America's annual fixation with the Super Bowl is not really about football, is it? After seven months of pre-season, regular season, Sunday, Monday Night, some Thursday and Saturday NFL professional football, enough is enough.
The Super Bowl - or, as it's sometimes called, the Stupor Bowl - is really about advertising. Which commercial did you like best this year? Weren't those frogs stupid? Loved the bullet to the lock. How did they do that? Beer bottles don't play football! Why the ducks and the chick?
This year, around the cyber version of the water cooler and in the consumer media, everybody was a critic. But, fortunately for this writer, not much mention was given to automotive commercials.
Do the math
Let's see now, it is estimated that commercials in the Super Bowl cost $2.2 million each for a : 30. Now, if my calculator is correct, that's an astounding $73,333 per second. Just for the time alone. If you add mid-six-figure production costs - the estimate by the American Association of Advertising Agencies of what it costs to produce the average national 30-second commercial - you are talking serious money.
My cap is off to the account and media people who sell Super Bowl commercials. Would that the commercials sold products equally well. Of the three automotive Super Bowl commercials run this year, there's not a great seller in the bunch. No, that's wrong. There's not a commercial that sells, period.
This year I did not watch the pre-Bowl reel of commercials. I sat in the family room, channel switcher on the table, feet propped up, adult beverage in hand, watching the game - and the commercials, too.
I was a viewer. And a disappointed one, insofar as car commercials were concerned. Here's why.
I thought the Oldsmobile spot was a Gap commercial - honest - until the last six seconds. Nine good-looking young men and women standing and dancing. Then a car careened into view, screeching and squealing. There was some singing - even after watching the spot six times I still can't make out all the words - and a nice graphic at the end. Projecting this on a national basis using a qualified sample of one and with an homage to the corporate bean counters in all of us, at $73,000 per second, that means about $1,752,000 of the $2-plus million for media alone went for naught.
Stylish but puzzling
BMW had two moderately involving commercials for the new X5 sport wagon. The first to err - oops, that's air - was of a skier gliding down a mountainside. The photography was shot sports-show style and was beautifully done. The only sound was of the skis or, when they rose off the snow, the wind alone.
Over the skiing, a super appears: 'It's Not A Feeling' ... the scene changes, and the sentence is completed: 'You Get Every Day.' Cut to the X5. A new super appears and asks, 'Or Is It?' Then the BMW logo appears, and the spot is over.
I got the idea. Fun. Thrills. Solitude. But I thought station wagons were for families. So I really didn't understand the spot.
The other BMW spot was designed in a similar manner. Young kids romping through the woods come to a cliff or tall embankment, and, one at a time, they jump. No harness. No parachute. No bungee cord. We see them fall into the water below. Whew! That was scary. The same supers appear as in the previous spot, followed again by the BMW logo.
My perception of what this commercial is about is more than hazy. I don't get it. And I don't think the Super Bowl watchers got it, either. Why would we want to risk life and limb?
The one advertiser who was really honest with its Super Bowl commercials was E*Trade, the dot-com stock trading company. The spot shows two old guys sitting in chairs as a monkey does the cha-cha. The super appears: 'We just wasted 2 million bucks,' followed by, 'What are you doing with your money?' Nice spot. Honest. Frank. It was my favorite.
Due to the nature of this column, names have been omitted to protect jobs and careers.