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


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.


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