Reflection on Super Bowl 2013 Ads

The grand dame of American business advertising, a.k.a. the Super Bowl with all its eagerly anticipated commercials, came and went last night. I sat on the couch with my iPad on my lap and the TV on, playing through the commercials we had missed or yet to see, my children peering over my shoulder while the players duked it out on the gridiron.

First, the numbers: The Super Bowl aired 55 commercials that cost 40 advertisers nearly $4 million per 30-second slot; expectations put viewership at 111 million. That’s a big captive audience, many of whom were watching more for the commercials than the game.

My favorites: Best Buy “Asking Amy”; Chrysler “the Farmer”; Doritos “Fashionista Daddy”. These were creative, clever, funny – we laughed out loud. The storylines were solid and original. 

I didn’t like the Oreo commercial (gratuitous violence, stupid) or GoDaddy. In fact, what struck me most about so many commercials last night was not how compelling they were or their marketing savvy – it was what they said about us as a consumer culture.

I came away from the Super Bowl production feeling like our country is entirely upside down. Our priorities are completely out of whack. We favor gratuitous violence and gratuitous sex, we spend too much money and time on disposable and inconsequential expenditures and too little time on making a difference, serving others or helping to improve the plight of our nation and those around us.

While people pay me to help them market their businesses, I always emphasize authenticity as a key strategy. Be who you are and connect with others as they are, plain and simple. And I never charge the types of prices that a Super Bowl campaign would warrant.

Not because I can’t. Because I don’t feel right about it.

There is a difference between having enough and having everything. I have long believed that the heart and soul of who I am and the kind of work I want to do has to be in proper alignment with my personal values. Yes, I want a comfortable life and nothing to worry about. (Still working on getting there.) But not at the expense of right.

There are so many businesses, especially in metro Detroit, who have their eye on building community and doing good before doing well. Those are the kinds of American entrepreneurs I want to surround myself with. Because as a collective, we will surely make a difference.

Last night, amid all the money spent and time focused on whose pitch won the most support (does it truly translate to sales, people?), I told the kids they could stay up and watch the halftime show and then hit the showers to prepare for bedtime.

Beyonce‘ took the stage amid all the fire and hype. And only a few minutes passed before I shut off the TV and ushered the kids upstairs.

There was nothing redeeming about her performance that I wanted to share with my children. Bumping and grinding, skimpy attire, it’s just not the image I want my children to aspire to. She may be talented, she may be famous, she may be adored – but in my house, we have grander pursuits to train our attention on.

I know I sound like a stick in the mud. I’m OK with that. Fans and critics lauded Beyonce’ for a fine performance. That’s great and I am happy for her.

I still stand firm in the idea that I am building a life and a family focused on more important things than a big football game where too much money is spent on things that don’t really matter. The only reason I tuned in in the first place was to see how creative the advertisers were this year.

Ultimately, it all comes back to good, intriguing storytelling. Think about that next time you watch a commercial or even a halftime show – and ask yourself, what is the story this performance is trying to communicate to me? At the end of the day, we gather around people who tell stories similar to our own or ones that we want to buy into, to aspire toward. That’s all it comes down to. And it’s the art of spinning tales that makes or breaks just about everything.

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