Monthly Archives: February 2011

Super Bowl Thoughts

The Brutal Truth About Brutal Youth

So, everyone has become a critic of Super Bowl advertising. Give someone a WordPress account and cast them into the blogosphere with some loudmouth soup and Voila! Anyone can be Bob Garfield. I was scathingly critical of the critics on Monday — funny how so few folks that actually produced a Super Bowl spot will write or talk about it. Guys like Joe Pytka and Ted Sann, who practically pioneered the sub-genre. And it is with a rare dose of humility that I offer up my opinions, but there’s a first for everything.

My Super Bowl essay begins with a vengeance — er, I mean violence. First, the violence of the sport itself — the phenomenon of football. Never has the game been more popular or violent. I cannot help but think that there is a correlation. Whether we live vicariously through each helmet hit or if it is just another form of rubbernecking — there’s no denying the inextricable link between heads bashing and our fascination with American football. It’s like Rock ’em, Sock ’em Robots, but live.

There’s an urban myth going around that there are inordinately higher incidences of domestic violence on Super Sunday. This is a pure canard concocted by a self-promoting feminist. In fact, the myth diminishes awareness of and trivializes the true and very real social problem of domestic abuse. There is not a shred of evidence that supports this myth, in fact, statistics show that there are less than the usual incidences of domestic violence on this day. Many wives are attending parties with their husbands, not at home waiting to get beat up by their loutish lushes that missed winning the office pool by one box. Please don’t feed this frenzy. Okay, that’s my anti-Public Service announcement.

Violence permeates a lot of the Super Bowl advertising. True, most spots are old vaudeville slapstick gags: Betty White getting thrown into the mud (welcome to the Mud Bowl, Rosie);  people getting hit, punched, whacked, knocked over the head, the Doritos guy whose face is flattened. And women, children and even dogs are not spared some violently funny fate. If we don’t get enough violence in the game, then we can always watch the commercials. And to think, the FCC once had a problem with The Three Stooges.

I stopped following football when the Jets traded Joe Namath to the Rams. He was my first and only football idol. I liked Fred Biletnikoff, but the greatest football player of all time never played in a Super Bowl, Jim Brown, who was charged with criminal domestic abuse on several occasions (only to have the charges dropped time and again).

Now to the spots — these are just Palma opinions:

MVP — VW. I hate to be such a Crispin-file, but the Darth Vader spot was the best performer. It wasn’t like it was a mind-blowing BIG IDEA. It was just a cute, old-fashioned spot — a lot like the VW brand itself. Remember when most commercials made you smile like this?

The Palma — My personal favorite? Two-way tie between:

  • Chevy Volt — You may not have known about the Volt. It’s perhaps the greatest engineering achievement in the history of Detroit. Yes, a bunch of Midwestern guys named Bob and John (ex-Purdue guys, I’m sure) with bad haircuts and cheap wristwatches out-engineered Dolph from Germany, Sven from The Netherlands, Bruno from Italy and Toshi from Japan. Since I don’t understand the technical specs, you check it out. It’s not a “luxury” car but it’s $41,000 (does that include interest on the bailout?). Anyway, I liked the spot enough to check out the car. It wasn’t anything new, actually another old-fashioned formulaic technique (“great moments in the history of…”), but the story was well-told — something we expect from Goodby.
  • Cars. com — This brand gets the respect of a used-car salesman; but, in the past two years they have created a couple of really good spots for the Super Bowl. More of the same “the history of…” formula, but again, it’s in the details and the storytelling. Keep it up Cars.com, you are funny.

H.G. Wells Award — Kia— Did you see that? WTF? I was checking the artichoke dip for acid. I don’t like science fiction, but most people do. This spot froze the room that I was in (or maybe someone just left the door open).

The Pytka — Coke & Pepsi. Funny how these two brands once looked so different on TV and now they pretty much look the same. Soon they will taste the same.

The W (or The National Embarrassment) — Chrysler. Detroit. Don’t insult me. Detroit is prettier than I think? No, it isn’t. It’s actually worse. Who cares anyway? “From the hottest fires come the strongest steel” — talk about a self-important, untrue redundancy. Eminem? Yes, a Detroit native. Another guy whose cred relies on violence — in the lyrics and the persona. Local boy makes bad, I guess. The nerve of Big Auto to spend $11 million on a commercial 15 months after the government bailouts and then sell it back to us as Nationalism. Make a friggin’ car I want to buy. What are we, stupid or something? Or, is it just me? If so, you’re with stupid right now — proceed at your own risk.

No Daddy — Nobody gets panned more than GoDaddy for their Super Bowl spots. Nope. But about 5 years ago, they were the only brand willing to take on the Janet Jackson debacle and satirize it. While everyone else was kowtowing to the network and the NFL, they were spoofing the inequities of the spectacle itself (the final spot was PULLED OFF THE AIR IN MID-GAME! Which received more publicity than all the other spots combined). So all you critics of this brand can kiss daddy’s you-know-what.

Elia Kazan Award — Stella Artois. Boy, did this spot get panned. I loved it. This is a connoisseur’s brand and they created a connoisseur’s spot. Adrien Brody turned in the best singing performance by an Academy Award-winning actor since Kevin Spacey in “Beyond the Sea”. I’m guessing it was a spot that resonated with Stella drinkers and polarized Budweiser drinkers. Good. That’s the intention.

Vanishing Point — Where was FedEx? A casualty of the economy, I presume.

Everything Else — It’s only a commercial.

That’s about all I can take. I don’t even like football. I’m a pacifist who never produced a spot in his life, so what do I know?

Pitchers and catchers report in 4 days.

10 Tips to Improve Mental Toughness

Getting Your Head In The Right Place

So you work in a creative industry. You are neither a warrior nor an athlete. Yet, your ability to survive and advance often hinges on adaptation and perseverance. They require guts/moxie/vigor/fortitude/mettle/spunk/grit/pluck/hardihood/backbone and several other descriptive synonyms of  “mental toughness”.

Woody Allen said “90% of success is just showing up”.  If that’s true, the other 10% hinges on mental toughness. Anyone can be mentally tough. Certain challenges require extreme mental toughness, while others simply require that we stay out of our own way and perform. Let’s confront the former: the tough challenge, the big pitch, the presentation where the account is on the line; or away from business, in a competitive golf or tennis match.

These tips apply, use them at your own risk:

1. Stay In the Present — You’re only as good as your last win and you’re only as bad as your last loss. But what does NOW require? The future is a seductive temptress, but it distorts the task at hand. Now and what you are doing now supersedes all.

2. Trust Your Talent — It’s all you really have. It transcends your relationships, money, power, and tactics. You can only control one thing: your mind. If you don’t believe in your talent, your skill, your ability to do something when it counts — then you should do something else.

3. Don’t Beat Yourself Up — This tip is related to #1 but extends the thought. Learn to let things go (bad things especially). It’s not life and death. It’s not cancer survival. It’s advertising, tennis, golf, or whatever. Small failures should embolden you and make you more determined.

4. Maintain Unwavering Faith — Borrowing from “Good to Great” — reject cynicism.  Think good thoughts. Visualize success in the moment. Accept the bad breaks, there are more bad breaks than good breaks — they don’t “even out.” You cannot fail if you do your best.

5. Love the Process — Be ritualistic. Have a routine. Stick to it. Stop worrying about results. Love the process. Love to compete. Creativity is rumored to be the opposite of routine — it’s a bad rumor. Accept victory and defeat with equal dignity.

6. Be Yourself — To be yourself, you have to know yourself. Get to know yourself better. The best way to do this is to put yourself in unfamiliar situations. Don’t accept in victory what you would not accept in defeat. If you’re going down, go down as the person/player you are. Don’t try to be someone else — or what others want us to be.

7. Overcome Fear of Failure — Yes, fear is the mortal enemy of creativity (thanks Alex). It’s actually the mortal enemy of everything. Most psychiatric disorders and dilemmas are grounded in FEAR. There are literally hundreds of phobias — they all begin with “fear of…”. So how does one overcome fear?  Let go of all the stuff you can’t control (your opponents, public opinion, your relationships).  Stop trying to control EVERYTHING ELSE and start controlling the one thing that you can control: YOUR MIND!

8. Practice “Up” — Whenever possible, upgrade your competition in practice. This will elevate your level of play when it really counts. Hold your work up to higher standards. Get better every day. False confidence is nearly as dangerous as fear of failure.

9. Be Patient — Sometimes it’s best not to force the action, let the challenge come to you. Never panic. Wait for your opponent to panic, then pounce.

10. Find Someone That Believes In You — We all need a coach, a mentor, a partner in whom we trust with our goals and fears, a confessor, a counselor. Someone who can challenge us to be our best, or pick us up when we are down, or remind us not to sulk or whine, or just say nothing and support us with quiet confidence. Find them, they will help make you mentally tougher.