The Boring Bowl?

Say what you want about dot-com fallout. It was bound to happen; the bubble had to burst. What I miss are those great Super Bowl ads.

A couple of years ago, industry pundits called it “The Dot-Com Bowl.” The ads were creative, innovative, slickly produced, and funny as hell. Typically, the room clears to load up on chili and beer, leaving me by my lonesome with the commercials. Not during “The Dot-Com Bowl”. To many, the ads were better than the game. Almost everyone can still name at least one good ad from the game.

What the heck happened? A couple days before the game, I asked friends in broadcast to report on the status of ads sold. One told me 20 percent of the space was still for sale. We all know the going rate is astronomical. This year, it was close to $2 million for a 30-second spot in the first half.

How did this year’s ads rank? USA TODAY had a panel of 118 adults rank the best ads during last weekend’s game, using handheld meters. The results are as follows:

Best Ads

Company Description Score
Anheuser-Bush Romantic evening goes awry with satin sheets. 9.11
Anheuser-Bush Pet falcon hunts for bottles of Bud Light 8.90
Anheuser-Bush Cedric the Entertainer plays matchmaker 8.57
Charles Schwab Hank Aaron advises Barry Bonds to retire 8.36
Anheuser-Bush Minifridge fights BattleBot for Bud Light 8.34
Lipton Brisk Danny DeVito begins revolt after puppets fired 8.27
Anheuser-Bush Jersey guys encounter motormouth Texan 8.23
E-Trade Monkey in musical 8.20
Levi’s Man crossing street finds his legs have the moves 8.12
Blockbuster Video Pets dance after watching people rent videos 8.02

Worst Ads

Advertiser Ad Score
Taco Bell Techie shows off steak quesadilla to friends 5.42
Subway Jared returns with low-fat message 5.32
Pepsi-Cola Britney Spears sings ’50s Pepsi jingle in diner 5.20
Roche Pharmaceuticals Tamiflu commercial for flu medication 5.07
Taco Bell Auto marketing used to launch food line 5.00

Source: USA TODAY, B4, February 4, 2002

You can see the ads yourself, courtesy of IFILM.

The hallway banter at our agency centered around the AT&T teaser campaign unveiled during the game. The ads talked about “mlife” without defining the term. The TV ads were simply tagged with a URL:

I watched the game with non-ad friends. They were all vocally frustrated with the ad — and my profession. Most thought it was a spot for MetLife. There have been several accounts of users inserting the well-publicized link in their browsers. Lo and behold, the server was down.

As advertisers, don’t we have a responsibility to consumers? Isn’t one of the golden rules to identify yourself in your ads? Why waste people’s time? Why be campy? Why risk negative brand reception? Why drive everyone to a Web site? Is it only about traffic, sheer numbers? Doesn’t qualified traffic matter anymore? It’s ironic that “life without wires” depends on wires. Wires attached to servers that crash. What can the follow up to this campaign possibly be?

MSN posted a list of the best Super Bowl ads ever. Feel free to check out the ads listed as all-time greats and make your own comparisons.

Despite my professional disappointment with this year’s game, hey — I’m a Boston gal. In the end, I put my advertising life aside and enjoyed the home team’s victory.

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