Advertising professor gives thoughts about Super Bowl ads

Thursday, February 2, 2006

It's an unusual assignment for a college student --- watch the Seattle Seahawks play the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XL this Sunday. But it's serious business for Jim Albright, co-creator of past Super Bowl advertisements.

Albright, an associate professor of journalism at the University of North Texas, has assigned students in his copywriting class to watch the Super Bowl television broadcast on ABC and write a report about the commercials airing during the game. They will discuss their findings when the class meets again on Tuesday, two days after the game.

"The students will analyze the ads for what worked and what didn't work," he says.

Before becoming a university professor, Albright was a copywriter, broadcast producer and creative chief for several large advertising agencies, including Tracy-Locke and Bloom in Dallas and McCann-Erickson in Houston. While at Tracy-Locke in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Albright helped to create a Doritos ad campaign that ran 12 twelve years and made Doritos a best seller for Plano-based Frito-Lay. He helped to write several Super Bowl commercials for Frito-Lay.

Albright calls the Super Bowl, which is traditionally one of the highest rated television shows to the year, "a great opportunity for advertisers to reach consumers."

"It is one of the best showcases for products, and one reason the ads stand out is because of the blue-chip talent involved," he says.

Albright says the era of Super Bowl commercials becoming an "event," with commercials watched as much as the game by viewers, started in 1984. That year, Apple Computer hired "Alien" and "Gladiator" film director Ridley Scott to make a commercial introducing the Macintosh personal computer.

"(The commercial) only aired during the game, but it is still one of the most talked-about commercials ever," Albright says.

During the "dot-com" era of the late 1990's, Albright says many start-up firms bought time during the Super Bowl to boost their image.

"In several cases, the companies no longer exist, but we still remember their ads," he says.

Since Super Bowl XL is being played at Detroit's Ford Field, Albright says the major automakers will play a large role not only with game advertising, but also community events. Both General Motors and Ford are planning TV ads during the game, and Daimler Chrysler is sponsoring several events in the Detroit area.

"If I was working for an ad agency for any of the Big 3 automakers, I would make a point of doing something extra special for the big game," Albright says.

He points out that for years, men have been the dominant market for the game, but women are increasingly watching as well.

"The NFL is conscious of this, and the media buyers are closely following the change in demographics," Albright says.

Some media watchers say that the ratings for this year's game may be down from past years, since both teams come from smaller media markets without a wide national following. Albright says that issue can be looked at from two perspectives.

"On one hand, surely (ABC) is disappointed that teams like the New England Patriots and the New York Giants aren't in the game. On the other hand, they already have the money from the ads that have been sold, and the ad space typically sells out months before the teams are determined," Albright says.

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