The fun thing about the Super Bowl is that when it comes near, mainstream media shifts its coverage to advertising. Advertising gets hit from all angles by the media, too: what's good advertising, what's bad advertising, why does our society need advertising, the invasiveness of advertising, and so on.
Many pieces are off point, and some are not.
It is important, though, for the advertising industry to speak up when such media critics pop their heads into our domain to give their two cents about advertising. One such head is Esquire's Stephen Marche, who wrote a piece today about bringing back good advertising.
We do not disagree with his premise; we too think that AdLand has drifted more towards counting eyeballs than appealing to eyeballs, and capturing the market instead of luring. In his piece, Marche remarked about the industry in a way we found hard to find fault:
There are people in advertising as brilliant as any who have ever been, but their visions have to be funneled into increasingly boring and diffuse modes that are cheaper and stupider.
We have probably said that a couple of times ourselves, but it is always a gut-check to see that an outsider has the same sentiment. No doubt, as an observer of the masses, Marche has colleagues in AdLand who confide in him, or being an observer who can see the smart people in the industry and the nonsensical work, he sees the disconnect.
Marche also adds the quip that advertising is "too important to be left to Google and Twitter and Foursquare." Again, we would agree; as important as it is for the message to be found, it is just as important for the message to be well crafted and creative. Advertising is woven into our social fabric, and so how advertising changes will affect how people gather and retain information, and how they ultimately consume the products and services that appeal to them.
But that is where most of our likenesses end.
Like other media, Marche puts the blame of hyperconsumption on advertising. Instead of wagging his finger at the businesses that build huge budgets for advertising, the businesses that build products that are meant to be replaced instead of last, or blaming the consumer for not putting their foot down and demanding a change in business philosophy or the free enterprise nature of our economy that survives on consumption, Marche blames the messenger.
Yes, because "hyperconsumption" will go away if advertising does.
Like insider trading went away when the SEC was established, and discrimination went away once the Equal Opportunities Act became law, right?
Marche is trying to say that he wants all advertising to attract the sense of excitement like Super Bowl advertising does. The advertising during the big show introduces the brand, gives the crowd something to taste, and a way to get more of it. There's no "sly" product placement, it doesn't pop up on your laptop because you visited a certain site; it's there, in your face, and you get the opportunity to decide, then and there, if you'd like to know more about that product or service.
Though Marche, in our opinion, misses the mark on some points, it is hard not to feel the same sentiment in asking for higher quality performance in commercials. Let's hope this year's Super Bowl delivers, and maintains that little bit of glamour AdLand has left.