video.

I doubt that we’re going to see a massive influx of such ads—ones actually produced by fans, as opposed to the ones aired by Chevy and the NFL, in which fans came up with the concept, which were then produced by ad agencies—if for no other reason that the superstructure of the ad world has proven slow to match changes in how people behave. (Also, there is a risk involved in going totally consumer-generated, which marketing executives who live in terror of getting fired may not wish to take.)

But I don’t think that one can argue convincingly that consumer-gen attempts won’t work.

I recommend checking in on my BusinessWeek colleagues Burt Helm and David Kiley’s Siskel/Ebertesque Super Bowl ad review, but some of my impressions:

The Best: Budweiser’s: Slap-fight and gorillas; Coke’s fake-videogame, Mr. Hadley, and ; David Letterman/Oprah on the couch (a CBS promo—there’s no reason why broadcast companies can’t play in the top-tier of Super Bowl ads); E-trade’s “finger” ad in the second half; NFL’s funeral march; Blockbuster’s mouse ad.

The Bad: Flomax’s deathless line: Here’s to the guys who want to spend “less time in the men’s room”; GoDaddy’s “everybody wants ot work in marketing; Jessica Simpson’s Pizza hut spot; Salesgenie; both Sierra Mists ads; almost any ad involving sports stars that had to deliver dialogue.

Not As Bad As Everyone Else Seemed To Think: Garmin’s fake monster movie.

The Disappointment: Kevin Federline and Nationwide, which, as BW’s Burt Helm points out, was much funnier as a storyboard.

UPDATE 2/6: Seth Stevenson’s ad wrap for Slate.com is hilarious. Also, he reminded me how good the Frito-Lay “Who’s winning? We all are” ad was and how totally awful Sheryl Crow’s Revlon ad was.

Reader Comments

Media david

February 5, 2007 5:59 PM

NFL.com aired a ad "created" by a fan.
It turns out the creator works at a marketing firm, wrote for espn.com and that his suggested ad was produced by a full compliment of professional ad agency folks working under the supervision of the nfl.
If that's user generated content, then there won't ever be much to set it off from the "real" stuff.
I was wondering about how this would turn out after a good friend of mine attended the Denver tryouts for nfl.com and told me that the vast majority of fans in attendance were really advertising folks looking for their big break.
I suppose there's nothing wrong with that, but my guess is that its not what most folks think of when they think of user generated content.

Don

February 7, 2007 11:02 AM

Honestly, isn't the issue what most record collectors already know? That someone really really hungry can create one great piece of art (the one-hit wonder), but the vast majority of everyone can't keep it going past age 35 or so? How many bloggers can we all name who did well, but flamed out after 18 months? Nothing was weirder for me at age 22 when the guy I knew who actually wrote and directed his own feature film still worked at the record store because he couldn't get a paying job.

Don

February 8, 2007 11:17 AM

I don't want to post twice, but why are people so down on the Federline commercial? He raps that he has all this money and then in a blink he's working at a fast-food joint. Life DOES come at you fast and if you get laid off, or in Federline's case, get dumped by your Sugar Mama... oh wait that's just painful to type... then you better make sure you have some kind of cash or insurance socked away. I thought it was a perfect self-denigrating spot and a great way for Federline to turn his lackluster celebrity into a "Oh my god, I've made a horrible mistake, what do I do now?" character. Rodney Dangerfield made a career of the lovable loser and I think the current teen scene needs a few of those more humble characters.

Jon Fine

February 8, 2007 4:20 PM

Don:

The Nationwide ad is perfect at denigrating–how else to put this?— his Federlinity. But all I can tell you is that it struck me as begin funnier in concept—and storyboard, as the blog I linked to illustrates—than on screen. Also, I suspect some people are reacting in advance to what they imagine will be Federline’s next career: someone trying to make a buck for the next 50 years off his brief marriage to a celebrity.

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