Surprise re March Madness advertising: Agencies need to be creative!

NYTimes Advertising column today (3/20/2017) writes that because NCAA rules do not allow use of college athletes’ names or likenesses, those rules, “…lead you down more creative paths, if you will.”  Well, praise the rules!  As a former copywriter, and now professor of advertising and strategic communications, I have seen the easy choice, lacking any obvious “creative paths,” in dozens of major branding and communications campaigns, of choosing a “spokesperson,” sometimes classily referenced as a “brand ambassador.”  Lazy, lazy, lazy.

Including Wendy’s lame and possibly sexist claim that the restaurant chain’s efforts to serve up “fresh beef” is analogous to the NCAA’s own attempt in the Tournament, the Tournament ads have so far been decidedly uncreative..A talking ball waiting at the scorer’s table (GEICO); Sonic’s family food fight over Frosted Flakes (and a misplaced VIP designation for the doofy guy); Charles Barkley’s seven-layer suit, replete with dancing outfit (arrgghh!); and Kentucky versus Kansas (at least the latter was a 70s band).

That highlights the only bright star in the March Madness firmament, the AT&T spot featuring Dan Finnerty and the Dan Band, some years distant from cinema performances in The Hangover and Step-Brothers.  Dan’s sleezy and lugubrial delivery is true to form, and a counter to healthy, All-American behavior we might expect from the NCAA Tournament.

We are only in the second round, so, let’s hope for a stronger bracket ahead as far as commercials are conerned!


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