Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Gladiatorial Commercials...It's SuperBowl!

The Superbowl is a curious phenomenon to a non-American. Firstly because the game is American Football which is as baffling to me as I am sure cricket is to Americans. Actually cricket baffles me too, but you get the point. The truly interesting part of Superbowl is the rise of the Superbowl commercial. At nearly three million US dollars per spot it elevates the humble ad to something of immediate cultural significance, rather than a routine artifact. It's like getting the best dinner set out for when company comes. In this case 'company' equals a viewing audience of over 180 million people.

Perhaps no other sport has been developed to accommodate advertising quite as much as American Football (aka gridiron). More than 70 commercials can be squeezed in to the game. So, combine monumental viewer expectation with the need to cut-through and the advertiser's job is about as hard as the player's; battling their way to the touch down.

It is also interesting when the ads themselves are self referential. The viewer is completely in on the joke and the veil is pulled back like in this spot for FedEx



I've posted a couple of famous Superbowl commercials on this blog in the past - Herding Cats for EDS, 1984 for Apple...the phenomenon goes back a long way. There is even talk in the web of a commercial with Joe Nameth and Farrah Fawcett where the former lathers and shaves the latter. The mind boggles. But then, with everything at the extreme end of American culture, the mind boggles.

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