I am a proud Irish-American. 3rd Generation. I grew up with an appreciation of – if not complete indoctrination in – Irish-American traditions like Catholic school, “Danny Boy,” and corned beef and cabbage.
New York’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade is the linchpin and keystone of Irish-American pride. It is a day to paint the town green. Millions wear wool cable-knit sweaters and declare, “I’m Proud to be Irish.”
And yet, I often feel just the opposite.
To me, St. Patrick’s Day has become a celebration of all the worst stereotypes of Irish heritage. It is a day when drunk high schoolers from the suburbs maraud around the city, getting into fights and vomiting on the sidewalks. Instead of green, the city is actually spray-painted a pinkish-brown puke color.
It is, in fact, the one day a year I am embarrassed to be Irish.
As an ad guy, I feel the same way about Super Bowl Sunday. It is supposed to be the biggest day of the year for the ad industry. How often do you hear people say, “I watch it more for the commercials than the actual game”? The Super Bowl has been called “Madison Avenue’s showcase for the best of the best.”
And yet, the commercials have become kind of embarrassing. They appeal to the lowest common denominator. They rely on comatose clichés like cute animals and babies, slap stick humor, B celebrities and bathroom jokes.
There are understandable reasons for this. First, the commercials really need to work with the sound off. After all, many fans watch the game at bars and parties where they cannot actually hear the ads.
And then, there are the consumer polls. For years, the media, most prominently USAToday, has been rating the ads the very next day. No CMO wants to wake up the morning after they spent millions on a :30 spot to see their brand at the bottom of the list. Consequently, the ads stick to the tried and true jokes and formulas. They are generally void of big brand ideas. Or smart consumer insights. Or business building strategies. And these are really what Madison Avenue is all about.
That’s why Super Bowl Sunday is the one day a year I’m embarrassed to be in advertising.