It’s the easiest thing in the world to poke fun at Super Bowl ads. Any idiot can do it. Which is why I’ll be doing it when I take over the Campaign US Twitter account during the Super Bowl next Sunday. I’m not really one for a challenge.
But unlike any regular idiot, I will comment with the knowledge of what it took for the people responsible for those ads to get them on the air, and with great respect for their accomplishment. I know how many meetings had to take place before the script was approved. How many casting conversations were required to settle the question of whether Quirky Boyfriend #7 was the right kind of quirky or just weird. How many times the whole thing was a client comment away from death.
Gerry Graf, a master of the TV spot, and someone who knows what it takes to get to The Big Game, has written about the precariousness of the process: "You can’t lighten up on any part of TV production, which includes the following: the brief, picking teams, concepting, creative directing, selling the work, picking the director, the editor, the cast, the location, the editing, the post work, the rough cut presentation, the finish, and the distribution. Every step of the way needs your full attention and when you think you’ve done all you can do during those steps, you should go one more. If you let up at any time, the spot will suffer."
The fact is, it’s hard to get anything made, much less made well. That’s especially true in the case of a Super Bowl spot. These days a single tweet requires a minimum of eight emails, between two and five meetings, and multiple rewrites before it is approved and a community manager can pull the trigger to post.
You can spend days developing an idea that you and everyone else at the agency and the client thinks is great before learning, uhhhh, actually this wasn’t accounted for at all in the media buy, which was planned, agreed upon and celebrated over a boozy dinner weeks ago by an entirely separate team that never speaks to the people you’re accountable to.
Really nice work, though!
More often than not, the budgets available to make things are tight, and decision-making is diffuse. Sometimes the person you thought had the power to greenlight work turns out not to control any money. Sometimes you get access to the right person … only to find he’s not comfortable approving anything until everyone on his team has weighed in. And no one, agency or client side, wants to be seen as too fond of an idea that might turn out to be anything less than a success.
Except the people working day and night to make that idea real.
I have never made a Super Bowl spot. Maybe someday I’ll get the chance. In the meantime, I’ll remain envious of those who have beaten all the odds not only to bring their idea from page to screen, but to have it seen by millions on the biggest stage in advertising.
That doesn’t mean we can’t poke a little fun, as well.
Chapin Clark is EVP, managing director, copywriting, with R/GA.