Advertising is very difficult to do well. Ask anyone who has tried, and they will tell you.
Once a year the American part of the advertising world comes together to display its finest efforts . . . all in the same program, the Super Bowl. What have been the high and low points of these efforts? Why did this event end up being so important to advertisers and their agencies? Those are but some of the questions this fine book will answer.
In my family, the men watch the Super Bowl for the football and the women watch for the advertisements. In past years, I have attended many Super Bowls (where the fans don't usually see the ads) and often wondered why everyone was talking so much about the advertisements during the following days. Having now seen some of the efforts that I had missed, I better understand why some watch the ads for fun.
The book is organized around telling the story of how advertising developed in the Super Bowl. This task is accomplished from a historical perspective, from looking at categories of ads (soft drinks, beer, cars, athletic footwear, food, and financial services), ways of advertising (sex-related stories, animals and by trying to steal attention from the Super Bowl), and major advertisers who have had a big influence on the game's reputation for ads (Apple, Budweiser, Pepsi). In the historical section, much more attention is paid to recent years than the early ones, and you will hear a lot about dot-com companies flopping at the Super Bowl.
In the best of these stories, you get lots of large, full-color stills from the ads, discussions of how the ads were selected, and information about how the advertiser's business fared after the Super Bowl compared to the cost of the ads. Getting permission for all of these stills must have been a brutish task. I spent months just getting permission for one still in a book that I co-authored.
I would be very surprised if a better book is written anytime soon on this subject. The only unavoidable disappointment was that the book was written before the Janet Jackson incident at the 2004 Super Bowl. That would have provided lots of meat for discussion. My avoidable disappointments were that the book didn't provide more detail about the best advertising campaigns that were launched at the Super Bowl and how the success of the ads was affected by the quality of the game.
At another level, this book will appeal to older readers as a sort of walk down memory lane as you recall your life when you first saw these games and these ads. For younger readers, it will be like a glance into a museum to see how much communications have shifted in just a few decades.