Super sell: Professor discusses how Bowl ads got to be such a big deal BY CINDY STAUFFER, Staff Writer
We are on the brink of Super Bowl Sunday and many of us are talking not about the Baltimore Ravens or the San Francisco 49ers, but the commercials.
You probably already have heard about a few: the VW ad featuring the Minnesota guy who talks with a Jamaican accent; the Taco Bell one with grandpa on the motorized wheelchair speeding down the football field in an empty stadium; the Mercedes-Benz commercial featuring model Kate Upton getting a football team to wash a car for her.
At a cost of nearly $4 million for 30 seconds of air time, the ads are a good investment, particularly if they are well done, says Bill Dorman, a Millersville University professor in the communications and theater department.
More than 179 million people are expected to tune in to the Super Bowl. That's a lot of eyeballs, many of which are more focused on the ads than the actual game.
How do commercials end up (sometimes) eclipsing the year's biggest football game? Why are we so transfixed by the ads? Which ones will be the talk of the town Monday morning?
Dorman has lots of ideas.
1. How long have Super Bowl ads been a big deal?
Probably from a sports history standpoint, the largest media event started as the result of (New York Jets quarterback) Joe Namath. He was from the number-one media market and, in 1969, he guaranteed a win.
That drew a lot of attention, and then it became like the auto industry's September, when they used to unveil their cars. The Super Bowl became the place to unveil your ads.
2. Why are the commercials as big a deal as the game to some people?
For non-football people, if you're going to have to sit in front of that stupid TV for four hours, you're going to have the ads to watch.
I go to a Super Bowl party every year and the room gets absolutely silent during the commercials. You don't need to be quiet to watch the game, but you want to hear and watch the ads.
I refer to it as the club. If you were in the "Sex and the City" club, you go to your meeting every week so when your members get together tomorrow, you can talk about what happened. It's one of the largest TV audiences of the year, and one of the last things you would want to do is say, "I didn't watch."
3. Do the recent teasers on the Internet and social media detract from the ads by taking away the surprise of seeing them for the first time during the game?
Television always has been terrible at keeping secrets, with the exception of some events you and I could think of, like who shot J.R.
Most of the time there is a real comfort level in familiarity. The Road Runner is not going to get caught, so why do we watch it for five minutes?
There is a huge number of people who will know everything that is going to be on. It doesn't matter.
It's more important that they've seen it so they can turn to their friend and say, "Hey, watch this. He's going to do this. I know. I'm an insider. I'm a source and an expert, and you should listen to what I know about this."
4. What ads have caught your attention this year?
I'm going to be really interested to see the fallout from the Volkswagen ad. The guy is very Caucasian but speaks with a Jamaican accent ... I'm very interested to see the cultural dynamic.
Are people going to be insulted? Are they making fun of people from (pick one)?
They made it provocative for a reason.
5. What are the winners and losers from past years?
I like the Budweiser ads with the Clydesdales, picking on personalities. The coke ad with Mean Joe Greene and the remake, where the form became part of the message. We're making fun of ourselves then.
I can't think of a bomb. I know there have been a couple that just didn't work, but they don't come to mind, which is probably the best testament that they didn't work. A really bad ad I remember, and that means it still worked.