I'm not a die hard football fan, but I tune into the Superbowl every year. I love the excitement of professional sports played out at an almost superhuman level. There's also a sought after entertainment factor which never fails to impress during the Superbowl. The half time shows are one thing, but there is also a sense of anticipation at being able to see the latest crop of advertising wizardry.
Yet every year around the water cooler, online and on radio stations across the country, the banter focuses on how much Canadians long to see the American commercials - as opposed to the often uncreative and (dare I say) unengaging Canadian ones. With some exceptions (McDonald's and BlackBerry were interesting this year), most Canadian commercials are, for lack of a better term, boring. If I have to see one more bank commercial I think I'm going to cry. And what's up with Bell? A communications giant, yet there's absolutely no creativity to their ads. To make matters worse, the same ads are run over and over again to the point where I start pressing the mute button every time they come on.
Come on people - it's Superbowl time! Engage me. Intrigue me. Make me want to talk about your brand in a positive way. Martin Short, one of the planet's funniest comedians, was introduced as a spokesperson for a contest run by the Lay's brand of potato chips. He's brilliant. But the jokes weren't funny.
What's missing in most Canadian commercials is a real understanding of story - and how it can engage a consumer by bringing up a positive memory - or tugging on their heartstrings. For brilliant examples of how to do this, check out the Budweiser, Dodge Ram and Chrysler Jeep commercials which ran during the Superbowl.
And even if the story is silly or stupid (as in slapstick comedy), it can have a huge impact on brand memory and recognition through its use of humour. Check out the Doritos commercial which uses a goat to get its point across. Story doesn't always have to be "deep."
It also doesn't have to be expensive. Look at Hollywood. Good storylines and interesting characters put Blockbusters and low budget movies on even playing fields. And that's before you factor in the benefits of social media.
Now I don't think for a minute that all Canadians nor all agencies are uncreative and boring. There are exceptions to what seems to be the norm. So whose fault is it? Are clients just not buying more creative pitches? Are Canadians really happy with the status quo and are they just unwilling to see riskier and more exciting commercials?
Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that both agencies and their clients need to take more chances. Don't tell me the great fuel economy I'll get by buying your brand of car. Don't tell me about the cool dashboard with the nifty new GPS device. So what. Every other car company is telling me the same thing.
Make me remember your brand. SHOW me how I can save mileage and how I can use the GPS device by telling me a story. Use that story about how, years ago, my first driving lesson was in a Ford station wagon. Transport that sense of fear and excitement to the ad. Show how my parents used to take the car on what seemed like endless summer road trips...and how they used maps to get us from Point A to Point B (not always successfully). And how today things have changed because gas mileage is better - and there are onboard TV screens to keep the kids quiet - and how GPS is used to navigate the new worlds of both superhighways and more remote destinations (and how unlike maps, they never require folding).
Compare the old with the new. Because somewhere deep inside, your brand has earned a spot in my memory.
Engage me. Dazzle me. Get my emotions involved. But please don't bore me with an endless run of statistics and features. And really boring spokespeople.
It's time to battle Superbowl envy with story and lessen the gap between what Canadians want to see, and what they're getting. It's time for a cure.