The best commercials make us ‘think different’

Published 6:34 am Tuesday, January 31, 2012

This Sunday, I plan to be parked in front of my TV just like millions of other red-blooded Americans, to watch the Super Bowl. And just like many of those Americans, I won’t be switching over the channel when the game action pauses and the commercials start.

The advertisements on the Super Bowl are part of the festivities, and often they stick in our minds long after the game is over. It is interesting to me the many different ways that major corporations use to try and implant their message into our subconscious. Some go for humor (like most beer commercials), some use animals or babies (I’m looking at you, and E-trade), and some are just plain absurd (Again, E-Trade with its “We just wasted $2 million” ad that was nothing but dancing monkeys).

Obviously, in my young age, I was not able to see some of the greatest Super Bowl commercials when they originally aired. However, thanks to the Internet and websites like Youtube, I’ve been able to watch them anyway. I still love the Apple “Think Different” ad that was inspired by George Orwell’s 1984 and “Big Brother.” Other great classic commercials that I never got to see first-hand were Mean Joe Green’s Coke ad, the original McDonald’s Big Mac commercial, and the Xerox “monks” commercial.

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I know I’ll be looking forward to the unique commercials that will be broadcast this Sunday. At more than $2 million a pop, these companies usually put every effort into making the most of their 30 minutes to an hour of airtime. Sure, some will be duds and miss the mark, but likely there will be at least a few commercials that we’ll be discussing with our friends for days to come.

Obviously, I find a special interest in advertising because of my profession. Even though my time in newspapers has been entirely on the editorial side, I realize that it is the advertising that “pays the bills.” I’m always interested by the ways that companies tailor their message, based on the audience or what they’re trying to achieve.

For example, I doubt that Coke would be very successful if it had an ad that was like, “Hey, have you heard about this delicious new product? Drink Coke!” After all, just about everyone on the planet has heard of Coke. At this point, their ads are more about tapping into our subconscious and making us think, “Boy, I’d really like a Coke right now.” On the other hand, a company that’s just a start-up would probably have an ad that tells us more about what it does and who it is.

Some ads are just designed to elicit a feeling, such as seeing cheerful smiling kids in a McDonald’s, or people having a good time at a party while drinking beer. I doubt their ads would be quite as effective if McDonald’s showed an overweight person stuffing down fries, or a drunk college student stumbling into a lamppost.

It will be interesting to see what kind of tricks the advertising agencies try on us this Sunday. I’m sure at least one of them will try to push the envelope of good taste.

As for me, I’ll just probably sit back, have a Coke and smile.

Justin Schuver is the editor of The Post-Searchlight. You can email him at