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What Super Bowl XLV can teach you about modern communication


Another  year & another Super Bowl (XLV) with all the hype that surrounds it—and I'm just talking about the Super Bowl XLV TV ads, which, it could be argued, has almost eclipsed the game itself. 

The build up to these commercials is as incredible as the price for a :30 spot on Super Bowl XLV, which cost USD 3M. And remember that does not include production costs which can jack the price even higher (I'm talking to you Budweiser). It's no wonder with price tags that look more like small movie budgets, that they now come out with coming attractions for these commercials the week before the "big game." 

People will argue over which commercial was best (I preferred the Chrysler ad featuring Eminem ... "Imported from Detroit," a great line). But what the commercials teach us is that advertising has to be utterly engaging. It either has to be very interesting or very entertaining, or both.

I just read a great article by Joe Frydl entitled Can content win the battle for attention? He writes about how the idea that the best way to capture someone's attention is to be relevant is now passé. Relevant isn't enough anymore, because everyone is relevant. You and six of your competitors are supplying relevant messages to your potential target. You have to do more.

Or as Frydl puts it:

"In a world in which an incomprehensively vast amount of information is consuming human attention, relevant marketing information is no longer enough. Information that also rewards the attention of the recipient in some  (even small) way will be better at capturing attention and turning it into commerce that information that is merely relevant."

We, as marketers, are not just competing with each other anymore. We are also competing against TV shows, streaming content, DVRs, daily chores, parental duties, social media, etc. to grab the very limited and time-constrained attention of the target. All things being equal—i.e., a targeted and relevant message—you must provide value to the person willing to pay attention.

It used to be said that content was king. Then that line was morphed into relevant content is king. Well, it seems that the king is dead, and that the jester is getting all the eyeballs now. We have to stop thinking how are our ads going to be different than the competition and start thinking how is this ad is going to be different, period.

And with that I give you my favorite Super Bowl XLV commercials.

Chrysler Eminem - Imported from Detroit
Made me want to go out and buy a Chrysler tomorrow, pop in an Eminem CD, and cruise by a Mercedes dealership with a smug sneer on my face.

Volkswagen Passat - The Force
The reaction of the kid when the car starts is perfect and makes the whole thing work.

 Volkswagen - Black Beetle

I now have an irrational need to see the new VW Beetle.

 Groupon - Tibet

The solemn voice of Tim Hutton with the surprise switch got the message across in a memorable way. 

Which is your favorite? Vote for your favorite commercials at USA Today.


Kevin Duffy is the Creative Director for The Duffy Agency's Boston office.

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