The Oscars Win The Super Bowl!
I always watch the Super Bowl but never watch the Oscars. Seems that I have gotten this dead wrong all these years.
My first issue with the Academy Awards is my personal struggle to ever deem anything “best.” Favorite song? Favorite movie? There’s no way I will ever make up my mind. Not because I’m indecisive, but because so many songs and films are simply great to me for so many different reasons. What’s better, The Grand Illusion, Jean Renoir’s 1937 WWI masterpiece, or The Big Lebowski? The Beatles I Want to Hold Your Hand, any of a dozen Sinatra songs or Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto?” Citizen Kane or Anchorman? I love them all, but for very different reasons.
Any of this year’s nominees could have been Best Picture. Green Book wasn’t any “better” than The Favourite, BlacKkKlansman or any of the others. Unless our evaluations are based on ticket sales, there’s just no objective way to make sense of subjective judgements.
Not only have I never cared about the outcome, I could care less about the spectacle. The Oscars were never a “must see” for me.
The Super Bowl, on the other hand, combines two of my passions, football and advertising. Three passions actually, if I count, as I must, food. I been going to a fabulous Super Bowl party at my friends Chris & Sue’s house for the past several years. On this one day (in addition to Thanksgiving), I give myself license to feast on chips of all varieties, pastrami and corned beef catered by the legendary Langer’s Deli in L.A., and various other sweet and savory treats. My calorie count for this day likely equals a typical week of normal eating for me.
But everything is now upside down. This year’s Super Bowl game was just horrible. My home town L.A. Rams performed miserably, but it was so boring and frustrating that it hardly mattered anyway. No one could score. It was endless, seemingly 30 seconds of game for each 5 minutes of ads. I expected to eat too much but regretted it more than ever this year. There were a lot of nice and interesting people around, but that made it noisy and difficult to hear the game or the ads. Still, it was hard to socialize. Everyone mostly stayed in the seats they had staked out as the game was starting and didn’t mix very much.
There were a few great, what I’d consider Super Bowl caliber, commercials. Most were pretty good commercials that didn’t seem worthy of the $5 million plus price tag for 30 seconds, and there some really bad ones that should never have seen the light of day. No one wants to think about chunky milk on Super Bowl Sunday or any day.
Much to my surprise, I appreciated the creativity and strategic foundations of the Oscar spots far more. I wound up watching for the first time in many years when a good friend invited me to a small viewing party this past Sunday. As I don’t see enough of him, I thought it was a good enough excuse to just to hang out, Oscar night or not.
I loved the Google ads. Brilliant, unexpected, compelling and strategic. Borrowing clips of Hollywood films, they demonstrated the utility of their products while evoking the spirit of the night. Budweiser Reserve Copper Lager cast Charlize Theron, with credibility and humor, as an empowered, no-nonsense superwoman who put the “boys” in their place. Nice to see this self-deprecating humor from the Bud team, poking good natured fun at the types of guys they used to lionize in their ads. “Hold my beer.” Hysterical. Nike’s “Dream Crazier,” narrated by Serena Williams, was inspiring. A true Super Bowl caliber spot crafted for a different event. It also happened to mesh perfectly with Lady Gaga’s acceptance speech about persistence.
The bottom line? The Super Bowl is way too long and exhausting. The game sometimes stinks. It’s all mind-numbing and you’re nauseous from eating too much. I love my friends but might do my mind and body a favor next year and skip the whole thing. Maybe a movie in a theater all to myself followed by a nice dinner at home. Then waking up and feeling great the next day.
The Oscars? Long, but tolerable. The no-host thing was great and the evening moved along nicely. Seems like half the time of the Super Bowl ordeal. Good musical interludes. Beautiful people in nice outfits. Not really a chips and dip and endless carbs kind of night where I’m eating mindlessly to pass the time. Fun guessing the winners.
And this year, better ads.
Why? While expectations may still be high for advertisers, there is certainly less pressure on the agencies as compared to Super Bowl. Perhaps lower stress levels lead to better creative. Or maybe it’s that advertisers shoot for over-the-top spectacle on Super Bowl Sunday, where the Oscars inspire more thoughtfulness, taste and clever, Hollywood-inspired ingenuity.
It’s likely that I’ll be tuning in next year to dig into this a bit more deeply.