Bowl Me Over

The last time I went to Cliff Scott’s house to watch the Super Bowl, the Giants were playing the Broncos and I spent most of the telecast yelling at the screen. I laughed, I cursed, I waved my hands in circles like a stocky little windmill, kicked the air in front of the set like a bespectacled Steven Seagal. I was a whirling dervish—indignant one minute, a rocket of sputtering joy the next.

Cliff, a second-generation ad guy born and bred in Southern California, was far more laid back. But even he was roused on several occasions, as an Angeleno might put it, to totally lose it.

Then the game came back on, and we both settled down.

We were, of course, compelled to histrionics by the advertising—not the athletes.

This year, I’m going back to Cliff’s house for the Supreme Spherical, and I bet Cliff and I do exactly the same thing we did 15 years ago—and not just because the Giants are playing again. (After all, the only football game Cliff gets postal about is the USC-UCLA battle royale.)

No, we’ll react that way because the Super Bowl is the only show in the world people watch for the ads.

Ever since that blonde with the big hammer kicked the hell out of Big Brother in “1984,” that’s what the Super Bowl has been about.

People watch for the spots. They laugh, they cry, they curl their lips in disdain or applaud with delight. The Super Bowl, in fact, was really the first true interactive ad medium. Just without all that TiVo technology folderol.

Which is why the current harrumphing about the Super Bowl not being a good buy anymore, about CBS not getting the rates it wants, or advertisers getting cold feet about the Big Game, is nonsense.

Name me one other medium in which a client can talk to 125 million people at the same time? More to the point, where else can a client talk to that many people and have a reasonable expectation of many of them actually listening?

Where else, in fact, is paid communication awaited with anticipation rather than dread or, even worse, ennui?

Nowhere else.

Not even among the new group of back-stabbing Survivors or those loathsome, bikini-clad meat puppets on Temptation Island.

The X-Files is almost Xtinct, reality shows will eventually lose their juice (tomorrow isn’t too soon), and who knows when, or if, we’ll ever see a show with the drawing power of Seinfeld again. The Super Bowl, however, endures.

Maybe CBS isn’t getting $2.3 million per 30-second spot. Maybe it’s “just” getting an average of $1.5 million. It’s not the cost of the game that counts. It’s the number of viewers, and the Super Bowl’s ability to put advertising on a pedestal—where it never is anywhere else—that makes this show a valuable ad buy.

So I’ll be laughing, cursing and sputtering at Cliff’s house on Super Sunday, just like before, and enjoying every half-minute of it. If I’m really feeling good, I might even watch a little of the game, too.