The Spinners, Part 2 (Super Bowl Edition)

By Dawn Lospaluto
In January 31, 2013

The annual Super Bowl telecast―the year’s most-watched TV program, drawing 110 million+ viewers―seems to have morphed from the most important football game of the year interspersed with some great commercials, to the year’s most important exhibition of commercials interspersed with a sometimes interesting but often disappointing football game.

According to the Jan. 20 blog of marketer Jonathan Salem Baskin,* the money spent on those commercials―about 50 of them in 2013 at an average $3.8 million for 30 seconds―may generate a lot of hype, and even brand awareness, but will not have an appreciable effect on consumers’ buying habits.

“Super Bowl ads tell [consumers] nothing memorable or useful,” writes Baskin. “Super Bowl advertisers don’t sell more or achieve any ownable awareness. Yet brands continue to spend many millions on the event, and then more money telling us (and themselves) why it’s great.”

He explains that “every trend in our industry suggests that there are three broad qualities of branding that go beyond awareness…to deliver sales and build brand equity:

  • Have a purpose/be relevant to a consumer need or issue.
  • Communicate a brand quality that has real utility.
  • Be truthful, so the content can stand the test of time/reality.

“The purpose of advertising…is to balance and deliver these attributes as the basis of the relationships between businesses and their customers.” In his view, the Super Bowl ads, with their emphasis on great photography/graphics, fun scenarios, and sexy performers, deliver none of these attributes. They are “entertainment, not marketing,” he says, adding, with bold-face type emphasis, “providing entertainment isn’t the same thing as marketing. It never was, and never will be.”

First Rule of Thumb

Last week we looked at how the writer’s perspective, or “spin,” can help determine how a reader (or TV viewer) reacts to a message. We wrote: “The genius of marketing (or advertising)…is to spin a message so that it reflects your customer’s point of view and gets him to believe that you view something from his perspective.”

That customer perspective is critical to the marketing attributes Baskin defines: Finding relevance, demonstrating utility, and validating truthfulness about the product or service being marketed. How do we apply that to our own marketing efforts? The first rule of thumb is this: Don’t talk about what you are, what you have, or what you do. Instead, explain why what you do will be relevant to what your customer does or wants, how it will be useful to him, and why he can trust it to do what you say it will do.

Take a hint from resume consultants. Today’s job applicant is told not to emphasize what responsibilities he had, but what results he accomplished and how he can achieve similar results for a new employer. Your customer doesn’t care what kind of press you have. He wants to know if you can create a direct-mail campaign for him (relevance), if direct-mail campaigns you’ve created for others (and will be able to create for him) have achieved stellar results (utility), and if current customers’ testimonials can verify the key part you played in their success (truthfulness).

It’s been said that what makes writers great is not what they can say about something, but what they can see in something. In marketing, it’s not what you can say about yourself; it’s about what you can get others to see in you.

*Read the Super Bowl ad blog and more from Jonathan Salem Baskin at

Dawn Lospaluto

Epicomm Senior Director of Communications, Dawn has been the editor of Epicomm 's "Bottom Line" magazine and its predecessor publications, "NAPL Business Review," Printing Manager," and "The Journal of Graphic Communications Management," for 20 years. She also writes and edits several Epicomm member print and electronic newsletters, including [Re]View, Management Bulletin, Highlights, and Discover; press releases; and various marketing materials; and oversees Epicomm 's book publishing program. Dawn previously served as corporate managing editor for Allied (now Honeywell) Corporation and as a reporter and editor for New Jersey's largest evening newspaper. She is a graduate of Douglass College (Rutgers University) and holds an M.A. degree from Fairleigh Dickinson University, where she has served on the adjunct faculty.

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