BIG NAMES ON THE BIG GAME

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With Super Bbowl XL just three weeks away, water-cooler talk about the advertising is going full tilt. And debate is raging over how much the Big Game still matters in an age of podcasts and integrated content. So, Advertising Age sought out the perspective of those closest to the action, namely three of Super Bowl's perennial go-to directors.

Joe Pytka

AA: How are the creative demands different for the Super Bowl?

Mr. Pytka: The commercial has to run in the first half of the Super Bowl and has to be funny. Those are the basic broad stroke rules. Other than that I'm not sure what the rules are. Celebrities don't hurt. Diet Pepsi will have celebrities.

AA: How have the creative demands for Super Bowl ads changed over time?

Mr. Pytka: Judgment has been compromised a bit for the cheap effect. There is now a formula for a Super Bowl ad that people try to top and it's basically a bad joke. Something that's a big joke for a moment, but if you saw it three times you'd hate it. Some of my clients are the worst offenders.

AA: With viral ads, TiVo, on-demand entertainment and integrated content, how much more or less important are TV spots today in the overall communication mix?

Mr. Pytka: There are a lot efforts to get advertising on TiVO that still penetrate [regular TV]. Many of my friends have that assignment. ... I'm not saying I have an answer for this. I don't see anybody coming up with anything that good. Most commercials suck, most movies suck, most television sucks.

AA: What's your favorite Super Bowl Spot overall and of your own?

Mr. Pytka: I loved Ridley [Scott]'s spot, "1984." Ridley's spot is probably the high moment of Super Bowl advertising and it hasn't been reached since. While I'm proud of a lot of stuff I've done, I'm most proud of the "Applause" commercial for Anheuser-Busch.

AA: What's the fascination with monkeys in Super Bowl spots? Are you planning any spots with them?

Mr. Pytka: They're actually chimps. People who use chimps should be shot. I think those commercials used last year in the Super Bowl will be the last we'll see of it. I don't think you're allowed to use chimps anymore in advertising, but it might have been a nightmare I had.

Bryan Buckley

AA: What's with the monkeys?

Mr. Buckley: The monkeys and myself, we have special relationship. Personally, I love working with chimps. They're really a lot of fun to work with. Chimps seem to work with that beer drinking, football watchin' audience. Joe Pytka's done more bears than anybody. You might make fun of the chimps, but don't forget, he does the bears.

AA: What's you're favorite overall Super Bowl spot and your own favorite Super Bowl spot?

Mr. Buckley: Everyone goes back to the Apple "1984" spot. That's definitive. As for my own favorite spot, I actually like the purely Super Bowl spot, the chimp spot done for E-Trade. To me the original one, the first one was so brash and smart.

AA: Is the move toward more non-traditional creative factoring into your work?

Mr. Buckley: It's a given now that, not all the work I'm doing this year but a good chunk of it for various advertisers has to work on numerous levels, certainly Internet and then some, whether it's viral or whatever. It just makes the stakes much higher. [An ad] has to work on many levels so the attention to detail and the stakes are higher.

AA: Your GoDaddy.com spot created quite a controversy last year and was criticized by many people. What's your side of the debate?

Mr. Buckley: It was the most TiVoed moment in commercial advertising history. It was second most TiVoed thing of the game behind Teddy Bruschi's interception. ... I was blown away by the amount of publicity and the firestorm that surrounded the spot, which at the end of day wasn't really that controversial.

Kinka Usher

AA: Is the game as important a media event as it was before TiVo and integrated content?

Mr. Usher: I don't think it's losing its power. It's suffering under its own weight. With the USA Today polls and every morning show talking about what the new Super Bowl ads are going to be, they've made a product out of the Super Bowl commercial.

AA: Is there a formula for advertising on the Super Bowl?

Mr. Usher: They've developed a formula and that is humor to the point of absurdity. It's all about the one-punch joke and unfortunately, it's all getting boiled down to that and because [marketers like Pepsi and Budweiser] are such big buyers of Super Bowl time, they dominate what's going to be advertised on the Bowl and the perception of the Bowl. Ultimately, they taint what's on the Bowl.

AA: What's the deal with all the monkeys in the game?

Mr. Usher: You've got to ask [Bryan] Buckley about that. He's the monkey king.

AA: What is your favorite spot you produced and your personal favorite Super Bowl spot?

Mr. Usher: "1984," the Apple one. That one really changed the Super Bowl. There were a lot of bold, big statements it made ... and nobody's made one ever since.

My own favorite was the Pepsi Goose, along with Cheetah, because they were dynamic and beautifully executed and beautifully written. They had all the ingredients of a great Super Bowl spot.

Joe Pytka

Specialty: Celeb charmer

Experience: Has produced between 50 and 60 spots for the Big Game for marketers from McDonald’s to Pepsi. He pitted NBA living legends Michael Jordan against Larry Bird in a game of "h-o-r-s-e" for a McDonald’s Big Mac, and had music mogul P. Diddy commandeer a Pepsi Truck.

SBXL Line-up: Diet Pepsi, Budweiser and as many as six total marketers.

Bryan Buckley

Specialty: Monkey whisperer

Experience: At least 23 spots since 1999, including his "When I Grow Up" spot for Monster.com, the E-Trade monkeys, the Osbornes illustrating the magic of Pepsi Twist and last year’s censorship spot for GoDaddy.com

SBXL Line-up: No less than five and no more than nine for four clients, including Burger King, Sprint and Careerbuilder.com.

Kinka Usher

Specialty: Character-driven storyteller

Experience: Cut his SB-directing teeth on Pepsi, and has since gone on to produce about 25 spots for the game, including the famous "Cheetah" spot for Mountain Dew, the "Goose" commercial for Pepsi and the "Star Wars" spot for Pepsi where Darth Vader gives a haircut to the film’s extras with his light saber .

SBXL Line-up: Three spots, all for Nationwide, filmed in Venice, Italy.

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