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02/05/2002 - SUPERBOWL


All right, I know I started a story about parking tickets last week, and I mentioned that I'd finish it this week, but I'm going to put that on hold in order to talk about the Superbowl.

The Superbowl is the largest gathering of eyeballs in history. Something like half of the top ten highest-rated programs of all time have been Superbowls. This year will likely prove to be the same, as the game actually went down to the wire.

With the events of 9/11, it was obvious that the Superbowl was going to be used as sort of a healing platform - a way to honor and also move forward from the past year. It's actually an example where great ideas can have an immediate impact on the world. Because whether in the form of advertisements or the halftime show, people really can be deeply affected by the communal ritual of the Superbowl.

The banner of 9/11 victims was moving, as was most of U2's set. But the ecstatically screaming fans (all planted there, by the way) at Bono's feet were a jarring juxtaposition, and really only served to disrupt the solemnity of a moment better left alone. I'm not saying that the occasion shouldn't have been celebratory - just that the idea of a bunch of screaming beautiful people partying as the names of the dead went up a banner seemed, well, in poor taste.

The National Anthem, as always, provided an affecting moment - but Mariah Carey singing it was unfortunate. Mariah Carey has a wonderful voice. The voice of an angel. But she doesn't strike me as the kind of person who understands most of the words in the anthem. My suspicions were further confirmed when she mispronounced a couple of them during the singing. It might have been nice to have someone who actually understood the deeper meaning of the song.

The Budweiser advertisement with the Clydesdales was about the best tribute - mostly because it kept its mouth shut and let the visuals do the talking. I would have gone one further and taken the Budweiser logo off the end of the commercial. The linking up of values and products is the basis of advertising, but there are some cases where it just seems like it's in poor taste. Did anyone else get the feeling that the tagline for the beer commercials should have been: "Maintaining freedom so you can get drunk"?

In brief on the other stuff: The militaristic graphic transitions were scary. Many, many movies were advertised, letting us know that Hollywood blockbusters are about to have another bloodbath starting in May. Too many companies used the same ads they had already developed, which I think is a great mistake. Boring. The e-trade monkey advertisement would make me fire my agency. The best ad, in my opinion, was the Yahoo dolphin ad.

Getting meaning across is often common sense. I'm sure all of these campaigns and halftime show moments looked great in concept. If they didn't, very smart executives at major companies would have never approved them. But this just goes to show, once more, that execution is everything. Too bad so few people got it right.

I guess we shouldn't expect more in a medium that has, as its sole purpose, to sell stuff. But I'm still of the mind that ads and events like this can elevate a population. Witness some of the great ads that Nike has done over the years; think back to the Lake Placid Olympics, and the victory of the U.S. Hockey Team. These shared experiences can have deep and lasting effects, and they can help to heal wounds.

At least the game was pretty good.

Armchair propagandist,



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