March 8, 2006

You Are What We Watch

You Are What We Watch...

Every year I look forward to the slew of ads that are debuted during the Super Bowl. Ever since I was a kid I always stayed glued to the television set waiting to see what new funny and amusing ads would be introduced during the most watched 4 hours of television all year long. I must admit as a kid I was a commercial junkie, very few forms of entertainment were able to keep my attention as well as those cute snippets of genius. I always knew deep down that these tiny clips contained massive amounts of research and targeting to its intended audience. My mother would explain to me how much money and planning would be spent to create 36 seconds of powerful impact that could make or break a corporation for that year. As I got older and started t o analyze the lineup of ads I started getting very depressed. Why?
I will explain.

The 4 hours of television called the Super Bowl is probably the single most carefully planned 14,400 seconds all year long. Every moment of football is carefully choreographed so that its momentum keeps its viewers enthralled in the action and glued to their television screens. Football analysts can take even the most boring game and make sure that enough drama and excitement will keep people coming back for more. Local restaurants all have their Super Bowl Sunday spreads ready for delivery, pizza places, hero joints and meat palaces across the USA all know how to help set the mood for this special Sunday. Wives turn into best friends, shedding their worries and cracking open another cold brew and a refreshing that plate of wings for their husbands, neighbors save up all year long for that new 52 inch plasma that will qualify them as the host for this years party and friends come walking in with a case of beer in each hand to contribute to the all day celebration. The Super Bowl seems to be the most carefully organized event in history and every year they seem to out do themselves.

Over the last few years I started to get very depressed at Super Bowl time, I could no longer enjoy the game nor was I able to appreciate the commercials. I am not a very negative person and I always try to see how I can turn negative experiences into positive ones my disenchantment with the Super Bowl was my new mission. My issue with the Super Bowl is the same issue I often times have with other shows that I watch, the commercials!
Being in the advertising industry and understanding what goes on behind the scenes I tend to watch commercials and look at ads differently than most people. I tend to turn their message around and see if it applies to me. If I am on the train or at a certain place and I see ads that directly concern me or that draw my interest in the service or product I will feel better about what I am watching or where I am because I obviously belong there, the ad agencies and research companies have carefully figured out who I am and where I should be and targeted their ads at me in those places or during those times. If I am watching a television show and the first commercial is about tampons, then the next about gas medicine and then followed up by life insurance, no matter how good the show is I flip the channel, I realize that this show is not for me based on the ads that are presented.

This year I didn’t watch the Super Bowl and my decision not to watch it was based on 2 things. The first reason I didn’t watch it was because my fiancĂ© decided that she really needed my full attention at the exact time the Super Bowl was on and that it was the only time we could discuss our future, and second reason was because of the line up of commercials for the game. I went through each one and carefully analyzed who should be watching the Super Bowl and that guy is simply not me. I don’t drink American beers and have very little to do with horses and carriages and cant figure out what they have to do with beer, I don’t eat meat so that ruled out what was in my opinion one of the most offensive commercials for a $1 hamburger I have ever seen. I wont get into it but it involved women dressed up like the various parts of a perfect hamburger and then jumping on top of one another. The line up went on to include deodorant, soda and energy drinks, over sized SUVs, toilet paper, pizza and oddly enough environmentally friendly cars.
The two ads that really stood out in my mind were the Dove real beauty campaign that is obviously trying to make women feel better and men look beyond the surface and then there is, I am not sure who watching the Super Bowl is buying internet domain names on a regular basis but its obvious that they are.

So were talking about a person who guzzles American beer (I say guzzle based on the number of beer commercials shown), rents their DVDs through the mail (cant be trusted to return videos and probably has run up hundreds of dollars in late fees), eats lots of fast food burgers and wants them to somehow be sexy, wants to drive an Escalade or at least know someone who does, thinks his deodorant will withstand any pressure, likes to snack on nuts, is possibly thinking about the environment, drinks lots of energy drinks, has the need for cheap domain names, thinks Hummers are cool, may watch the World Baseball Classic, needs life insurance, needs Mike Ditka to explain toilet paper usage and secretly wants Jessica Simpson to feed him pizza. Without getting too descriptive I think you can see where this is going. I didn’t fit into the profile of the person who should be watching the game, I always felt left out when my buddies would go nuts over the stupidity that was obviously marketed directly to them, I would often times leave the game feeling left out or excluded for some reason.

Perhaps ad content is too targeted, perhaps it is excluding those who don’t fit within the target and it will ultimately exclude someone like myself who would like to watch the Super Bowl but just cant get into the whole experience. Am I not a man because I don’t drink American beers? Because I don’t wish to have an oversized, excessive, luxury SUV? Should I be poisoning my body with new energy drinks or have I been misusing toilet paper all these years? I don’t need to question my existence just because I want to enjoy a big football game. I like football I would like to be able to enjoy the game with friends without it being so obvious that we differ so drastically in our choice of consumer products, one year I actually got into a fight over the usage of women in one of the ads. The Super Bowl seems to not just bring people together but easily separate those who don’t fit into the profile of who should be watching the game, I said to a friend of mine that the Super Bowl should be available to a few different networks and to allow them to run the carefully targeted ads towards those who they want watching their programming. I was thinking of recording the game and splicing in commercials and content that interest me, perhaps TIVO should have people fill out profiles and then commercials can be filtered based on the profile of a household, otherwise YOU ARE WHAT YOU WATCH, and I personally would not want to be the target that the commercials of the this years Super Bowl catered to.

Remember you are what you watch.

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