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February 7, 2007
And immediately following your Super Bowl Sunday will be...Monday

"Hey, nice to meet you."

"Nice to meet — Oooh, the Colts again! — Sorry about that. Nice to meet you, too."

"So, you have money on this game?"

"Not really, just an office pool. Buy a few squares on the grid, pretty much what I do every year."

"Yeah, where do you work?"

"An ad agency. You?"

"You're in advertising?! That’s always seemed, sort of like, something interesting to do, you know? Me? I'm stuck in real estate, like everyone else. So what do you do at the agency?"

"I actually come up with the ads."

"Wow. That’s pretty coo—"

At that moment, a Super Bowl ad for Sierra Mist comes on, with celebrities as characters, and they’re in some kind of self-defense class. The kind that is oddly desperate to be funny.

"…that’s… well — hey, you better get back to watching the game. Don’t want to miss winning that square in the pool."

"Um. Yeah. See you around."

• • • • •

Used to be that, when you’d go to a party, you’d inevitably end up telling somebody that you’re in advertising; "what you do" is unavoidable conversation fodder. And typically, that other person seems really impressed with the ad industry. Because that other person, like everyone else, venerates the annual Battle Of The Ads, a competition often considered more important than the one it sponsors. This person will fondly remember many commercials as famous exhibitions of originality, those minute-and-under doses of concentrated entertainment, so fresh and so bold.

Until now.

What happened? Well, we could spend the next 400 words finger-pointing, or we could do something about it. But, you say. we’re not able to change our clients. This may be true. But then, what’s the point of doing what we do? Ever heard, "Be in it to win it," "Don’t do anything half-ass," and all those clichés?

Sticking to this lofty ideal might necessitate going and finding the right types of clients. The types that want to do something original. Original as in, never been done before. Original as in Apple’s "1984," which we’re all sick of hearing about. But hey, "1984" was an aberration. No one can refute that. It was first to make a huge deal at The Super Bowl, to choose the Super Bowl, an original media strategy in its time. This we know.

So what to do? Let's accept that the Super Bowl is an evolving arena for advertisers, starting with the big bang of "1984." Presently, the SB stands as the general public's barometer of the ad industry. That said, we need to treat this advertising event with greater respect, by only doing that which is a.) epic and b.) original, and seeking out the clients who are committed to a proper Super Bowl ad. What else can we do? Choose the new Super Bowls. The industry is warming up to making epic, memorable spots for other venues, such as the AMAs, The Grammys, the VMAs, and so forth. JC Penney did an impressive job during one of those events with this:

JC Penney Ad

What about new-ish media, you say? The New Super Bowl could also be a captivating rich media online banner that expands, lets you play a game all over your web content, then lets you enter to win a PS3, right? Or it could be a branded entertainment show or mini-series put on by a stealthy sponsor. But let's look at the numbers. Up-to-the-minute statistics list any online advertising below the median of effective channels. And branded content, as interesting as it is, doesn't sell a product. It suggests it. So let’s return to the TV commercial. The kind that meets the above criteria of being epic and original. These things, done right, actually work. Or sponsors wouldn’t pay that SB premium.

Okay, according to my Talent Zoo requirement, 50 words left. Here goes: somebody in an ad who gets hit with something, whether it be a rock, a car, or a Three Stooges-like hand — not original. It was original when Fox Sports did the "Sounds Of The Game" campaign about a decade ago. So enough with that physical comedy. Song and dance, not original. Cheesy babes, not original. A guy’s beer-drinking domain, nope. FedEx’s carbon-copy ending of last year’s SB spot, ditto. Bald guy jokes, no. Here's original:

"Evil Beaver" (familiar, Mr. Garmin Maposaurus?)
"Art Class" Hope you weren't counting words.

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After roughly 15 years in advertising -- at places such as TBWA Chiat/Day, Leo Burnett, Euro RSCG, and JWT -- Britt Benston now works independently for a few fantastic clients. He has also come up with and designed iScreenwriter, a highly functional mobile screenwriting application available at Apple's App Store early this fall.

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