Why I refuse to preview any of this year’s Super Bowl ads

By Al Patton | Chief Creative Officer

February 3, 2017 | 6 min read

I’ve worked in the marketing arts for nearly twenty years. I’ve made everything from TV commercials to emoji keyboards to accordion-fold direct mail pieces delivered in polybags.

Believe me when I say I’ve seen some things. There is a fruit, however, in this Eden of an industry that of which I am yet to partake. I’ve never made a Super Bowl spot. I’ve come close a couple times. Worked at agencies that made them. Had friends that made them. I've sat for countless hours at dinners and airport bars with those who have been to the promised land, grazing at the bottomless trough of Super Bowl spot production stories. But I’ve never had the opportunity to be that beer-breathed legend spinner myself. One day.

Today, however, a different kind of dream has been fulfilled. One that I’ve held just slightly beneath the golden ring of commercial break glory on Super Sunday. I’ve been asked to join in the grand tradition of Creative Directors writing articles about Super Bowl ads they did not make. Like those before me, it’s a responsibility I hold sacred.

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 Al Patton

Al Patton, ECD at 22squared

When the request first came in, I admit that my fanciful mind got way out ahead of itself. A Monday morning recap and review, I thought. Oh, how my opinions will matter. But as I began to read the fine print of the ask, I realized the dilemma that I suddenly faced. Not a Monday recap, but a Friday preview. A look at the ads we can expect to see Sunday night, such a thing made possible by the vast majority of advertisers now leaking their Super Bowl spots days, sometimes weeks, before they air in broadcast. To write such a piece would of course require me to watch said ads before taking them in on Sunday night with jalapeno popper in hand, and therein lie my dilemma.

Call me a stickler for ceremony, but I am an advertising person who has an appreciation for the theatre one’s opus is intended for. And as agencies and clients up the production values of Super Bowl ads every year, shooting what are essentially short films for their brands in ultra-high definition at greater and greater expense, I can’t imagine it’s an equally desirable result for their target consumers to take in the yield of such efforts on a 4.7 inch screen while waiting in line for a chalupa. Surely when they hired their A-list Hollywood actor, or Director, they didn’t do so hoping their intended audience would ultimately consume the work void of today’s ridiculous television technology, void of the anticipation bred when you actually have to wait for something to air, and void of the heightened emotional state of the game itself. There’s a theatre for which Super Bowl spots are created, and it involves hot sauce and 8K megapixels and emotionally fragile adults irrationally invested in something that’ll have no impact on their lives. I, for one, respect this theatre.

There is a time and place for the output of our industry to be enjoyed on tiny screens and over speakers the size of pencil erasers. Post your $20K media buy creative to Instagram all day long. To see it there doesn't really diminish my experience of seeing at two in the morning while watching TMZ. But the Super Bowl is an event, and the ads are part of the event. If I'm going to a wedding, I don't want to start chicken dancing three days before it.

So, reader, as much as I know you're craving the musings of yet another agency Creative Director on the topic, I’ve decided to stand on principle and not preview this year’s Super Bowl ads. I won’t be watching them in a tiny window on YouTube, or on Facebook, and I’m definitely not going out of my way to watch any “teasers” for the spots either. Should anyone really allow themselves to be teased for a commercial?

No, I'm going to take in this year’s Super Bowl ads the way I always have, utilizing the best screen and speakers my current means allow for, at exactly the time the good people at Fox decide to put them on air. And the best part is that I’m looking forward to it. I hear Budweiser has a spot that’ll get people talking. I hear Snickers will be breaking new ground with the medium. I hear Lady Gaga is going to announce her own candidacy for the open Supreme Court Justice seat at halftime. It’s going to be a spectacle as impressive as any we’ve seen I’m sure, but if you care to hear my opinion on any of it, and I can only imagine tens of thousands of you will, give me a shout on Monday.

And oh yeah, go Falcons.

Al Patton is executive creative director at 22squared


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