The US Superbowl has just finished for another year. It’s a big event by any stretch of the imagination, one that’s designed for TV and that is used by marketers to launch big budget advertising campaigns designed to get sales flowing.
From a marketer’s viewpoint advertising during the Superbowl is understandable. A chance to reach a huge national audience with the use of a cleverly conceived advertisement is an opportunity not to be overlooked quickly. But these are matters of only passing interest here.
On Twitter this morning (I’m in Australia) I noticed something quite unexpected. It came as no shock to me to see people tweeting about touchdowns and timeouts and all else that happens in American Football. But what caught me out was the amount of people who seemed fascinated by the TV ads appearing for the first time during the breaks in the on-field action.
Some urged their followers to vote for their favourite Superbowl ad on sites that had sections dedicated to just that – Superbowl ads. Others provided links to sites that contained video re-runs and still others were either critical or complimentary of the advertisements displayed.
Hashtags.org (as of the writing of this post) reported that on Febraury 1 and 2, the hashtags #superads09 and #superbowlads were tweeted 3352 and 2778 times respectively. The hashtag #superbowl was tweeted 8288.
So why the fascination with advertising during the Superbowl? In a time when people are supposedly time poor and when advertising is seen as an imposition on our time, why is Superbowl advertising of so much interest to the population of Twitter? What does this fascination say about our culture and our society?
I propose the fascination comes from a desperate urge to escape. Advertising promises an escape from the harsh unreality of the meaningless of modern life, an escape to something that can only be achieved through consumption. If we buy this product we are sure to feel better, look better, do better. Our salvation and emancipation is directly connected with consumption.
Our consumption provides us with a tentative social existence and gives us an opportunity to reveal ourselves to society. Advertising during the Superbowl provides us with a suite of possibilities about who we might become through future consumption. When ads resonate they give us hope that the future might be better. When they disappoint they do so because they fail to provide that hope; hope for an escape from an almost unbearable world.
Fascination with advertising then is no more and no less than a fascination with all of the other artifices of consumerism. Whether it be advertising or wrapping or product design, each promises something that’s missing. Each promises escape. And each is essentially empty.
Just like capitalism.