Another thought about that Advertising Age story which I posted on yesterday. The CEO of Groupon blamed his company's offensive Super Bowl commercial on his agency, saying "We placed too much trust in the agency."
Aside from being an unprofessional and childish sentiment, it sheds perhaps an unintended light about how agencies toss away good judgement when developing advertising for the Super Bowl. Most pre-Super Bowl advertising chatter is about the price - is $3 million for a 30-second commercial worth it. That's questionable and often the decision is not based on business needs but on vanity alone. What's pretty clear, though, is that sinking that much money into one spot and the pressure of the Big Game alters the way agencies, and clients, behave when it comes to Super Bowl advertising. Business prudence gives way to mindless entertainment. Egos, inflated organs ordinarily in the ad business, get out of control. The chatter inside the echo chamber is how people watch the game for the ads. Perhaps those who believe it should heed the late S.F.'s adman Howard Gossage warning, "The real fact of the matter is that nobody reads ads. People read what interest them and sometimes it's an ad".
Somewhere along the advertising development process good judgement is tossed away, and selling becomes secondary. Too many commercials try so hard that they not only fail, but they turn out to be offensive as the Groupon commercial was, or insult the viewers intelligence with low brow humor. It is as if the advertising brief is to get the commercial to the top the USA Today post-game popularity poll, a totally irrelevant measurement. And of course, when the advertiser is a new one, or one that will blow the entire budget on one spot, the pressure to hit a grand slam home run is magnified - to reach out to another sport, as a metaphor. And why is it necessary to create "special" Super Bowl advertising? Do clients really let their agencies produce lesser advertising year round and only ask for greatness Super Bowl time?
Considering the quality of the advertising in the last few Super Bowls, perhaps agencies should root for the NFL strike to be a long one.