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The Super Bowl Ads Were Meh
At best, they were mid.
Without checking your feed or Google, what were your two favorite Super Bowl commercials from last night? What commercial did you hate?
“Will Ferrell! I think his ad was about shows… Also, I heard there was a Ben Affleck commercial but I think I actually missed that one… Oh and that Jesus ad was weird but whatever.”
I’m guessing your reaction is along those lines. If your reaction is even that strong. Because come on, all those ads were somewhere along the spectrum of “meh” or “mid.”
It’s not hard to be polarizing, especially today. But today’s massive brands don’t want to be polarizing. They don’t want to alienate their conservative customers, and they definitely don’t want to piss off their woke fan base. So they double down on the lowest common denominators, giving us crowd pleasers like Will Ferrell tiptoeing into all plot lines across Netflix, Bennifer bantering at the Dunkin Donuts drive-through window, or the comfort of seeing Walter White and Jesse Pinkman reunited in their meth lab… making corn chips. You know, like the good ol’ days.
But appealing to the broadest possible audience is not a new marketing tactic. That’s not what makes these commercials lackluster. It’s also that we’re living in a Golden Age of content. It’s never been easier to create, publish and distribute content. Heck, even a student photographer can create thirst trap food videos that would rival any award-winning creative agency’s.
In other words, content creators (and I mean that in the broadest sense, from solo TikTokers to global production teams) have never been better. And when everyone is at least pretty good, then it’s harder for even seasoned veterans to stand out.
But it’s not just social media platforms that are making competition tougher for the traditional content studios. (Though I’ll just add on the fun fact that in late 2022, TikTok surpassed Netflix as the second-most popular video service for American users under the age of 35.) It’s the ripple effects of what this unprecedented amount of watchable content does:
There’s more content than we’re able to keep up with.
There’s (probably) more content than we want to keep up with.
There’s no longer a monoculture. (Related: This SNL sketch featuring Pedro Pascal, who you likely either love or have never heard of.)
When our attention spans are exhausted and there’s no common culture that resonates across most households, it becomes harder to for content creators (and thus, advertisers), to create narratives around inside jokes or shared moments.
That’s why we got a reference to an AMC show that’s been off the air for 10 years. (In case I lost you, I’m talking about the Breaking Bad-themed PopCorners commercial.)
And finally, maybe, we’re all just not as innocent as we used to be.
Gone are the mysterious-yet-beloved Clark Gables and Audrey Hepburns of pop culture. We don’t worship artists in the same way we used to — and we’re not even as likely to refer to them as artists in the first place. They’re celebrities. We know all the unnecessary details about them, from their bitter breakups (cough, Kanye and Kim, cough) to their bathing habits.
Meanwhile, football isn’t quite as beloved as it used to be, either. We’re increasingly aware of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a bunch of people are still upset about the whole kneeling thing (and maybe always will be?), and I think a lot of us are pretty shook about Damar Hamlin’s heart stopping in the middle of a game.
I’m not meaning to get on any soap box about football. It’s that with all of these things combined, in a time when our eyes are wide open, I think we’re seeing that as a whole, the Super Bowl isn’t the must-see TV we had all known it to be.
And so… it’s pretty easy to feel meh.
(I can already feel most of this content leaving my brain as I mentally prepare to watch the latest episode of The Last of Us.)
🎶 The 3 Best Reactions to Rihanna’s Half-Time Performance
This is where you find out I am a Rihanna fan and I loved her performance.
💎 Every self-aware person’s inner thought as they watched the performance.
💎 Every woman ever reacting to Rihanna’s body in real-time.
💎 A 1-minute explanation on TikTok of the art direction and set list. (TL;DW: it’s a celebration of life, love, sex, and womanhood.)
🌟 Bonus: The dance move NOBODY is talking about that made me cackle. (4:51-4:55)
🤓 If You’re Here for Marketing Stuff, Not My Super Bowl Takes
If you’ve been a longtime subscriber, welcome back! I know it’s been awhile. Here are some things that are either going on in my world or on my radar.
🍿 Upcoming marketing webinar you can’t miss: This Thursday’s SparkToro Office Hours! Rand Fishkin will present on the end of marketing attribution — how we got here, and what to do next. (Incredibly, we have 1,400+ people registered! And yes, this will be recorded. Join.)
💼 If you’re looking for marketing career opportunities: Come to a virtual job fair called Rebound. You can expect a panel on the current economic climate and how it’s affecting marketers, networking & job opportunities with employers who are hiring and staffing virtual booths, and mentorship! I’ll be one of several mentors who will offer career guidance, resume feedback, interview tips, you name it.
🗓️ Free resource to instantly improve your PR savvy: Check out Clout Monster by my friend Stephanie Lee. She teaches creators, online business owners, entrepreneurs, and small businesses how to do their own publicity and get published in top-tier media like CNBC, Forbes, New York Times, and more. She's giving away a publicity calendar to help you plan and come up with media-worthy stories for the whole 2023!
👯♀️ Special discount for the SearchLove conference in March: One small confession… I’ve gone to very few marketing conferences. So I’m extra excited about this one that I’m attending next month: SearchLove! This conference will be in beautiful San Diego, and since you’re reading this, you get a special 20% off discount to attend. A bunch of my friends are speaking — Rand Fishkin, Ross Simmonds, Krista Seiden, Wil Reynolds, Aleyda Solis and Debbie Chew — and I’m really excited to support them. I hope to meet you there!
Oh and finally, I’m also trying to write more often on the SparkToro blog. Here’s my latest post, which is a crash course on speaking at conference. I cover everything from promoting the event to improving your stage presence. But it’s all pretty succinct because I figure you don’t have time for a 5,000-word ultimate guide.
🧀 Lazy Game-Day Beef Nachos
If you are a gourmand, you will be disappointed with this recipe. Everyone else will be delighted.
1/2 onion, chopped
1 lb ground beef
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 packet taco seasoning
1/2 jar of salsa
1 8-oz package of shredded Mexican cheese
In a skillet over medium-high heat, cook onions until slightly softened. Brown your beef on a skillet on the stove, add garlic, and add taco seasoning. (You can buy some pretty good store-bought ones, or you can make your own.)
Add beef mixture to a slow cooker pot. Add 1/2 jar of salsa (or the full jar if you want). Sprinkle over a pinch of salt. Top with shredded cheese. Cover and cook on low for 1 hour, or until the cheese melts.
Switch to warm and leave on your counter all day next to a bag of tortilla chips, extra salsa, and freshly chopped red onions and cilantro.
Voila! Hot nachos all day.