Thursday, February 4, 2010

A salute to great Super Bowl ads and not being able to see them in Canada

In the future, everyone will have a haircut like me and wear Hooters shorts (also like me).

Let's celebrate two, great Super Bowl traditions:

1. Great ads that people actually watch

And the one above started it all!

The 1984 ad for Macintosh computers is directed by Ridley "Blade Runner" Scott himself, and is credited with not only saving Apple, but also driving up the stakes and costs of Super Bowl spots.

Just like Star Wars saved and ruined movies at the same time, so too did this spot save and ruin ads for all time, raising one of the most debated advertising questions of all time: is it better to run your ad once when everyone is watching intently, or 1,000 times when people are kinda, sorta watching?

Unbelievably, the most-famous ad of all time ran only once, during the Super Bowl, but still set the stage for the brand in a dramatic and memorable way.

Yay: Super Bowl ads!

2. Not being able to see the ads in Canada

Thanks to digital channels, I was actually able to watch the American feed of the game last year, including the ads.

OK, I lied: I fast-forwarded through the game and watched the ads. No, I'm not joking. I have my priorities.

I'm hoping that the same thing happens this year, but if it doesn't, and you don't have the benefit of digital channels, you can thank the CRTC for it's awesome "signal substitution" rule.
  • Check out the CRTC's signal substitution rule here. Just one more reason not to save local TV. Kidding!
Only one thing left to do: blame Canada!


  1. Kenton, have you forgotten that 1984 actually ran twice? Chiat/Day ran it in the middle of a cold December's night on a Twin Falls, Idaho station, just so it would be eligible for that year's awards shows. (It's kind of funny when you think about it. C/D ran the ad just so they could place it in awards shows. Shameless!)

    Like most people I don't mind signal substitution, most of the time. But on the holiest of holy advertising days, it's just wrong. Americans get epic adventures, big laughs, new product rollouts... we get RRSPs, Chicken Delight, and herbicides. What a rip off!

    At least we can take solace in the fact that the internet makes it so easy to see the ads the next day or even later that night. And we only have to visit one site to see them all with no searching required. The internet is a wonderful thing. We don't have to wait months before a spot might roll out as part of a Canadian campaign anymore. Hurray!

  2. I hadn't forgotten - I just didn't know! Thanks for the knowledge!

  3. If I had a station that broadcast the American commercials, I'd probably do the same thing you did. Have no interest whatsoever in the Super Bowl, but I'd definitely watch the ads!

  4. I thought you knew that, Kenton. I could have sworn you had mentioned it before in an ad class. Either way, all the thanks should go to Wikipedia. Here's an excerpt from the source material used in the Wiki article:

    "In keeping with industry tradition, Chiat/Day paid $10 to run 1984 in the 1:00 A.M. sign-off slot on December 15, 1983, at a small television station (KMVT, Channel 11) in Twin Falls, Idaho, thereby ensuring that the commercial would qualify for that year's advertising awards. And beginning on January 17, the 30-second version of the commercial aired for weeks in ScreenVision, an advertising medium played in movie theaters before previews and feature presentations (some theater owners loved the commercial so much that they continued running it for months without pay)."

    I didn't know about the movie theatre preview screenings. That's kind of interesting!

    I can't help but wonder what made C/D pick that specific station. Curious. I'm sure there were hundreds of little local stations out there to choose from, so why pick the Twin Falls, Idaho CBS affiliate?


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