Did you watch the Super Bowl for the game? Or did you watch for the commercials? What did you think of the commercials?

Robert Stephens of Geek Squad said, “Advertising is the tax you pay for being unremarkable.” After the Super Bowl, I tweeted: “Advertising is the tax you pay for being unremarkable. What happens when your advertising is unremarkable too?

Check out Tom Fishburne’s (Marketoonist) recent cartoon to get a sense of how he feels about the commercials.

I don’t know; was it me, or was this one of the worst Super Bowls for commercials? I wasn’t impressed. I kept thinking, “Wow. These advertisers must think their customers are all stupid. Or they just don’t know their customers.” I had some friends text me the same thought, and I’ve read other reviews that weren’t so kind.

I think the commercials have really gotten to be more about the company than the customer, if that makes sense. It’s like they’ve all been reduced to: “Let’s try so hard to make something cute and something funny so that people will talk about how clever we are and forget about how awful we are to them.”

What’s the purpose of advertising? I went to Entrepreneur magazine for a great definition and list of its purposes:

Advertising provides a direct line of communication to your existing and prospective customers about your product or service. The purpose of advertising is to:

  • Make customers aware of your product or service;
  • Convince customers that your company’s product or service is right for their needs;
  • Create a desire for your product or service;
  • Enhance the image of your company;
  • Announce new products or services;
  • Reinforce salespeople’s messages;
  • Make customers take the next step (ask for more information, request a sample, place an order, and so on); and
  • Draw customers to your business.

I’d add that it supports the brand purpose and the brand promise – and helps to create the connection and that desire to belong to that brand. How about throwing in something about the customer experience, their people, etc. (Maybe “the helpful Honda guy” was the closest commercial to achieving that?)

These commercials during the Super Bowl tried so hard that they failed. Too many of them caused us to scratch our heads and say, “Huh?” And while that’s memorable, it’s memorable for the wrong reason. And then * poof * … that memory is gone.

I tend to (no, I do) agree, though, with Robert Stephens. I’ll pull Zappos into this and say that I’ve never seen a commercial for Zappos, and I can’t remember the last time I saw one for Amazon, and yet today, when I go shopping, I will buy something from one of those sites. Why? Because I’ve had great experiences with both. Not because of a cutesy commercial.

The good news (or bad news) is that, here it is a few days later, and I don’t really remember much about the Super Bowl commercials anymore. There were a couple of memorable ones, but other than the reviews by the media and by bloggers, they are already all a distant memory. Pretty sad for those companies who spent $4 million for a 30-second spot, only to get zero recall out of it.

Much can be learned from the likes of Zappos, Amazon, Nordstrom, Ritz-Carlton, and other service notables. Save your money. Spend your advertising budget on things that matter: the employee and the customer experiences.

The consumer isn’t a moron. She is your wife. -David Ogilvy