Monday, February 6, 2012

MONDAY MARKETING #SuperBowl Spectacle Debunked (Webbiegrrl Style)

So first off, let me say, I hate sports. All spectator sports. I like to participate in some individual competitive sports (almost any outdoor sports, liking hiking, rock climbing, swimming, etc.) and I love to watch the Olympics to see true athletes competing to prove that a human can excel beyond the normal bounds of physical durress to accomplish great feats of fitness. I find the Olympics inspiring, while I find commercialized spectator sports like American football, offensive--especially the "pro" leagues. Why? Because it is so much more about the money than it is about the sport.

If you're a sports fan, you probably don't want to read today's Monday Marketing blog. I won't say anything you'll like and might offend your sensibilities but sorry, the billion (or is it trillion) dollar spectator industries known as "pro sports" offend my sensibilities in the extreme. And yet, I follow the money. I am not ignorant, just offended by the truth of how we Americans choose to spend money--or NOT spend it. Click through the jump-break but hold onto your conscience. You're going to need it!

Superbowl Now a Champagne Industry
We pour billions of dollars into this "sport" designing better playing fields, devising better television effects and methods for showing replays, designing new uniforms and equipment and sponsorship opportunities--and all that's before we even address how utterly offensive it is to pay these people tens of millions of dollars to play a frakkin game--while children are starving, homeless and freezing to death on our streets (not to mention our country having a deficit debt in the trillions).

The very idea is ridiculous but sadly, it's true. The Superbowl is no longer affordable to attend for the "average Joe" who is allegedly its target market. The "pro" league has manipulated its market and priced itself out of the grasp of its consumers, instead catering to the ultra rich in a sort of sicko patronage way. Hm, reminds me of the Starz series Spartacus somehow. I'm not talking out of hatred, but dollars and sense--hard numbers.

While researching today's blog post, I read an interesting article by Maureen Hayden of the Tribune out of Indianapolis, Indiana. She recounted the costs of Superbowl attendance in 1967 ($12 for a great seat, she says) versus today's cost: over $10,000 for nosebleed seats once the tickets have been sold and resold. In addition, the NFL organization (the folks manipulating and controlling the finances of this industry) have deliberately manipulated the costs by deliberately controlling access to the tickets, giving out limited numbers to the team franchises to sell, resell and resell again--and with online auctions, it's possible to resell 24/7 worldwide. During the "show" (it was definitely a show, not a game, though maybe better called a spectacle than a show), the audience shots were focused on celebrities such as rock star Steven Tyler and CEOs of NFL teams.

With an average to poor seat starting at $800 and going up to $12,000, many "commoners" don't earn enough money in an entire year to attend this event. So it is definitely not targetted to the "common Joe" as it once was. I'm not going to drone on about the multi-millions of dollars paid to the players--but know they have the gall to demand more as though $10m, $20m, $50m is "not enough" for them to get paid for one year's so-called "work." It sure is hard juggling playing in a sport with negotiating all those endorsement contracts so yeah, I guess they really do work hard. Worse, most of the players blow their contracts and earnings (sometimes literally blow if you know what I mean). It's definitely not a "common working man" industry anymore. Which is sad.

The money wasted on this crap is but one of the many reasons I am offended by the "sport" let alone not a fan of sitting on my rump watching other people exercising for 4 hours while I stuff my face with junk food and alcoholic beverages (also known in the vernacular as a "Superbowl party").

That said, I recognize that the Superbowl is a championship game at the end of the season and it's one of the most-watched events for American audiences, commanding some of the most-expensive advertising spots on American television. Side note, of course, is the sad, sad statement about American television that is made by the fact this "show" and these ads are some of the most-watched, most-discussed, most-anticipated "events" of the year.

Businesses everywhere in the US thrive on the build-up to and anticipation of the Superbowl weekend. In the wake of the Christian holidays, the Superbowl now feeds the economy more than the way Valentine's Day or President's Day used to do. From hotels and concessioners in the area of the event itself to grocery stores and athletic gear stores in the malls of the suburbs where it'll be watched on television, everyone seems to make a buck off the Superbowl. Beer, junk food, sportswear - these are the best-sellers of Superbowl. Or are they?

What's Really for Sale?
I hate to have to tell you, but this year's Superbowl ads were not selling products or even brands as much as they were the ads themselves--and the ads just weren't that good. Of course, I'm biased. I've been hearing for months across the ad industry how this year's ads are of a lower quality than previous years.

Not surprisingly, the costs have gone up. This year, a 30-second spot was starting at a cost of $3.5 million. Yeah, three and a half million dollars for a mere 30 seconds of TV time and some coveted slots (around the halftime) were even more pricey. The US Federal Deficit is $1.3 trillion (or $1,299 billion) and yet we see nothing wrong with a corporation spending $3.5 million for a 30-second spot to sell us things we don't need. But wait, there's more!

In the US, in case you're not aware, over two million American children are homeless and starving on our streets. I kid you not. Children born here, to American citizens--citizens who used to have jobs and homes and means to provide for children--are now homeless and starving. Now. Still. This has been going on as a growing concern spinning out of control for almost a decade. It's occasionally reported but not really considered a problem yet. Yet? When will children dying of starvation and exposure to the elements in a country that is allegedly one of the richest in the world be considered a problem?

While rich Americans think they're doing such a great thing by adopting a child from outside the US--from Lybia or Haiti or some other country that is also not the US--our own actual citizens, born here, are expected to die of starvation or exposure. In plain sight. Yes, right there on the streets these rich Americans walk down to go to their happly little white-collar jobs--and on which they side-step "those people" who might be sitting there because they have no home anymore, let alone a job! It's a real problem and sadly, the folks who have a home, who have a 50" plasma television on which to watch the Superbowl and who have the huge bowl of popcorn, nachos and faux cheese dip are clueless.

Don't Some of the Ads Help?
No, sadly, the advertisers who buy expensive Superbowl time don't actually care to address the issue. There was one ad by Anheiser-Busch that allegedly promoted supporting shelters and rescue dogs but what it actually promoted was abusive behavior towards a dog--biting down on glass is not only damaging to a dog's teeth but incredibly dangerous and can result in severe injury and death. If you think I'm taking it too seriously, consider please the target audience for this specific kind of ad.

College guys and other target audience members who are big beer drinkers don't need instruction on how to abuse a dog. The ad should have shown how a dog can be a man's best friend. Sadly, some (most?) of the target audience probably think forcing an animal to risk its life by biting down on a glass bottle is being "man's best friend" to them. You kind of need to have a man present to have a best friend, though, eh? Unless your name is Michael Vick, no "real man" would abuse a dog as depicted in this sickening ad. The irony is that the dog is super cute.

The advertisers don't really see it as cost-effective to promote a cause and really support it. Instead, making fun of causes is about as close as they come to actual humor. I'm not without a sense of humor, just in case you were wondering. Personally, I think this ad for an Aussie beer called Carlton Draught is one of the best beer ads EVER made. I can laugh at it the 20th time through:

Bullying dressed up as humor, however, is a huge problem here in the US and the Superbowl ads should not be promoting this behavior or the idea that having an attitude of abuse towards weaker creatures is funny. How is it funny to have your future taken away from you?

Take a cue from Ellen Degeneres, who started using her popular daytime show to highlight schools in need across the US which cater to the homeless, and endangered children. That is the schools where children go "home" to a street corner or if they're lucky, to a shelter for that one night. She found a way to use her international platform to do what our country alleges we all do. She literally calls out to "give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free" and then she moves to rescue those tired, poor and huddled masses.

In 2011, Ellen rallied Target (very much in need of a Public Relations boost due to its extremely tarnished image after its gay-bashing political moves in 2011) to commit $5m to provide each of 50 schools in need with $100,000 grant. This is to help the children who don't get to eat anything except what they get at the school and then only if the school gives them the food free of charge.

Ellen's been giving away these $100,000 grants to schools on her show. She's also gotten other celebrities to come onto her show and give away $100,000 grants from their own money (in addition to Target's fund). She's been rallying regularly to stop bullying and to provide for children in need. She's putting her money where her mouth is.

Why is Ellen Degeneres able to do this and our multi-national corporations are not? She doesn't exactly need the good PR as much as they do, so I'm a little puzzled. If we're a country where 3.5 million dollars can--and is--spent on 30 seconds of advertising to sell junk food, beer and automobiles, should these businesses not be able to spend even more to feed and house our children in need? Apparently it's not in the budget *cough*

So what were the Superbowl ads actually selling? Something else good and wonderful? Something humanitarian? Something to bring world peace? Ehh, not so much.

Chevy did an ad making fun of the Mayan prediction that the world will end in 2012 but what they did was show four guys in pickup trucks meeting to eat Twinkies in a mythical post-apocalyptic intersection while naming names (bashing Ford trucks). Talk about leaving a bad taste in your mouth. I get some small satisfaction from noting the decimated Chrysler building at the 23s mark of the ad *hee hee hee* (thanks to AdAge for pointing that faux pas out!)

Poor Hostess being associated with such a mud-slinging campaign. Oh wait, that's right. Hostess declared bankruptcy in 2011. They can no longer sue for defamation but Ford could (and did speak out against this ad!) Prior to the Superbowl airing, Ford demanded Chevy and NBC pull the ad but since I saw it air, obviously, Ford lost and the offensive Chevy ad aired. Probably, NBC didn't want to have to refund the money they'd already taken and possibly spent as fast as they collected it.

Chevy spent $7 million to air the 1-minute offensive ad, so Chevy could have spent that money helping all of our 2 million homeless, starving children but chose not to do so. Without even trying hard, given just "apocalypse" and "Twinkies" I can think of a great ad concept: show a Chevy truck rescuing the surviving kids and feeding them Twinkies but no. Chevy preferred to bash Ford in classic political mud-slinging fashion. They did it by showing four "guys" who were depicted as self-absorbed, beer-gut scratching "guy's guys" unconcerned for their friend and instead primarily interested in stuffing junk food into their faces, literally. It was disgusting to watch. Ironically, Chevy's ad guys thought the ad was hilarious. Even worse, most "guy's guys" (target audience) probably will love it, too. The epitomy of insult to injury would be if Chevy sees a rise in truck sales after this debacle!

Were There no Ads Worth Watching?
There were some, but not many. For car makers, there were 3 winners of the night:

1) Hyundai. They had several short, sweet and simple ads, each one was different. They aired pre-existing ads (something I think more marketers should've done) in addition to 2 brand-new spots. The one where the driver brakes, accelerates, brakes, etc. to "get your pulse going" was a bit stupid but the cheetah racing their new "sporty" Veloster Turbo (the car gets away, the animal handler doesn't) was great.

2) Honda used 2 major celebs to get attention--they also had only a 50% success rate with this campaign idea. Matthew Broderick's parody of his star-maker movie, Matthew's Day Off was hilarious but a little long. The 30-second edited version is better and even better still was Jerry Seinfeld's parody of himself in his Seinfeld character--topped off by a cameo of Jay Leno being...well, (curses) Leno! In that case, the 1:52 min extended version is actually better, though the 30s version still holds up. That's the mark of a winning ad.

3) Audi had a fabulous ad which made fun of people not in their target market. That was risky (see my argument above against Chevy's bashing of Ford) but the market they made fun of was the Twilight Generation and to be honest, I think some of those college kids might even like the jesting and be inspired to get a car with "daylight in the headlights" because of the ad! Even better, the Yuppies who can actually afford the Audi will love the #SoLongVampires attitude of the headlights. Personally, I find those cars obnoxious (and dangerous!) on the road at night. They actually BLIND me which isn't really what you want to do to other drivers on the road with you, is it? Maybe it is--if you need the insurance claim that badly.

My All-Time Favorites
I was very much disappointed not to see more of the eTrade baby. I loooove those ads! This year, eTrade only bought one 30s spot and plans to release additional ads in their new 2012 campaign during the rest of the year. I suppose this is a smart move--KISS right?--but I can't get enough of these little faux-talking dudes in diapers.

My all-time favorite eTrade ad remains one of the originals in the series: Solitary (...just a man and his thoughts...and a smartphone...with an eTrade app...Nobody knows the troubles I've seen!) Still cracks me up.

My #1 pick of the night for maintaining the brand and strengthening the marketing instead of changing directions "just for the big game show" spot was Pepsi's ad with Elton John as Henry the VIII (or whomever he was supposed to be--King Louis XIV? I cannot guess which foppish king of which country he was supposed to be). Although I didn't see the point of the "story" of the ad, I totally got the theme of the ad: Pepsi is still the choice of the new generation. The fact that Pepsi revived their "generation" advertising awards them this spot for the night.

Pepsi's not my #1 pick of the night for entertainment value, though. The best fresh take on a pre-existing campaign and maintenance of the brand was the M&M's I'm too Sexy for my Shell ad. Actually, there were apparently no "oldsters" on the ad team and they titled it "I'm Sexy and I Know It" instead! What a missed opportunity to include the middle-aged in your joke.

That's it for the Webbiegrrl Review of the 2012 Superbowl Ads. There were other ads (I loved the fitness workout dog in VW's "The Dog Strikes Back" but it didn't even make sense unless you'd seen last year's "mini vader" ad--which was also cute but not huge) but they were either not memorable or were so badly done as to be too stupid to dignify with a featured discussion. The Coke bears, forex, had a number of spots and not one of them was particularly good--or not as good as the original Coke bears commerical. Coca-Cola should've followed Pepsi's lead and stuck to their proven campaign (being the real thing).

One of the secrets to successful ads is to further the brand/product, not your own artistic drama. Most of the less-memorable ads were either too "artistic" (Pepsi's Elton John ad actually was borderline) or the ads were just plain boring.

What's Next....
Tomorrow's Tuesday Tip will discuss ways to engage your audience in social media environments. I happened upon a great little article a few weeks ago over on SocialMedia2day's site and want to chime in with my own special snowflake on the subject.

I'll be off next week--called to serve Jury Duty *pout* --but will try to prepare something in advance to post on its own. Thanks for stopping by.

Hope you enjoyed some (or all?) of the ads featured in this year's Superbowl. Who won, by the way? (smirk)

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