I suspect 2014 will be one of the last years that Super Bowl commercials have the cultural power they do. As our consumption patterns move away from must-see TV and all-uniting cultural events toward streaming, digital, on-demand entertainment, there’s not much left that everyone is going to tune in to en masse.
To be sure, the Super Bowl is bound to be one of those last real-time mass-consumed events, and it reportedly had the chance to break the 2012 record for viewing audience of 111.3 million people. But the Ad Bowl—which has long been the main draw of the game even for many folks who aren’t in the ad business (who cares about football when there are ads to watch?)—got under way very early this year, and the ads broke with huge drama (read: buzz on steroids). And even though the Los Angeles Times reported in December that the average TV spot went for about $4 million (a number Forbes staffer Mike Ozanian reported could deliver less bang for the buck than last year’s audience-per-ad-dollar decrease of 84 percent since 1967), it seems as if no one waited for last night to see or discuss them. The Web lit up with synopses, conversation, buzz and even videos of the commercials themselves weeks before the big game. (Bleacher Report had good previews here and here.)
We even knew all about, and saw, a commercial that ended up not running: the one with Scarlett Johansson shimmying out of a bathrobe and sipping fizzy water made with a SodaStream machine, because her lines dissed Coke and Pepsi. The story of that unaired ad and how it became “marketing gold” even landed in Harvard Business Review.
Here’s my short list of the ads that should have aired—even with that $4 million price of entry:
Of course, some of these are just wishful thinking, but others seem like no-brainers to me. And although we might be in one of our last years of the cult of the $4 million Super Bowl ad, those ads are still very influential in 2014. The leaks and the buzz are making them even more so.
The companies that don’t pony up the dough for spots and can’t figure out how to crash through the clutter need to realize that these weeks are all about staking out a share of something. I reckon we need a new metric: share of chatter. That’s why I’ll be eavesdropping this morning and counting who is talking about what—and why I’ll be even more interested in what trends on Twitter, Google, Reddit and the like.
And that brings me back to my wish list of ads we should have seen. Last but not least, I think the 4A’s—the American Association of Advertising Agencies—should have had a spot during the game, staking a claim to its magnificent role in shaping culture and highlighting the role it will continue to have as we move away from must-see real-time TV into a viral future. Just think where everyone in my profession would be, let alone what the Super Bowl would be, if it hadn’t been for Steve Jobs, ChiatDay, Lee Clow, Steve Hayden and Ridley Scott. Their brilliant “1984” ad foreshadowed the new social we think is oh so normal.