Soft Spots

ESPN broadcast college football’s national championship Monday night. As the game moved to lopsided late in the second quarter my mind drifted to details besides the football itself. Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, FL is a striking facility, especially at night from the vantage point of the Goodyear Blimp. 15,000 football fans spaced randomly into 65,000 seats (thanks, COVID) looks awfully sparse. And speaking of awful(ly), the television commercials… well, let’s just agree college football ain’t the same thing as the Super Bowl, folks.

Home of the NFL’s Miami Dolphins

Super Bowl commercials are more entertaining than the game itself, unlike the advertisement drivel I saw Monday night.  Super Bowl plugs cost $5 million for thirty seconds while Monday night’s spots were six figures at best.  Finally, Super Bowl ads are desperate to be memorable (even if you can’t remember the product itself), which is why you have office pools for “best commercial”.  You’re not gonna have an office pool for what I watched on Monday night.  This was the reverse of the Super Bowl: great football, lousy commercials.

To say Monday night’s commercials paled in comparison to Super Bowl ads is like saying Sprite’s a little clearer than Coke.  These product pushes were awful.  For starters, you had what seemed like five advertisers over a four-hour broadcast.  Dos Equis showed up every fifteen minutes.  Their beer (excuse me, their lager) ads included a closeup of a glassful, with a commentator calling the movement of the bubbles as if they were players on a football field.  Really?  I hope his was a big paycheck.

Then you had AT&T, who seems to be promoting the lovely Milana Vayntrub (as salesperson “Lily”) as much as their products.  Perhaps they’ve watched too many Progressive Insurance ads with Stephanie Courtney (as salesperson “Flo”)?

Don’t recognize Milana? You will soon…

Finally, ESPN promoted itself.  Normally I’d harp on the host network for advertising some of its own programs even though they paid millions to broadcast the game.  But part of me thinks ESPN really does need the promos.  COVID took a big bite out of sports over the last year, as well as a big bite out of ESPN’s workforce.  When the network brought us Korean baseball and American cornhole competitions I thought, “Okay, the end is near”.

But forget ESPN because I need to be a Davey-downer (i.e., slam) on one more commercial.  I’ve been building to this moment since the first paragraph.  Gatorade just launched it’s first new beverage in twenty years: “Bolt24”.  It’s low-cal and loaded with electrolytes, so naturally the target audience is athletes.  And Gatorade also selected athletes to push its product.  Enter Serena Williams.  She’s one of those athletes I’m on the fence about.  Her athletic skills and accomplishments on the tennis court are unquestionable.  She’s garnered enough championships to earn her place in the tennis player “GOAT” discussion (greatest of all time).

But Serena also has her not-so-role-model moments.  She does not take losing well.  She does not welcome constructive criticism.  Countless broken rackets, lectures (threats?) to chair umpires, and disqualifications would have you wondering if there isn’t a permanent child lurking within the adult.  Wah wah wah.  But the Bolt24 ad was the last straw in my Serena drink.  Why?  Because the tagline goes, “you know you’ve made it when the whole world knows you by one name”.  Oh, so when I say just “Serena advertises Bolt 24”, you knowingly say in response, “oh, her?”

Yeah, I get the pitch.  Bolt24 is a one-word drink.  Serena Williams is almost the only Serena I can think of (besides Serena van der Woodsen, the entitled main character of the TV series Gossip Girl).  But I just can’t buy into the loftiness of the catchphrase.  Get the world to recognize you by first name only and “you’ve made it”?  Sting. Madonna. Cher. Bono. Enya.  See the pattern?  It’s an actor/singer thing.  Also, an athlete thing.  Lebron. Tiger. O.J. (Maybe that last one should just be “Juice”?)

Okay then, shutting down my rant now.  Holier-than-thou personas don’t deserve any more press.  I like to keep “Life in a Word” positive; simple; modest.  Like me.  You know… Dave.

Some content sourced from Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”.

Super Dough

The beauty of the Super Bowl is its broad entertainment value.  There’s something for everybody in the five hours between The Star Spangled Banner and the Vince Lombardi trophy. For sports fans, there’s a highly-anticipated football clash. The Super Bowl is not football at its best or most dramatic, but this year’s coast vs. coast, old coach+QB vs. young coach+QB match-up creates more than the usual intrigue.

If you’re not into football, you’re at least enjoying the musical entertainment.  Maroon 5 will be there after all (rumor had it they were pulling out), and the band acknowledges “… it’s the biggest stage you could ever play…”  Even if you’re not a fan of the 5, you get Gladys Knight (but no Pips) singing the national anthem before kick-off.

If neither live sports nor live music is your bag (and that’s a small rock you live under), you’re watching the commercials instead.  I admit – especially as a sports fan – there’s as much press for the Super Bowl ads as there is for the Super Bowl itself.  It’s the only sports broadcast I know where viewers fast-forward through the game to get to the commercials.

Courtesy of Anheuser-Busch InBev

No wonder advertisers are so worked up for this Sunday.  The Super Bowl is routinely the single-most tuned-in-to entertainment of the year.  Viewership has quadrupled over the last fifty years.  The 2018 Super Bowl drew over 100 million viewers; 25% more than second-place.  And what came in second?  The Super Bowl post-game show, of course (74 million viewers).  Say what you will about the NFL; people watch.  The four most-watched television shows in 2018 were NFL games, followed by a “This Is Us” episode… airing immediately after the Super Bowl.

Courtesy of Frito-Lay

Sunday’s line-up of Super Bowl commercials includes the usual products: cars, drinks (alcoholic), more drinks (non-alcoholic), foods (snack), more foods (fast), even more foods (avocados), and technology.  Of course, they’re all designed to get you to remember, long after the game is over.  Whether it’s a celebrity, a laugh, or a cute animal, it’s all about permanent placement of the product in your brain.  But even if you don’t remember, consider this: the commercials will be watched millions more times on YouTube.  Add in the Internet and the considerable cost of Super Bowl advertising is a little easier to swallow.

Speaking of cost, this year’s commercials will set producers back $5 million a spot, for a mere thirty seconds of air time.  That’s just the bill to CBS.  Production costs run as much as another $5 million.  Try counting “one-one-thousand, two-one-thousand” every time you watch a commercial this year.  You’re squandering $333,333 for every “-one-thousand” you utter.  That’s what I call super dough, and it’s only rising (ha).  The car companies account for 25% of the take (remember that the next time you negotiate the purchase of a vehicle), but Anheuser-Busch InBev is the “King of Advertising”, spending over $600 million on Super Bowl commercials since 1995.  Yes, Clydesdale horses are cute.  More importantly, they sell a lot of beer.

Courtesy of Anheuser-Busch InBev

To pique your ad anticipation, Town & Country Magazine’s website includes a list of the “50 Best Super Bowl Commercials” (including the videos).  The ads are listed chronologically, starting a-way, way back in 1967.  It’s entertaining to see what products and companies paid big for Super Bowl advertising fifty years ago.  Some are no longer around.  I’m guessing their advertising agencies aren’t either.

Courtesy of Apple

Mark my words.  Monday morning after the Super Bowl the water-cooler talk will not be about the game.  It will be about the commercials.  Which one was your favorite?  Which one left you scratching your head?  Which one was $5 million up in flames?  And most importantly, which one will still be talked about years from now?  Even this sports fan has to admit: the game will soon be forgotten, but not the ads.

Some content sourced from the Wall Street Journal article, “Why Advertisers Pay Up for  a Super Bowl Spot”; and from Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”.