Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Monday, February 02, 2021

When I got the news today out of western Pennsylvania of Punxsutawney Phil’s shadow-proscribed declaration of six extra weeks of Winter, I thought, “You rotten little rodent”, and wished that someone would fillet that stupid snow-loving critter in retaliation.

But then I realized that, while Phil is the most famous meteorological marmot in these United States (and Canada), he’s far from the only one. The consensus opinion from the weather-rats: Mixed, with almost as many predicting an early Spring as a prolonged freeze.

What’s more, I’ll take particular stock in the pro-Spring call from one Staten Island Chuck — not merely because he’s New York City’s resident groundling, but because he punctuated his prediction by puncturing the hand of his ceremonial handler, Hizzoner Mayor Michael Bloomberg:

Making his 28th Groundhog Day appearance, Staten Island Chuck wasn’t thrilled about the whole business of being pulled out of his warm wooden home and lifted in the air by the mayor to the cheers of a crowd.

Bloomberg tried to lure him with a corn cob. The 10-pound critter just snatched the cob and retreated into his home. There then followed an undignified tussle over the corn cob between mayor and groundhog.

Finally, a zoo worker gave the furry forecaster a discrete shove from behind, Bloomberg grabbed him - and Chuck chomped.

Drawing mayoral blood is good enough for me. I’ll wager none of Chuck’s brethren signed their predictions with crimson! So bring on the Springtime…

Incidentally, I’m thinking that Hizzoner will take this opportunity to avoid both groundhogs and Staten Island in the future.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 02/02/2021 07:41pm
Category: Comedy, New Yorkin', Weather
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down party
The inevitable review-roundup for the Super Bowl XXLIII TV ads is in, and the verdict is that it was a same-old same-old lineup:

Although the country’s circumstances are far different than in previous years, many of the more than 50 spots shown on Sunday would not have seemed out of place in any Super Bowl of the last decade or two. All the elements that are supposed to make for successful big-game commercials were displayed, over and over again, as if bonuses were being awarded on Madison Avenue for the least creative briefs…

It was regrettable, a missed opportunity, that so few of the two dozen sponsors dared to be different on Sunday. Perhaps they were afraid they had to play it safe because of the economy and the national mood.

The sour economy was cited as a creative deterrent before Super Sunday. And indeed, the post-mortum opinions go along with this desire by the advertisers to avoid the touchiness in celebrating rampant consumerism with overblown ads.

Except that it doesn’t make much sense.

It doesn’t make much sense to reserve a 30-second spot in NBC’s Super Bowl lineup for a record $3 million, and then go for restraint. It’s like paying a $50 cover charge to get into your town’s hottest, most exclusive nightclub — and then go sit in a far dark corner, hoping no one sees you, because you don’t want to offend anyone else there. Once you’ve committed your entry fee, there’s no advantage in laying low.

That said, the ads were, as a group, generally unremarkable. But I don’t think that the Great Recession-dampened zeitgeist had anything to do with it. Rather, it has everything to do with risk-management combined with return on investment. To wit:

That $3 million pricetag is indeed a huge commitment for advertisers. So much so that they want to ensure that their ad messaging to a rapt, millions-strong audience is as sure-fire as possible. To achieve this, instead of trying something new and untested that might hit or miss, most of them avoid taking chances with the creative concepts in these Super showcase commercials, and go back to old concepts that have proven to be effective in the past. The economic climate has little to do with it, other than drive the need for a significant sales boost — but then, that’s the goal every year, recession or not.

So, the high cost of entry to have an ad run during the Super Bowl serves to, almost paradoxically, lessen the risk-taking associated with that spot. Companies play it safe because there’s so much money and attention focused on that Super commercial, and therefore the corporate-think process takes over and results in a lowest-common-denominator final.

Certainly, not every Super Bowl advertiser stayed the staid course. The first-timers like Cash4Gold.com obviously differentiated themselves (particularly that one, with a shift away from their familiar infomercial-like spots to, well, an infomercial-like spot featuring MC Hammer and Ed McMahon). And Pepsi flexed their creative muscles for their brands, thanks to a broad rebranding strategy that they’ve been showing off for weeks anyway. Finally, Miller High Life exploited the $100K-per-second airtime buzz by promoting its 1-second ad.

Also factor in that merely being in the Super Bowl advertising lineup is a sufficient mark of distinction. To a point, the effectiveness is achieved just by showing up — those 90 million pairs of eyeballs are going to be actively engaged for at least the first couple of seconds, regardless of what’s in the commercial. So it’s certainly not crucial that the ad hits a homerun.

But for the most part, the safe play was at work, and only because the big money for the airtime triggered that reaction. If the ad watchers want to cast blame for the lack of innovation between ball possessions on Super Sunday, they can start and end with the pricetag.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 02/02/2021 12:35pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Football, TV
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