The Lowest Common Denominator Isn't The Issue. The Issue is Us.

ALERT: Super Bowl reflection post below.

People complain that the majority of Super Bowl commercials are sub-par every year. In turn this gets blamed on the American Public or, as many others in the field like to call it, the lowest common denominator.

The problem is appealing to what we think is the lowest common denominator. Or thinking our ads have to be worse to appeal to all people*. They don't. But it does take a slightly different approach to make an ad that delights and sells when 100 million people are watching.

And it's not like there haven't been successful Super Bowl spots in the past. It wasn't long ago that Bud ruled the game with their frogs and wassup. It was just two years ago that Old Spice reigned supreme with The Man Your Man Could Smell Like (which actually ran before the game). Even VW's Little Vader was universally loved and slightly humorous (though the selling point was a little weak).

Contrast that with the "sophisticated" approach Bud Light Platinum took. Those spots were universally panned in polls and post-game commentary. They offered nothing to the audience and blended in with the blandervitisng we see every day. It was as though the creatives had never drank a beer in their lives (let alone a Platinum).

So while it's possible to make something that doesn't suck you have to understand where you're advertising. the point is to entertain groups of half-interested individuals. These people are cheering for a good ad. This is the one time a year they might actually care. It's not good to go in with the attitude that appealing to people sucks. That's something that should be celebrated.

It's easy to blame people when work doesn't go over well. They didn't get it, they just weren't smart enough, what does the public know? The issue is the public is our audience: including the lowest common denominator. An ad that doesn't work for them isn't really worth anything.

And if that doesn't make sense to marketers then the Lowest Common Denominator might be us.

*This is one point I disagree with George Tannenbaum on. For a balanced perspective check out his take on Super Bowl ads.