It all started with a woman throwing a hammer at a giant TV screen.
The iconic Super Bowl commercial for Apple Computer’s new Macintosh promised to show why 1984 wouldn’t be like the one George Orwell envisioned. Ever since, the ad world hasn’t been the same.
“I think that’s an ad that had high physical production values, but it had a huge story behind it and that upped the ante for everybody,” says Assistant Professor Derek Rucker of Northwestern’s Kellog School of Management.
Rucker says the ad’s success helped define the Super Bowl as a major event for advertisers introducing new products or those seeking to re-define old ones.
Rucker and his students plan to look at this year’s ads to see how effective they are. “There have been ads in the past where they loved the ad but can’t remember the brand,” he says.
This year we will see Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo reunited as the Griswold’s for HomeAway.com, a stunning incident at a vending machine for Doritos and a bankrupt Mr. Burns for Coca-Cola.
Chicago’s DDB created a handful of spots for Budweiser, including one that shows a small town building a human bridge to help a Bud driver make his deliveries.
“Humor is huge, especially now with what’s happening to the economy these days,” says Creative Director Mark Gross, “People just want to get on there and make people laugh.”
But his year’s Super Bowl advertising won’t be all fun and games. A conservative Christian croup paid CBS an estimated $2.5 million to air a 30 second anti-abortion ad featuring football star Tim Tebow. Rucker likens the first of its kind advocacy ad to walking through a minefield. “I am really curious as to how they will execute,” Rucker says, “what the tone will be and what will be the consumer response.”
There will also be big budget, cinematic spots this year for companies like Chicago-based Cars.com. Gross says that is natural. “The Super Bowl is a big stage and everyone watches the spots and judges them the next day,” he says, “so the goal is what are people going to talk about the next day.”
Advertisers are also trying to get the biggest bang for their Super Bowl buck by tying the 30 second spot to a website, like the babies from e-trade.com, or to a social media sites like Coca-Cola’s FaceBook page. “the you tube publicity, the blogging…i think there is a lot more that media buy gets you than just the 30 seconds,” Rucker says.
Of course the Apple spot that started it all came before people had discovered the Internet. It ran just once on TV, but it has been viewed more than 4 million times on YouTube.