All Hail the Citizen Ad Critic!

Last night I spent about five hours live blogging for the Wall St. Journal as part of an “expert” panel on advertising. The combined crowd of global creative directors, a sports blogger, comedy writer/actress and this women’s marketer were recruited to weigh in on the good, bad and ugly of the SuperBowl.

With the spots hammering me at the pace of four spots about every three minutes, I felt less like I was judging commercials and more like if I was taking the SAT verbal test in public. While I banged away at the keyboard under fire, guests came and went from my apartment, one of the football teams won and a lot of artichoke dip vanished. But when the last game point and commercial were scored, I sat back and thought, Where is this all going?

Because while our panel was bringing years of experience to assess the ads, we were dwarfed by a running commentary on the WSJ site, as well as on Facebook, #brandbowl on Twitter and thousands of other homegrown communities. There was clearly a national divide. “Experts” balked at the patriotic spots. Citizens loved them. Baby’s head smashed against plate glass?—Experts groaned but a big LOL from the peanut gallery. Guys acting gay over cheesy fingers? Hahahahahah. Animals, violence, gratuituous sex, YEAH!

Is the day of the ‘expert’ way over? Snarky anonymous tweets are creating comic geniuses (or not) who are unimpressed by anything big brands can serve up. Anyone who’s posted a burping baby or a dog tangled in a Venetian blind cord sees themselves as way funnier than any zillion dollar commercial from some snotty Mad Men.

I sympathize with the clients and agencies, worrying every detail , while risking millions on the game spots. All that planning. All that time and talent. All that money. And what does it come down to? Pretty much the same platter of slapstick, wise-ass humor, cheap gags and testosterone. I would like to believe that this isn’t the dumb-ification of America as ads cater to an ever-more lowest common denominator master. Maybe John Q. Public can do better (though the Doritos spots belie that idea.) But what if we are at the start of a creative revolution where ‘real people’ will create more stirring, brilliant, entertaining and smart content universe. I hope so.

For now, guess it’s groundhog day at the SuperBowl. Literally.

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