Super Bowl: The greatest TV commercials show on earth
Forget about Cannes and the myriad of other events where creative folk gather to stroke each other's egos, the biggest advertising festival in the world takes place in a single afternoon on the first Sunday in February when American Football's Super Bowl is broadcast in the United States.
The size of the audience alone would be enough to guarantee the Super Bowl's importance to the American industry but there's much more to it than that - the commercials shown during the event have attained a status of their own and the broadcast has become a veritable showcase of advertising brilliance.
In addition to the hugeness of the audience - the 2011 Super Bowl's 111 million viewers makes it the most-watched television programme in American history - there are three other reasons why the event has become such a magnet to advertisers.
First, American Football lends itself to television advertising... the sport is played in a very fragmented fashion with convenient breaks in the action to accommodate commercials.
Second, Super Bowl Sunday has become a de facto 'holiday' with enough people gathered around televisions in their homes to make it the second biggest event after Thanksgiving.
Third, and most importantly, the event is now so strongly associated with new advertising that American football fans have been known to stay at home to watch on TV rather than attend the game itself... just to ensure they don't miss out on the commercials .
In fact, according to a survey by Nielsen, 91% of Super Bowl viewers are interested in watching these ads - that's 100 million people positively engaging with television commercials as they're being broadcast; enjoying and talking about them with family and friends. Eat your heart out, YouTube.
The challenge for advertisers is to make their effort one of the most talked-about commercials of the day and this need ensures the Super Bowl is a slugfest of big-hitting communication. But how do you make your commercial stand out among the dozens being broadcast for the first time?
Mostly by making your commercial funny but not always. Last year Chrysler asked Clint Eastwood to deliver a portentous sermon during the half-time interval. It was big and it was bold but because of his GOP sympathies, many assumed Eastwood was attacking President Obama and it gained as much ridicule as admiration... all the more so after Eastwood's ill-judged conversation with an empty chair at the Republican convention.