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Feeding off the machine

February 1, 2010

You may have heard about, or seen, the Super Bowl ad that wasn’t: a company called ManCrunch tried to get its ad on the Super Bowl, but was rejected by CBS. The ad:

ManCrunch is a gay dating service, and it’s located right here in good ole’ Toronto. Much of the focus on this story has been on the ethics of CBS – rejecting the ManCrunch ad while accepting a politcally-charged Focus On The Family ad starring Tim Tebow.

But I have to wonder if the Super Bowl itself – or more precisely, the big money that the Super Bowl hauls in – are under some threat. Will ManCrunch bring an END to the Super Bowl as we know it??????

OK, that’s a bit much. The NFL is a money machine; it’s extraordinarily resilient to external pressures to its business model. The league, and it’s marquee event, are more resilient than Wall Street, or the auto industry, or the Japanese economy. They’re more resilient than bed bugs, for crying out loud.

But I think it’s indisputable that ManCrunch has gotten the near-equivalent exposure of a 30-second Super Bowl ad (average cost: $2.6 million) without paying a dime. Which means there must be dozens of ad agencies already trying to figure out how to duplicate that feat. How do you create a funny, risqué ad that will get rejected by the Super Bowl – and become a huge success because it was rejected.

Maybe it can’t be duplicated. ManCrunch provides a unique service, and it will be hard for, say, Microsoft to generate similar buzz with a similar ad. But the economics are what they are; one can almost envision a YouTube channel that is devoted to rejected Super Bowl ads – and which gets almost as many eyeballs as the actual ads, despite costing $3 million less.

Which could put the network in a position to either start accepting these risqué ads, or to see a crash in the price of Super Bowl advertising. Super Bowl ads cost what they do because they have no competition; it’s the biggest advertising event of the year. But what if it’s main competition turns out to be itself? Or more precisely, if advertisers start borrowing the massive media hype of the Bowl to promote their own online (and fairly cheap) ad campaigns.

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