For Ad Pros, the Big Game Can Become a Super Bowl of Stress
When you're a creative director, having a commercial on the Super Bowl is awesome. By the way can I say Super Bowl? Or do I have to call it the "big game?" Someday the NFL will just trademark the "big game" and then we'll have to go to something even more stupid. Large match? Gigantic contest? Super-sized sports thing?
Anyway, since I founded my own shop, I've found myself making regional Super Bowl ads for the past couple of years. Which is fine with me. Here are some of the many ways national Super Bowl ads are stressful.
Ad Meter Mania
Most agency upper management and a lot of clients consider it a total failure if you fail to crack the top ten on the USA Today Ad Meter. It's the only day in the entire year that any of these people even think about what USA Today thinks about them. But on the day after the Super Bowl, USA Today is the cutest boy in school, and everyone want him to smile in their direction. And if you're not in the top ten, you're definitely not getting asked to the ad prom. Which I guess would be Cannes? I don't know, I'm a little lost in this metaphor.
Celebrities are all crazy. I did a spot with a TV star who we flew in a private jet from L.A. to New York so she could be on set bright and early. She arrived bright and early, and then proceeded to stay in her trailer until 3 p.m. Yup, we just waited. Popping M&M's from the craft service table and wishing they were Xanax. During that same campaign we filmed a now former ex-president of the United States, who'd say, "That sucked" halfway through every take. Then there was the delay while he told our director a long story about how the exotic green marble in the bathroom of his opulent NYC apartment had to be sourced by "guys with machine guns in the jungle." Which sounds like a plausible premise for a new reality series. "Machine Gun Marble Pirates" coming soon to the Discovery Channel.
I once shot an E*Trade Super Bowl spot about a bank robbing its customers. We cast the bank manager/robber because of the menacing way he screamed "Down on the floor!" at the beginning of the spot. We all laughed when the actor screamed 'Down on the floor' on the audition. We all howled when he screamed 'Down on the floor!' in call backs. The clients cheered when he screamed 'Down on the floor" upon viewing the casting picks. Then we and the clients all roared in laughter when he screamed 'Down on the floor!' over and over again on the day of the shoot. And we were all delighted to hear the editor laugh hysterically as he inserted "Down on the floor!" in the rough cut. Then, you guessed it, the one and only note from agency upper management? 'We hate the way he screams 'Down on the floor!'" After a chat between myself and my advertising overlords that was as awkward as it was brief, "Down on the floor!" stayed in.
One of the weirdest days I ever spent was sitting in a TV studio in Manhattan with an earpiece in my ear, talking to local morning show hosts across the country in five-minute increments via satellite about my upcoming TV spot on the Super Bowl. All I could see was a camera lens. And all they could see was me on a fake NYC skyline backdrop in a jacket and tie I literally bought at the airport Brooks Brothers. I have a feeling my bewildered, semi coherent interviews did not exactly make for scintillating C and D metro market morning TV viewing. When it was over, a snowstorm descended over New York and I wound up taking the twenty hour Amtrak ride home because the airports were shut down. Despite no WiFi and the worst steak I've ever eaten, the Amtrak ride was far more enjoyable.
I won't have a spot on the game this Sunday. but I'll still be watching. Because no matter which two teams are out on that field (I have no idea) there are countless advertising teams who left it all out on the field to get their spot made. I raise a chicken wing and juicy IPA to each and every one of you. You've already won just by being in the game. No matter what that damn Ad Meter says.