According to Ad Age, buying an ad in the Super Bowl is, for the most part, worthwhile. And I've tended to agree that it has been. That value, though, is predicated on the fact that people look forward and pay attention to the game's ads and talk about them afterward, on the fact that this is the pinnacle of advertising.
At the risk of both repeating myself and restating the obvious, the Super Bowl did not represent the pinnacle of advertising this year. With record prices paid for XLIII game time, it's plain to see that the Bowl model hasn't gone to hell -- yet.
I've got to think, though, that things will start to slide when hype can no longer compensate for reality, when people realize that watching the big game is like watching any other three and a half hours of TV -- a few of the ads are good, the rest are not.
That said, and in the spirit of keeping our creative optimism up, here's a handful of things you'd be better off evaluating than the commercials that happened to run Feb. 1 between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. but that were not Super Bowl-worthy.
A Noise Level Checker! I hate noise. Motorcycle riders with modified exhausts that announce your passage to entire area codes? Seriously, grow up. If you feel the same, or are just obsessed with it in general, behold the Wide Noise iPhone app, which allows you to measure the noise assailing your aural orifices at any given time.
Next is the augmented reality-augmented website for General Electric. This one's related to a Super Bowl spot (if a pregame sneak peak was any indication, that spot would also have been one of the better efforts in the game). Goodby Silverstein & Partners (with production assistance from North Kingdom) developed the web component of a campaign touting GE's smart grid technology.
The site employs some accessible interactive animations to help bring to life some interesting but potentially opaque information. More to the point, it serves up maybe the first big-ticket augmented-reality application for a brand. While many of the existing AR executions require plug-ins, the GE site is Flash-based -- anyone with a webcam can partake in the wizardry.
"Being able to tap into alternative energy from all around the country is one of the main benefits of the smart grid," says Goodby Global Creative Director and Associate Partner Christian Haas.
"The idea is to invite you to 'test drive' the smart grid. Augmented reality gave us the opportunity to create something people most likely have never seen before -- an animated digital hologram that, much like a pop-up book, unfolds before your eyes as you interact with it."
Gratuitous use of technology because they could? Maybe. But fully in keeping with the spirit of GE's overall campaign -- innovation you don't have to wait for (though most people will, er, sort of have to wait for smart grid gear) and considerably more interesting for marketing than, say, most of the Super Bowl spots. Next stop, the holo-deck.
And finally, a random act of creativity that has nothing to do with what you do (unless you make sports gear or are a high school hockey forward) but that should inspire how you do it. Trevor Leahy, a goalie for the Pingree High hockey team in South Hamilton, Mass., designed his own pads to look like goal netting.
That's it. But it's hard to think of an innovation that's at once so cute and such a crystalline lesson in zagging. You can't co-opt this technology but you can co-opt the thinking behind it.
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Teressa Iezzi is the editor of Creativity magazine and Creativity-Online.com.