(Photo courtesy of Reuters)
Here we are again at the premiere of the most important and relevant cultural event of our time. The Oscars? Nope. Grammys? Try again.
Yes, that''s right, the Super Bowl. Like the ancient Greeks at the side of the Acropolis, our entire civilization gathers around to witness and enjoy the awesome spectacle. I''m not talking about just the game either. Sure, here I am in the outskirts of Baltimore and everyone is donned in purple. But, I mean the commercials.
Indeed, no other form of art garners as much deserved fascination and media attention as the unveiling of new spots on Super Sunday. I’ll go so far as to say that advertising is the art of our generation. Don''t think so? Compare it to the contemporary paintings one finds in modern museums. They’re the epitome of the fable "The Emperor Has No Clothes", where everyone oohs and ahhs, mainly because everyone else is oohing and ahhing.
Have you looked at the listing of Broadway shows lately? “The Lion King”, “Mary Poppins”, “Newsies”, “Cinderella”… all happy Disneyesque musicals—not exactly the artistry of Arthur Miller.
Heck, give me the next iconoclastic, 60 seconds of Apple''s 1984 commercial any day.
In some ways it might seem incompatible when there are two such opposing forms melded into one event like the Super Bowl. Noble gladiators on the one hand trying to kill each other, juxtaposed against the best pop art of our time. It''s pop art, which, by the way, costs close to $4 million a pop for 30 seconds of national airtime.
Interestingly, as someone who tracked Super Bowl ads for years with surveys, asking if viewers would be watching the event for the game itself or the ads, 10-years ago we’d barely break 10% for the ads. This year, a new survey by Nielsen confirms that an astounding: 91% of consumers say they are as interested in watching the commercials as the game itself. Whoa.
Fresh from an election where it has been said we are two countries and a house divided, maybe an event like the Super Bowl can teach us that one house cannot live without the other?
After all, we have editorial and advertising, church and state. If we are a house divided, then can we at least be a condominium?
Pols need to watch today''s Bowl to understand we’re a blend of Roman sport and Grecian drama melded into one house, er, mega Superdome and that Super Sunday is part of Western civilization.
By watching not only the game, but the commercials, they (and we) can look at our own human history in the making before our eyes.
Right within the first layer, we can see recent relics like Snickers wrappers, Budweiser cans and even old sock puppets that have become extinct and disappeared. Even though the fossilized image of the little Pets.com pooch will remain a fixture of our own modern culture, the company itself is long gone to the dot-com graveyard.
Digging ever deeper we will find battle-scarred remnants of cola wars between Pepsi and Coke along with some memorable gems from Nike. And at the core will be Apple''s 1984 commercial, when ads on Super Sunday became as big as the game itself. Like the tasting of one of Proust''s madeleines, all of the past will rise up upon seeing today''s carte du jour of commercials.
We will all have a chance to experience not only the XLVII years of Super Bowl history, but the culture of both Rome and Greece all at the same time. Gladiators doing battle within the Coliseum, while viewing some of the best copywriters from our postmodern theatre during the breaks.
What a culture. What a business. Oh yeah, same thing.