February 5th: An Obituary for Super Bowl Ads

While the Super Bowl action will go down in history as one of the greatest of all time, the advertisements that bookended the game most certainly will not. Fans and critics alike agree that this year’s showing of commercials was lower than in years passed, and seems to continue a trend of the downfall of the Super Bowl commercial as an entity.

Beyond the disappointment of missing out on the cute and the entertaining, the demise of Super Bowl ads makes sense. A 30-second ad spot cost $5 million this year. Yet, advertisers get less than ever for their money than they have in years past.

If we have learned nothing from the last year, it is that the coverage and attention you get without paying for it can be even more enticing than the ones you pay good money for. Social media is full of video snippets, clips, and images that sell ideas, products, and services. Why would you pay $5 million for an ad spot when you could produce the ad and put it on Facebook, claiming that it is an ad you WOULD run? Better yet, can you do something to somehow get other people to talk about your brand without wasting the time on producing any material at all?

Advertising has discovered the need to grow, adapt, and change in much the same way that our attention has over the past few years. As a result, the need to play by the old rules goes out the window, and leads to innovation, competition, and engagement. Unless you are trying to make a statement to a wide range of audiences (many of which didn’t even address the product), you can get far better bang for your buck elsewhere.

The one area of sadness in the changing world is that we lose the mode of storytelling that advertisers have crafted. The ability to tell a story in 30 seconds, to create an emotional reaction by a consumer is an artform, and one that brought more eyes to televisions than any other of its kind. While the tradition of hilarious and touching ad spots during the Super Bowl may be reaching an end, the road paved by these ads will continue to be a vital part of grasping a viewer’s attention for years to come.

So we say goodbye to our old friends: child Darth Vader, Danica Patrick, and a host of celebrity guest stars. The effectiveness of buying that time for such a high price may have gone away, but we will forever understand how to touch the public because of the way Super Bowl ads drew us in and made us ignore the fast-forward button.

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