By Hando Estrella
The super bowl is a staple of American culture and no one understands that better than the good ol’ American brands selling you stuff.
Besides being a tour de force of athletic prowess, the super bowl shares the spotlight for ads which have arguably become just as much or a spectacle as the game itself.
An estimated 111.3 million viewers tuned in to watch the long-awaited game and met the barrage of hundreds of millions of dollars worth of the world’s best advertising campaigns.
For advertisers, the super bowl is a time to shine. With that many eyes on you, it’s the Mad Man’s (Advertiser) dream to display that uncanny creative ability to get into your head and out through your wallet. The ads have become a much awaited event in an of themselves to the point where people tune in for the ads alone.
Advertisers and their clients (the companies) know this and have continuously shelled out ever increasing amounts of money to assemble the most creative minds. Exceeding both their budgets and expectations year after year. This year, a record amount of $5 million dollars for 30 seconds of airtime was standard and a collective $369.6 million were shelled out between the auto, beverage, tech, media, and other industries according to the WSJ.
But this piece isn’t about the towering greenbacks stacked to get you to buy stuff. I’m writing this short reaction piece to a short quote in that aforementioned Wall Street Journal article.
The ads this year were divided into two categories: funny and political. Both were welcomed though clearly with mixed feelings from viewers. As expected, people reacted positively to the funny and entertaining ads, while expressing disdain for the more political and social ads. “The ad had nice intentions but I am not really interested in a political message during the game” said Dan White, a 45-year-old from Rowley, Mass. “I am looking for more humor in the commercials,” he added.
Though I can understand this desire for humor given the context, and agree that funny enormously outweighs serious in terms of sales; I have to strongly disagree with the response given by the creative director at Partners + Napier. Creative director Pete VonDerLinn responded to Mr. White’s comment by saying: “people need an escape right now.”
Now, although I am not putting Mr. VonDerLinn under the gun and understand the audience and context in which he speaks, I couldn’t disagree more. Perhaps there is a time and a place for everything. Perhaps people do need an escape.
But that time IS NOT NOW!
NOW is NOT the time for an escape.
NOW is NOT the time for a distraction.
NOW is NOT the time for indifference.
The fact of the matter is that regardless of how you voted, this country is in SERIOUS need of informed and engaged citizens. Both parties are now seeing the President bear his true colors. Whether you’re right or left, red or blue, the President is doing one thing for sure: shaking things up. It would behoove us to remember that this is all a slight of hand.
Though I am not a proponent of conspiracy theories and the like, I am open minded and not a complete stranger to history. We forget that regardless of who is in power, war is still old men talking and young men dying. Our recent 20th century history is not without a plethora of legislation (under both parties) that has at times limited or severely endangered our “self evident truths.”
Though I am sure Mr. VonDerLinn was playing to the crowd, I cannot emphasis enough how misplaced it was at this critical juncture in modern history.
For the better part of three years, I have been following the work of Historian Niall Ferguson. Known for his award winning documentary work, Mr. Ferguson’s recent talk just prior to the election, shortly and eloquently explains the importance of historical context, critical thinking, and (actual) fact checking. In this brief talk at Zeitgeist, Ferguson clarifies the similarities and differences between populism and fascism. Having become perhaps what he calls “The United States of Amnesia”, Ferguson shows us that not only is the populist movement in America not a new phenomenon, but one in great danger of resurrection.