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David Camp

Co-founder and Managing Partner

Like the Super Bowl itself, Super Bowl advertising strikes me as an embarrassing spectacle.

Most Monday morning quarterbacks speculate on the ad winners and losers. Forgive me, I think they’re all losers. Has M&Ms made some kind of reparation to conservatives, threading the woke needle? Will Pepsi sell more soda with Steve Martin, Ben Stiller AND Elton John on the offensive line? Have the e-trade babies made a comeback?

Pardon my cynicism, but all this feels like yet another example of American culture and business in decline, at the altar of over-indulgence and ego.

I’ve always been put off by the unbridled bling of the ad industry, with its misplaced belief that it creates culture, stuffed as it is with frustrated artists who would have preferred a Hollywood career. Even in our digital age, where every marketing motion can be measured and optimized, marketers still fall prey to the egotism and emotion of traditional ad agencies and the clients they mislead.

There is very little rational justification for a CMO, or their agency, to recommend spending so much time and money to build super bowl advertising. If your ad budget is so flush that you can blow $7M on a single 30 second spot, a few million more on production and countless more millions on celebrity talent, not to mention the big distraction that is required to steward such a high stakes program through to completion — then there is a bigger problem of accountability and focus in your organization. CEOs should pay more attention to the ad worship going on in their marketing orgs. No wonder CMOs have the highest turnover rate among C suite execs. 

Get back to the basics: make a great product, delight your customers at every turn, spend scarce marketing dollars like they were your own, where every bet you make must be calculated and carefully curated. And when it comes time to develop creative, whether for advertising or anything else, focus on creative that supports communication goals, which are almost always about developing relevant differentiation for a brand, rather than simple awareness and notoriety.

Getting this right requires advertising that has the unexpected creative brilliance to get noticed and the marketing smarts to focus the story back on the brand in a way that makes the brand (and its promise) the "positive punch line." As David Ogilvy famously said, “If it doesn’t sell, it isn’t creative.”

And finally, surround yourself with partners who encourage your best instincts, not your worst.

Call me naive, or even a dreamer. But imagine if every Super Bowl advertiser dropped out and instead channeled their money to cause marketing — if only for one night a year — bringing a spotlight to movements that actually matter? That would generate more goodwill and impact for their brands than vacuous celebrity ad tricks…

This is not a slam against advertising. It’s a slam against lousy, overpriced, high risk advertising that most often doesn’t live up to its own hype, much less an ROI that you can count on.

All of the above is in part why we created Metaforce, as a check against the dysfunction and self celebration of an industry that is remarkably resilient in its resistance to reason. Most agencies are notorious for promoting the creation of bright shiny objects, the bigger the better. Marketers beware.

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