Monday, February 13, 2006

#237 - Headaches of Olympic Proportion (UPDATED)

So the Olympics are upon us once again. I tend to enjoy the winter games more than the summer variety for a number of reasons: the pace is quicker, I love snow and ice, and I can't wait to see who's gonna get wiped out in Short Track.

Unfortunately, with the return of the Olympics we also herald the return of Olympic advertising.

Olympic advertising is somewhat akin to Super Bowl advertising, but with more emphasis on international diversity and less on beer. Not that this is a bad thing. It used to be that the Olympics engendered a somewhat higher class of advertising than you might otherwise see during, say, the World Series. But no longer. Now they just seem to throw out their latest advertising campaigns to coincide with the Opening Ceremony, then bombard us with the same doggone commercials every 5 to 10 minutes. (NBC officials may wish to disagree with me. They may think that they're providing much more coverage than I am crediting them. My feeling is that when they quote "coverage" times, they should exclude all the face time that Costas, Lampley, and Jimmy Whatsisname who does the "Olympic Moments" nonsense receive. In fact, I invite NBC officials to come to my house. I will help them understand the frustration.)

I finally figured it out, though. There is, in fact, an unannounced competition between the advertisers that actually amounts to its own version of the Olympics. Not the Clio Awards, of course. No self-respecting Clio entry would be caught dead being shown during a sporting event. At least, not based on what I've seen so far. No, this is a quiet competition; a secret competition, you might say. But I think I've cracked the code.

Advertisers during the Olympics compete in events that somewhat correlate to the games themselves. For example, for sheer melodrama, you can't beat Figure Skating. Especially the way that NBC hypes it. For the advertisers, the corollary might be the "Heartstring Skating" event which would include every commercial by Kays Jewelers. I mean, come on... they're even recycling stuff from two Olympics ago!

Olympic branding is not, I realize, an "event," but it plays a prestigious role in the identity of each Olympiad. In the equally prestigious "Branding While on Acid" category we have Budweiser. Now, I don't drink beer. Never have, never will. But can someone explain to me how they came up with this stylized crown concept if it didn't involve powerful hallucinogenics? If Budweiser takes gold in this event, then the silver must belong to E-bay and the whole "it" concept. I have long since reached the point where I not only don't care what "it" might be, but I'm ready to tell E-bay precisely what they can do with "it."

The problem with Budweiser is that they also score well in a category that I call "Commercials that Make Me Laugh, Even Though I Shouldn't." I'm referring here to the Bud Lite "Magic Fridge" campaign. That one gets me every time. I also tend to chuckle every time "curling" is mentioned. It's just a gut-level reaction.

In the relatively new "Lower Class Than Super Bowl Advertising" event, CashCall is a strong finisher. "Ch-chiiiing." Need I say more? (At least we've been spared Gary Coleman in these ads. If we had to deal with that, I'm not altogether certain there's a category invented that would be appropo to the punishment CashCall would deserve.) This would be the Half-Pipe competition of advertising.

(Side note here: The overall design of the US Olympic Team's uniforms is fine, if decidedly unspectacular this go 'round. I really liked the Salt Lake look much better. But what's with those X-game outfits? Is it just me, or did anyone else look at Shaun White and think "penitentiary chic?" I suppose it could have been done on purpose, but why not just send them to the same outfitters our local gangs use? Probably be cheaper.)

In the "Eponymous Like Oprah" event, Bode Miller streaks to gold with "" This, I suppose, is an attempt to explain Bode Miller. Like any web site could possibly do that. What's next? "BM Magazine?" Yeesh. If this event were compared to Bode's downhill event, Bode would reach the bottom much faster than he did during his actual ski run.

Ah, well. The Games continue, and so will the advertising. Unfortunately. In fact, while the Games themselves will pass into memory, it appears that some of these commercials will be with us for another few presidential administrations at least. Hey, if I'd just spent $730,000 for 30 seconds of air time, I'd wanna get air time. In the meantime, feel free to comment with your favorite (or, really, most hated) Olympic commercials. Just be sure to tell me in which "events" your entries are running. If I get a few responses, I'll do a round-up after the Games are over.

Gotta go. Jelly Woodyette is waiting for me to take her to skating and skiing classes. I may have to get a few sponsors. I wonder who "" is sponsoring these days...?

UPDATE: It's early in these games yet, but examples of bad sportsmanship are bound to appear 'ere long. I look to Hockey to fill this gap. I mean, any sport that features angry people waving sticks at each other is either bad sportsmanship waiting to happen, or war. Or both. Anyway, whoever designed the "My Fast" campaign for Volkwagen deserves a special place in advertising hell. Apparently, owning a Volkswagen GTI is just another excuse for divorce court. Also, you can break the law with impunity if the cop has his own Fast in the squad car. That's Volkswagen's stand. Are you in good hands?

Speaking of which, could Allstate possibly have found someone more sincerely pompous sounding to tell us precisely what their stand is? Hey, do they really think this guy's attitude is gonna make me toss my nice, relatively cheap insurance in favor of Allstate? I'm beginning to look at Allstate as the Jim Lampley of the advertising biz.

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