Upfront 07

Editor's Note

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Who was in the Super Bowl? Every year, viewers in two American cities watch the game caring who wins. The rest of the vast audience parties through a spectacle, a major part of which is the "commercials bowl."

By now, USA Today will have pronounced the "winner": for the last three years it's been DDB/Chicago, with Budweiser and Bud Light work. In the resulting media feeding frenzy, serious news shows will debate the ads, while DDB's Bob Scarpelli and Ad Age Group journalists will be all over the national media. No one, but no one will mention that the results are based on a risible poll sample of just 119 viewers.

This is supposed to be the era of digital communications, of targeted or "me" media. Aren't we all looking for the Holy Grail of a new way of communicating with consumers through channel explosion and clutter? Perhaps in media circles yes, but out there in America, the Super Bowl remains the year's biggest must-see event. It remains the way to have the greatest, the fastest, impact. What's more, it works beyond the consumer's level - there's the boardroom, Wall Street and the client sales force to name but three.

"Consumers expect certain big brands to be in big events," says Scarpelli. "But, it really is a sales tool for Anheuser-Busch. They sell a hell of a lot of Bud. And it gives the driver/salesmen something to talk about. It helps them persuade retailers to use their POP material, and makes the people who deal with wholesalers feel good."

Budweiser - or Pepsi, or Nike, for that matter - is obvious for the Super Bowl, but why are brands like Visa, and others with even more lateral associations there? It's "corporate ego," and that's not necessarily derogatory. It matters, as Scarpelli notes, to some brands to appear important, and being in the Super Bowl helps give that impression.

Of course, that strategy was partly discredited by the dot-com-and-gones, but that doesn't mean there is no value to the idea. What's clear is that the Super Bowl has to be part of a larger, fully integrated creative strategy. Or, at least, a "strategy."

You know what? It's also fun. The Super Bowl reminds us of what advertising can be, how it can move people. It's something that TBWA/Chiat/Day legend Lee Clow has done for years in work for the likes of Nike, Apple and Taco Bell. However, the agency never quite cracked the recently departed Levi's account - a subject on which Clow is refreshingly honest (see p. 26). Now, he has a chance to make Adidas the talk of the town.

That's a situation David Zander suddenly found himself in when he signed Spike Jonze, Dante Ariola and Kuntz & Maguire to his MJZ, out of the ashes of Propaganda. Cue a storm of publicity centering on "how much?" Spike, Dante and Co. come clean for the first time on p. 28.

This month there's also the world's busiest music video director, Nigel Dick, plus Peter McHugh on heading to Amsterdam from Fallon. In a supposedly quiet, gloomy time, it's good to see people making news for the right reasons.

Stefano Hatfield is editorial director of Ad Age Global and Creativity

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