by Sam Van Eman
It's early January and the perennial conversation about the Super Bowl game versus Super Bowl commercials has reached the living room already. Last night, after an overtime loss took the Steelers out of the running, a friend surrendered: "Well, there will always be the commercials." Even my seven-year old reminded me this week why she likes watching football: "I love the commercials, Daddy."
Of course, behind-the-scenes talk began months ago. This year's 30-second spot line-up was sold out before Thanksgiving. At a record-high $3.5 million a piece (about $117,000 per second), NBC is more than happy to host both the game and the high-fare entertainment.
Seth Winter, senior vice president of sales and marketing at NBC’s sports group, said, “We have shattered any recent revenue stories in regards to the Super Bowl."
Super Bowl commercials aren't predictably Jack's beanstalk for companies who commission them, but companies certainly hope their millions will become that. At the very least, with Ash Wednesday only weeks behind America's favorite game, it's as if they hope this will be the Mardi Gras of consumption until Black Friday resurrects their sales again.
My Mardi Gras
The Super Bowl is also my Mardi Gras; a last hurrah of pleasure and shiny lights before the darkness sets in; a cultural feast followed by a religious fast. I give up television each year for Lent because I watch too much tube leading up the Super Bowl. Charlie Brown specials, mid-winter sit-com reruns, play-off games, more play-off games. By the time I wake up the morning after the big event, I can't watch another minute of anything.
(Well...except for Netflix.)
The cycle does my body good. Unplugged, I'm invited to have expectations beyond wanting to see which Doritos' submission got chosen out of the more than 6000 entries for its 30 seconds of fame. Unplugged, I'm invited to wait for provision - the Easter kind no ad or product can produce.
For now - and since my team is officially out - we'll be talking about the commercials around here. I'll call my kids into the room when age-appropriate gems air, I'll talk with peers about their favorites, I'll reflect on the influence of advertising on our 21st-century hearts and minds. I'll also hope for more neighbor-sensitive commercials, pray for those creative types behind the scenes who have more power than they realize, and reflect on my own role in the machine that is consumerism.
And then, on February 6th, a day after partying with food and friends, I'll come home from work and find something else to do besides watch TV.