Yes, kids, it's that time of year. The Superbowl is tomorrow, and the universe is full of stories about the incredibly expensive, production-values-up-the-wazoo commercials that are going to be running. Here is a blog post on the subject. Here's another one. Here's an entire web site devoted to the subject.
Do not watch them.
Here's the problem. These are ads for multinational brands, with gigantic ad budgets, made by the absolute best ad agencies in the world. These people are professionals. The ads themselves are almost always pure branding exercises, designed to raise awareness and position (or reposition) an already well-known brand. One 30-second spot in the 2009 Super Bowl will cost you around $3 million.
If you are running a business that does under $500 million in revenues, or is a professional service, or both, these ads have absolutely no connection with the kind of advertising you should be doing, if any, or the way you think about your marketing. It's like letting a schoolyard bully go up against Mike Tyson, in his prime. It's completely apples and oranges.
It reminds me of some comedian's bit about why Julia Roberts is the most powerful actress in the universe. It's because all men, when they are sitting in the theater watching one of her movies, are thinking to themselves: "You know, if she met me ... she'd kind of dig me." The point here is that the Julie Roberts you see up on the screen has absolutely no connection with any real woman walking the earth. She's an ACTRESS -- get it? Similarly, those ads have absolutely no connection with the marketing that should be done by any real-world professional-services firm.
Yet, because these ads are so good, so pervasive and are typically such good creative, a lot of people think that this is good advertising. It is, but it probably isn't good advertising for them. A law firm with 500 attorneys has completely different needs than, say, Doritos, or Monster.com. However, it's amazing how many of my clients begin their marketing thinking with these ads. Big mistake.
Don't watch them. Don't even think about them. I promise, what's right for you will be something completely different.