King Kaufman's Sports Daily

Shockingly, the experts -- that's all of us -- got it wrong on that Salesgenie Super Bowl ad. Plus: College football signing day.



Salon Staff
February 7, 2007 10:00PM (UTC)

When steroids hit the headlines, we all -- not just the commentariat but you there on the bar stool -- appoint ourselves medical experts and chemistry majors.

When it's time to size up a big game we talk about zone blocking and the cover 2 defense as though we really know what we're talking about, which most of us don't.

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And every Super Bowl Sunday we all become experts on the advertising business. And guess what. Most of us don't know what we're talking about.

Consider the Salesgenie.com ad. You remember that one. Guy gets out of a red Corvette, walks into the office. A hot co-worker twirls her blond tresses and asks him for a ride. The boss invites him to dinner at the crib. And so on. Someone asks our boy's secret, and rather than mentioning his side business selling meth, he points to Salesgenie.com.

It looked like one of those ads you see while watching "Three's Company" reruns on late-night cable.

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The watching world was horrified. The ad was roundly panned. Salesgenie's spot had committed the ultimate sin, evidently: It had lacked irony. The commercial ranked dead last in the USA Today "ad meter," which represented the results of tracking the reactions of volunteer audiences with hand-held meters.

"This spot is so monumentally brainless and amateurish it actually attracts attention," wrote Bob Garfield in Advertising Age, "i.e., is this really a Super Bowl ad???"

"SalesGenie, along with a few of the automakers, rounded out the bottom of the pack with The Most Disliked Ads of the Game," reported New Media Strategies, a marketing consultancy that claimed to gather opinions from "12,000 discussions about the Super Bowl ads from the most influential marketing and advertising, sports-related and mainstream online communities."

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Various college advertising and business classes gathered, voted on the ads and gave low marks to Salesgenie.

And check out what industry insiders had to say in real time at SuperAdFreak.com. Samples:

TIM ARNOLD: OK, I'm in: first one to utterly waste every nickel of $2.6 [million] of somebody's money: salesgenie.com.

JASON MARKS: Sales Genie: What? They wasted their money on what ended up looking like a Devry Institute ad.

MARIAN SALZMAN: After seeing lot of Sales Genie as a backdrop, I'm not even motivated to find out what Sales Genie is. Should I be?

Well guess, if I may repeat myself, what. Here's USA Today again Tuesday, in a story about Super Bowl advertisers that saw a spike in Web traffic after the game:

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Salesgenie.com. The sales-lead website generated more than 10,000 new customer subscriptions by late Monday, far more than the 700 it said it needed to break even on its ad cost. "Our ad wasn't supposed to be funny or clever," InfoUSA CEO Vin Gupta says. "It was supposed to bring in subscribers, and it's been successful beyond our wildest dreams. We're already working on next year's ad."

Oh. Well, hey, don't forget to set aside that $20 to pay the actors.

I'm sure there's a lesson in here about the sports commentariat, about all the expert and nonexpert opinions you read and hear about the teams, the games, the business and the people in and surrounding our games. I just can't for the life of me figure out what it is.

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Maybe it's that you can't even trust the experts, never mind guys like me. But the thing is, sometimes you can. That Bob Garfield quote above, from Ad Age? It has been quoted all over in the past day or two, but what never seems to be included is the rest of the statement. Here's the whole thing:

"This spot is so monumentally brainless and amateurish it actually attracts attention -- i.e., is this really a Super Bowl ad??? No problem. The 'Glengarry Glen Ross' crowd won't downgrade for insipidness."

He was right. Turns out some experts really are experts, at least some of the time. The trick is figuring out which ones, and when. And that's hard to do if the people bringing you some of those experts' opinions -- guys like me -- tailor their quotes to fit a thesis, in this case, "Salesgenie.com blew it."

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Enough of this Super Bowl business, right? In just a month, it'll be time for everyone to become experts on college basketball. Some of us might even watch a little before then.

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Happy National Signing Day [PERMALINK]

Wednesday is National Signing Day, when high school football recruits sign their letters of intent to play professional football for free at various institutes of higher education. Here's hoping there's a nice present waiting for you under the National Signing Day tree!

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Letter-of-intent day used to be a local story or an insiders-only kind of deal. The signings were announced by press release. At some point, fax machines came into play. Ooh! College football wonks cared about it, and if a local kid was signing at Notre Dame or Big State, the local papers and TV stations would run a story.

Now, of course, it's a big media event. There are receptions and dinners for boosters, rallies for fans, webcasts, TV coverage. It's sort of a miniature version of the NFL draft, except you've never heard of an even higher percentage of the guys whose names you'll read and hear today, and five years from now you'll still be hearing about an even lower percentage of them.

February's a slow section of the sports calendar and the colleges and media have figured out a way to fill some of that void and make a little extra money for all concerned.

Well, not the players. Heaven forbid.

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Previous column: Snickers ad pulled

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