A Creative Low Point

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Advertising professionals derided the ads in Super Bowl XXVIII as, at best, creatively bereft and, at worst, a new low in cheap jokes and grade-school humor.

In an AdAge.com poll last week, 90% of 588 respondents said the quality of Super Bowl ads had declined, with the general consensus that the ads were disappointing toilet humor that insulted viewers' intelligence. Even worse, people didn't remember ads that went for $2.3 million for 30 seconds.

"Unfortunately, there was just a plethora of very banal advertising," said Bill Ludwig, vice chairman-chief creative officer at Interpublic Group of Cos.' Campbell-Ewald, Warren, Mich., whose shop created Chevrolet's "Soap" spot on the Bowl.

"It's the Stupid Bowl," said Rich Silverstein, co-chairman, Omnicom Group's Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco, whose agency produced Anheuser-Busch's spot in which a donkey yearns to be a Clydesdale. He called this year's ad slate an embarrassment to America and to the advertising profession.

But Ted Sann, chief creative officer and chairman of Omnicom's BBDO Worldwide, New York, said Monday morning quarterbacks routinely criticize ads, but the proof comes later in how well a spot moves a brand. He said he was happy with BBDO's ads for Pepsi-Cola, Sierra Mist, FedEx, Visa and Gillette.

Don't expect much to change next year. "There are very few things that young men will sit still for, and vulgarity is one of them," said James Twitchell, professor of English and advertising at the University of Florida.

But Mr. Silverstein said marketers and agencies are misguided in thinking that the Super Bowl audience is just young men. "There's no other thing that reaches everyone more than the Super Bowl," he said.

Contributing: Ad Age staff

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