One of my favorite shows on TV is Mad Men. There is something about telling history through the eyes of an ad man which appeals to me. It is always interesting to talk to my students about why they get to watch network TV for free. Very few of them understand it is because people are trying to sell them and their parents products.
Sometimes I watch TV and tell myself I went into the wrong business. I know without a shadow of a doubt that I could write better advertisement campaigns then the ones that end up on TV. Most of the time commercials are just ridiculous. At their best they entertain you and make you feel all warm and fuzzy towards the products they are selling you. At their worst they piss you off and make you think you will never buy a product from that company again.
Of course this last weekend we had the Super Bowl. It's not just the most watched sporting event in the United States but it is also championship season for advertisers. TV spots during the Super Bowl cost the gross national product of a small company. You have to make them count and you have to make them memorable. My wife watches the Super Bowl for the commercials not the game (and I know she is not the only one).
This last year had one of my favorite commercials of all time. Volkswagen hit it out of the park with the small Darth Vader. I know it had the added bonus of appealing to my geek side but really it was very well done. It was cute and funny. It left you with warm feelings and it certainly left you with the product it was advertising in your brain in a good way. The ad agency that came up with that piece is going to be getting some heavy work this next year.
Then there was Groupon. What the hell was that? It actually left every person in my household offended. You are going to try and sell your service by pointing out a country (Tibet) is totally fucked and sliding into oblivion but hey you could get a bargain on a Tibet restaurant. The ad was stupid and offensive. I can't even imagine why anyone thought it was a good idea. The spot has been universally hated, so I guess Groupon is about to find out if any press is good press.
When done right commercials stick with you in a way that is unexplainable. I can still see the old lady saying "where's the beef!" during a Wendy's commercial. The 1984 ad for Apple is stuck in my head despite the fact I have only seen it a couple of times. In its own way advertising is an art form that reaches millions of people. I just wish more people with some talent were producing them.