Super Bowl Sunday: Madison Avenue on parade
With its mega audiences, the Super Bowl is the showcase for brands and ad agencies to strut their creative stuff. Each year, countless media stories and columns are devoted to picking winners and losers among Madison Avenue’s exciting offerings.
No one ever strutted better stuff than the Chiat/Day 1984 commercial launching Apple Macintosh (full disclosure: your humble scribe consulted with C/D back in the day – cars, not for Mac. Bought one, though).
True to the old adage it’s not creative unless it sells, the 1984 spot was phenomenally successful at generating sales.
Agencies hoping to replicate 1984 memorability will ante up $10 million for the privilege this year – a 30 second spot runs around $5 million, and Macintosh spent a full minute to tell its story.
Viewers over 50: an enormous Super Bowl 50 audience
All this money changes hands because the Super Bowl became the most-watched television show of the year.
In 2015 it topped out at 114.4 million viewers (Nielsen); at 125 million, only the farewell episode of M*A*S*H (1983) had more. Experts are predicting a new Super Bowl record for 2016; it’s possible Nielsen’s US in-home TV audience could be close to 120 million – 102 million adults, 18 million under 18.
Around 57 million viewers will fall the 18-49 cohort, 30 million Gen Xers and 27 million Millennials. Generationally, these impressive stats are over-shadowed by the 45 million people aged 50-plus who live, work and – especially – consume in the orbit of the Boomer-Plus Generation™.
Comprised of Gen Xers who turned 50 in 2015, Baby Boomers, their siblings born 1940-1945 and their parents, these “older” people are roundly rejected by advertisers as too stuck in their ways to switch brands, easy to get via so-called age-agnostic ads and, anyway, likely to gross out younger consumers.
These wacky theories are religiously observed 364 days a year: Super Bowl Sunday is the one day when geezers rule in adland … it’s a kind of Boomer Appreciation Day.
Boomer Appreciation Day: celebrity spokes-geezers rule
Many Super Bowl 50 ads hope to break through the clutter by using celebrities; 18 of 42 commercials previewed at SuperBowlCommercials2016.org feature well-known entertainers or athletes.
And with good reason; spokespeople can work wonders for brands.
And when it comes to celebrities, as we reported last May, Liam Neeson and Pierce Brosnan shared top honors as the most influential and likable, with Dennis Haysbert, Jeff Bridges and J. K. Simmons also among the top 10 (Nielsen).
There’s just one catch: all are aged 60-plus – a decade past the 18-49 demographic – and, according to Mad Men folklore, too old to be targets for the brands they promote. But, despite this outdated theory, the power of, ahem, spokes-geezers isn’t lost on adland.
Of the eighteen Super Bowl 50 ads using celebrities, eleven (61%) feature someone over the age of – wait for it – not just 50, but 60. In fact, three involve actors over age 70!
And none – repeat, none – promote geriatric products; they all represent mainstream brands. It’s the one day a year when Boomer-Plus characters are depicted as we see ourselves; fun, interesting, in charge and active.
- Alec Baldwin and Dan Marino for Amazon Echo
- Arnold Schwarzenegger for Mobile Strike
- Christopher Walken for Kia
- Harvey Keitel for MINI
- Helen Mirren for Budweiser
- Anthony Hopkins for Turbo Tax
- Jeff Goldblum for Apartments.com
- Liam Neeson for LG
- Scott Baio for Avocados from Mexico
- Steven Tyler for Skittles
- Willem Dafoe for Snickers
Kudos to the creative teams.
None of these ads use clumsy Boomer stereotypes – grumpy “get off my lawn” curmudgeons, old hippies or befuddled techno-dolts.
Boomers grew up with the Super Bowl
The first Super Bowl was held in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on January 15, 1967; the Green Bay Packers beat the Kansas City Chiefs handily, 35-10.
Five out of six TV households saw the game in black and white – color set penetration was only 17%. No one could tweet, Pin, Snapchat or Instagram. And gloating Packers fans could only send selfies – aka Polaroids – to KC rivals via the US Postal Service.
On the upside, embarrassed parents didn’t have to cover their little kids’ eyes during the half time show.
A lot has happened in the meantime. A heck of a lot. And Boomers have adapted every step of the way, year in and year out.
Apple founders Steve Jobs (b. 1955) and Steve Wozniak (b. 1950) relied heavily on fellow Boomers for success. Adaptable and future-friendly, our early adoption helped Mac jump the chasm and usher in 21st century thinking.
Since then Boomers embraced a dazzling array of tech innovations – cell phones, the Internet, e-mobility and green energy, to name a few.
So, it defies common sense that after the last play of Super Bowl 50 is done, Madison Avenue will revert to 1967 thinking – you know … too stuck in their ways to switch brands, easy to get via so-called age-agnostic ads and, anyway, likely to gross out younger consumers.
Free advice: don’t tell Arnold Schwarzenegger to his face.
We help brands make every day Boomer Appreciation Day. Kick off here to think different. Grab a hammer. Break something.