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The Ad Bowl (There Was Also a Football Game)

5 min read

Andrew Meadors has done very well as an insurance executive, and that has fueled a life as one of Arkansas’ most enthusiastic sports fans.

But this year’s Super Bowl was a little too rich for his blood.

He wasn’t in Las Vegas on Sunday, because the Sunstar Insurance of Arkansas CEO figured it would take close to $30,000 for him to attend the big game in style with his wife, Susan.

It would have been his 11th Super Bowl, and he recalled some of the highlights on Friday at a preview of Super Bowl commercials that the Cranford Co. and The Peacock Group of Little Rock have been putting on for a decade.

The ad preview is for marketing colleagues, clients, friends and others, and Meadors took the microphone from Jay Cranford, Cranford & Co.’s chief creative officer, after a remote appearance by Denver Peacock, who was headed to Las Vegas not for the Super Bowl, but for a U2 concert.

“I was going to say if Denver is going to the Super Bowl he’s really rich, OK,” Meadors said. “This would be the most expensive Super Bowl of all time and the first one ever in Las Vegas.”

The 10 halftime shows that Meadors saw were among the most memorable in nearly 60 years of NFL championship extravaganzas.

“Michael Jackson, Prince doing ‘Purple Rain’ in the rain at Miami. Beyoncé in New Orleans when she blew the lights out,” Meadors said. He even witnessed the Janet Jackson/Justin Timberlake “wardrobe malfunction.”

“Susan and I were there in Houston. We were pretty far away from it, but we were in the building.”

Meadors mentioned this year’s “Taylor Swift effect.” The wildly popular singer is dating Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce and was with him on Sunday. “Part of the reason the prices are nuts in Vegas is that dads and moms are under massive pressure around the country from their teenage daughters: ‘Oh my God, I’ve got to go see her.’”

The price of airing a 30-second commercial in this year’s game was $7 million, the same as last year. “I remember very well when [the cost] hit $1 million per spot back around the year 2000.”

Local 30-second spots went for $45,000, Jay Cranford said.

According to The Street and Smith’s Sports Business Journal, which Meadors called the bible of sports marketing media, “97 of the 100 top-rated programs in this past year was NFL football,” he said. “I’ll say it again, 97 out of 100. It’s just amazing.”

Meadors predicted $2.3 billion would be bet on the game worldwide. There was a line on whether Kelce would propose to Swift after the game. “It’s not going to happen if the Chiefs lose. As a guy, I’m telling you.”

Meadors predicted a close game, and he was right. The Chiefs beat the San Francisco 49ers 25-22 in overtime.

Kelce did not propose to Swift, at least not on television.

***

Danny Koteras, the creative director at Stone Ward in Little Rock, says that what makes a good Super Bowl commercial are the same ingredients that make a good commercial the other 364 days a year: making the audience remember your brand and like your brand.

Jay Cranford’s biggest complaint about the dozens of big commercials, with big stars, special effects and laughs, was that the product was lost in the mix.

Koteras agreed.

“Notice I said ‘remember your brand,’ not ‘remember your commercial,’” Koteras said. “How many times on the Monday morning after the game have you been talking about Super Bowl spots and said, ‘I don’t know who the commercial was for, but did you see …?”

Some of Koteras’ favorites this year featured comedy and celebrity: a Kawasaki Ridge commercial in which a driver, a rider, a bear and even a bald eagle grew mullets. “Business in the front, party in the rear,” was the slogan.

Koteras and Cranford both liked a Pluto TV ad about the TV service growing couch potatoes.

Koteras also got a kick out of Etsy’s Gift Mode ad in which America repays French kindness for the gift of the Statue of Liberty with a cheese board.

His “best use of celebrity” picks were Patrick Stewart in an ad for Paramount+, along with Drew Barrymore, Tua Taglovailoa and the animated, football-headed character Arnold.

Another consensus pick in the celebrity category was BetMGM, narrated by Vince Vaughn, who invites everyone to get in on the action except Tom Brady, who has “won enough.”

Fort Smith advertising man Chip Paris of Paris Marketing and Public Relations said not many of the commercials “moved the needle,” even with huge stars like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Beyoncé and Christopher Walken.

But he liked a self-deprecating Dunkin’ Donuts’ 60-second ad at halftime that had Ben Affleck, Matt Damon and Brady crashing Jennifer Lopez’s recording session.

“Anytime celebrities are comfortable making fun of themselves, it can be a win for the brand. In this case, a really well-produced spot and high awareness/recognition for Dunkin.” He also praised an Uber Eats commercial featuring Jennifer Anniston and David Schwimmer.  “Plus the Usher bit at the end.”

Paris didn’t love E-Trade’s babies-playing-pickleball ad, saying it seemed a bit lazy and uninspired. Another non-favorite was a political ad for Robert Kennedy Jr. Paris “didn’t like the repurposing of the 1960s Kennedy spot” and said there was “no clear explanation for what they were trying to say.”

Adweek declared on Monday, “Clever, cheeky and silly ruled the day,” picking the Paramount+ ad as its second favorite behind first-time Super Bowl advertiser CereVa’s campaign that suggested that quirky actor Michael Cera founded the skin products company. Cera participated in public stunts and was helped by social media influencers who shared in the prank.

“By the time the truth was revealed through CeraVe’s commercial — the brand was developed with dermatologists, not Cera — it was already the most buzzworthy and anticipated campaign of the season, generating attention far beyond the game,” Adweek wrote. The Ogilvy agency was behind the ad.

Arnold Schwarzenegger starred in Adweek’s third-ranked commercial as “Agent State Farm,” reuniting with his “Twins” co-star Danny DeVito.

Beyoncé was in a 60-second spot for Verizon, failing to break the company’s 5G network even though she announced a new album, posed in pink as “BarBey” and unveiling a gorgeous robot named Beyonce-AI.

Star power also drove Dunkin’ Donuts’ halftime 60-second ad, with Ben Affleck, Matt Damon and Brady crashing Jennifer Lopez’s recording session.

 

 

 

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