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Dispatch from Middle America: Why your Super Bowl ad will be a waste of money.

January 30th, 2017

Marketers of America, I already know your Super Bowl ads are probably going to be a waste of money. Here’s why: The same know-it-alls who misread the American zeitgeist are the ones who are making your Super Bowl ad.

Think about it. The East Coast/West Coast pollsters and media strategists totally missed the heartland of America in forecasting the outcome of the presidential election. What does that have to do with Super Bowl ads? Look at the electoral map. Then look at the agencies creating ads for this year’s broadcast. They are clustered in the blue states of California, New York, Illinois and Washington.

There are plenty of other reasons your ad is going to suck. Here are a few:

  • You’re talking to yourself. Too many ad creatives make ads to entertain their peers. I’ve got news for you, if you work in an ad agency creative department, you’re likely college educated, young and culturally hip. News flash: much of America is not like you. (Surprised at the election outcome? Look at the map. Then look at where you live. The overwhelming majority of this year’s Super Bowl ads are created by agencies located in New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco or Seattle. Compare that with the electoral map. These are the same people who misjudged “flyover territory.”)
  • You’re frightened. The Super Bowl has become so high profile, that risk taking is strictly avoided. Ads are subject to intervention by committees, focus groups and a whole lot of people who know little about the creative process. They are edited and adjusted until the sharp edges – the very edges that make ads memorable and effective – have been sanded off.
  • Your ad is old news. To justify the multi-million-dollar spend on their Super Bowl extravaganza, marketers preview and tease their spots weeks in advance of the game. By the time it airs, the audience has seen your ad and is ready for something new. The reason we still watch live programming is because we don’t know what’s going to happen – we like the element of surprise. It’s immediate. New and novel is what catches our attention. If we’ve already seen your commercial, it’s safe to go grab another cheese puff.
  • You don’t have an idea. You have a stunt. You’ve diverted the attention to how the commercial is made (ooh, how exciting) and you’ve overlooked your core selling message. This year, Snickers will air a live spot during the game. Hyundai plans to show a 90-second spot immediately following the Super Bowl that uses footage shot and edited during the game. They’ve hired a big-name director and are already promoting the commercial. Boy, will their peers be impressed.
  • You’re pandering. I blame this on the USA Today Ad Meter Poll. In a frenzy to get the most votes from the most people, you’re playing to the lowest common denominator. Puppies. Babies. PuppyMonkeyBabies. You go for cheap laughs or sappy sentimentalism because that’s what Ad Poll voters go for. Who cares about moving the sales needle when you can get the warm feeling of positive attention?

Marketers of America, at $5 million for one commercial, and a worldwide audience of 100 million, you can’t afford to blow this one. But I know most of you will. Please, surprise me.

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