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Retro Super Bowl Thoughts From a Digital Guy

Posted on February 8, 2010 and read 2,100 times

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lincoln bjorkman mugshot 150x150 Retro Super Bowl Thoughts From a Digital GuyLincoln Bjorkman
EVP, Executive Creative Director.
Digitas NYC

I turned on Super Bowl XXIV and I stepped into a time machine back to those pre-Bubble years before the turn of the last century. Ah yes, ‘twas was a simpler time. The first half of this retro-Super Bowl was all nostalgia… I kept waiting for those retro team uniforms.

I quickly dumped my MacBook and iPhone and scrambled to find a pad of paper and a pencil. I even went so far as to turn off Tivo, deciding to go all the way and watch the game old school. Next I logged off of Facebook and shutdown TUMBLR. Nope, no sir, no Google searches for me during the game. None of that texting stuff or emails either. I was totally on board for retro-Super Bowl. I longed for better facial hair, Nirvana and obscure micro-brews.

I watched ad after ad that drove me to, ah, watch the next ad. Brands made great use of the latest breakthrough technologies like big screen televisions and phones—cordless land line phones.

A few brands decided to bust my retro-Super Bowl mellow and noted at the end of their spots that they have websites. I laughed along with the brands that with tongue firmly planted in cheek went crazy with the retro-Super Bowl theme and nostalgically placed a “www” in front of their URLs in a nod to a bygone era. Well played.

Even CBS got into it (I’m still laughing) with a very clever promo that drove me to call a phone number (awesome) and listen to a prerecorded message about a hit sitcom. Hilarious. 800 numbers and pre-recorded messages! Awesome. It was like “awesome” was awesome again and “Friends” was still on the air.

Many of the brands played it cool – no big obvious joke. They held back and just ran a nice :30 or :60. A display of confidence and a signal that said, “Like you, we get it.” 100 million people attached to a plethora of devices that provided instant social and online connectivity with myriad opportunities to create deeper brand experiences that could make a $3 million ad worth so much more and create urgency, intimacy, deeper engagement, sales lifts or just add to the marketing experience that you expect from a major brand in the modern era. Why do more?

Even Go Daddy, said, “You go daddy.” We’re going to stick with classic Tactics and Analysis that work hard. Just the way Dad always got it done at Pets.com but with an actual real business plan in place. Not retro, but definitely old-school T&A – fitting with retro-Super Bowl.

Dockers gave away free pants online, though I unfortunately couldn’t even get on the site for 20 minutes because it was so busy. The search buy was fantastic and thorough. I even got an email a few minutes after I gave you my email address (you wisely only asked for my first name and email address, love that!) that said I might win free pants. Not ground breaking, but in a tough economy I’m going to guess you got a big return on your marketing dollars and you got my email and many more. If you’d simply let me text you, I would have kissed your Dockers.

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As the game progressed, the Saints were down 10-0 and I thought everything about this game was going to be predictable – but wait – a couple of field goals scored. Going for it on fourth down against Peyton Manning!

I almost spit out my Hot Pocket and Pepsi Free when they announced The Who. The Freakin’ Who! They were going full force with retro-Super Bowl. I mean Springsteen used last year’s Super Bowl appearance to drive his new album to number one and even pushed sales of his back catalog on iTunes through the roof! The Who were clearly going to use this appearance to drive their new, ah, latest, wait, um 2006’s “Endless Wire” – their first studio album since 1986’s legendary “It’s Hard!” –sales through the roof at Tower Records and Virgin Megastores? Whatever, the kids are all right and we’re going retro!

But enough of this. I WAS FREAKING OUT! Was my career choice a joke? With a few exceptions, everything I professionally believed in was being ignored, abused or simply fading away before my eyes. The channels that helped elect a modern-era president had almost vanished overnight. FLO TV and some wonderful user-generated content and online voting and yet another clever promotion from the now perennial Super Bowl powerhouse Doritos were just not enough.

I thought retro-Super Bowl was going to break my heart. I hoped that maybe, just maybe, the second half would restore my faith. I wanted to believe…I needed a sign…and then came the onside kick that made me realize the Saints were going to win and I was going to survive this.

Retro? No way! These folks survived Katrina and they were going to save me from retro-Super Bowl. It was as though the Saints said “Who Dat” to the Colts, the brands and to the NFL (really, legal action?) with one play. It was 2010.

Everybody was stepping up. The NFL used every opportunity to drive awareness of every channel they have and every event and property they own. They gave their audience what they wanted. More football. The combine. The draft. NFL.com. NFL Network. Well done, except for that lame legal action thing against the Cinderella team’s fans. That is so old school and so first half. And it will kill you in the online space.

FLO TV introduced new hardware (they introduced new hardware!) proving I can have TV and sports and football anywhere. They even said that I was less of a man if I didn’t want that. Old school AND new school. Snap, Jim Nance. And take that, iPad. They did it large on the Super Bowl! Didn’t Apple do something cool on the Super Bowl once? Could it get better? Yes, it could.

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“Hello, Megan Fox, how you doin’ in the tub?” I said under my breath. “What, Megan, there’s new hardware that brings all my social technologies together called Motoblur with Facebook and Twitter and My Space and emails and texts all synced and backed up and you’re naked in a tub and the spot’s funny and maybe if I go to your site I can see your naked-in-the-tub-picture (nope) and watch more content and learn about the product because the spot made me want to check you, I mean it, out?” It’s all so integrated and relevant…I needed a moment.

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Then VW slides a gem in under the radar. Old school? Yes. It’s a nice spot with Tracy Morgan and Stevie Wonder together at last.

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But Homeaway.com, what happened? Did you see what came up when you searched for homeaway.com on Google? Ouch. I see your proprietary URL in the #1 paid slot but the link takes me to vacationsonly.com? Who Dat?

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A note to KGB. Your business model depends upon me remembering the number I text my question to. You had 30 seconds and spent millions. It didn’t work. And the same note goes to the Red Cross on texting to donate to Haitian relief. For one of you I will actually spend time figuring it out (text message “HAITI” to 90999, folks). Sorry KGB.

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Things were picking up. I was feeling the surge that comes from people experimenting and taking chances…challenging themselves and their teams and their brands to make a statement on the big stage. Is it really so complicated? Yes, I know it is. But bring it on.

And then I fell in love, again, with Google. They produced a poem in the form of a simple product(s) spot with astounding sound design. Everything I love about the brand and what they do and how they do it and what it means in my life. “Search on,” indeed. I will if you keep the faith like that. Simple. Perfect.

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The NFL sent a wonderful, beautifully crafted “thank you” spot to the fans, starting with a slow motion touchdown from the team that would ultimately win the game and masterful slo-mo shots of ardent fans from many teams including Saints fans. Yes, the same fans the NFL recently threatened with legal action over “Who Dat?” Weird. Bite the hands that feed you much?

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Vizio came through with Beyonce and everything else but the kitchen sink and Taylor Swift (how did she not make the Super Bowl as she was everywhere else in the last twelve months?) in their spot to prove they finally put together the Internet and HD television. Nice work. If you had actually driven me to the aforementioned Internet or leveraged social channels I would have sent you flowers. But it was relevant and clear and I was happy.

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Audi and the Green Police hit all the right notes for me except they didn’t seem to think I would want to learn more. They were wrong and I protest so I will not explore clean diesel on Audi.com or visit a dealer for one month because they didn’t give me any incentive to do so. I would have loved to watch more online. However, I am playing Cheap Trick in your honor as I write this.

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Megan Fox and Motorola, Google and Doritos had almost released me from retro-Super Bowl hell. The NFL was even announcing that you could vote for the game’s MVP at NFL.com. Okay, that was cool and felt almost digital. Except what the promo actually said was, “The NFL invites you to go nfl.com or use your web enabled mobile device to vote for the MVP of Super Bowl XXIV.” Huh?

We were so close. Is there confusion in any consumer’s mind about which of their devices may or may not get them to a site? “Web enabled mobile device?” Yes, don’t use a toaster. As long as you are clarifying things for those with rotary telephones you should probably say, “visit the NFL on your online enabled personal computing desktop apparatus and don’t forget to change the ribbon on your Smith Corona laptop before you type the “www” (with a period) in front of “nfl.com.” EarthLink and Netscape will appreciate you helping out their customer base.

Attention all brands: we do know how to get to the Internet. Really. We’re that smart. If you want to help us, we do need more Wi-Fi hotspots and Verizon for our iPhones. Otherwise, we’re cool. You can drop the “www” and assume we know if our phone is smart or not.

Pepsi made a big statement by abandoning Super Bowl XXIV advertising in favor of joining the online, crowd-sourced philanthropy movement that was started a few years ago by brands like American Express with the American Express Members Project (full disclosure: I worked on that project for American Express). Pepsi has received a lot of press for this choice, noting they are spending even more money (in excess of $20 million) on Pepsi Refresh than they would have on traditional media like the Super Bowl and I hope the bet pays off.

I suspect Pepsi will be back to the Super Bowl next year, having missed the buzz 100 million potential Pepsi consumers can create across multiple channels along with driving a nice sales bump as the warm weather peak sales season gets closer. I also believe they can have it all. A great brand can strike a powerful balance with coordinated efforts across many channels rather than making a brief wave for simply abandoning a favored power channel in favor of a developing one.

This balance and flexibility and passion for marketing in many channels, not just one, is what the “next generation” takes for granted as they Facebook, Google, Tweet, text, Tumblr, blog, talk, watch, ogle, email and cheer for their heroes on the field or on the stage. Their brands should take note.

The Who used to shatter guitars and smash things up in order to break through and make us pay attention. We wanted to join them in the fight. Like a lot of brands tonight, they chose to play it safe and not break a thing. Or even try.






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