The Olympics, Awards and Basketball

The advertising industry is based on golden moments – golden moments and awards. There are more awards programs for advertising than any other industry (movies are trying to catch up but we still have them beat). Some of our biggest golden moments though aren’t always on stage, accepting an award from our peers. Yes, at times, we triumph as an industry by producing work that actually affects American culture, while helping our clients succeed. These great moments of recognition used to occur in living rooms on a regular basis, but today, they only seem to come during a great event, such as the Super Bowl, the Oscars, or even the Olympics.

Thanks to DVR technology, I have been able to catch pretty much every Olympic event, along with many of the commercials that seemed to air each time Michael Phelps grinned at the camera. At times I was tempted to fast forward to the next Gold Medal being placed around his neck, but instead, was drawn in to one commercial after the next. Take Nike for example – beautiful graphics, combined with an inspirational music bed, reminded me of why the athletes just do it. Or Home Depot spotlighting their employees worldwide, that are competing on this most noble of battlegrounds, and Visa, featuring a fallen track runner being picked up and helped to the finish line by his father – great moments that brought a tear to my eye every time.

The spot that really caught my attention though, was again from Nike - retro footage of Marvin Gaye singing “The Star Spangled Banner” while the USA basketball team warms up on the court. The ad is fantastic. The integration of old and new footage is so well done, and the emotional connection is evident.
It almost makes me forget about the fact that these are over-paid professionals competing in an amateur competition. (Seriously, could we not have at least sent one of the final four teams from the NCAA Championship to play? Has no one thought of this?) But I digress.

The point of my ramblings here – is to ask the question of why? Why is it that only ad awards and major events bring out the best creative? Are we only able to produce great work and take chances when there is hardware on the line? I thought our job was to grab the world’s attention, regardless of the media vehicle, budget, client and audience size.

Instead we are left with mind numbing commercials and advertisements that continually water down our industry and our profession.

In the end, not everyone will have the Olympics and Super Bowl to feature their brands – or the budget that goes with them – but that does not mean we can’t strive to make the same emotional impact on the consumers we are trying to reach. That doesn’t mean it has to be funny or make you want to cry. It does mean though that some thought should be put into how ads are created, executed and delivered to the public, regardless of if they are Nike or Bob’s Plumbing on 4th street. As an advertising professional I require it of myself, and as a consumer – I demand it from those who seek my attention.

Jaci Russo
Sr. Partner – The Russo Group