The pitfall of Big Game thinking

In the US, today is a major holiday. The Superb Owl, with nachos, commercials and beer. People who don’t even watch football watch this game, and it’s one of the largest audiences each year on TV.

For a certain kind of mass marketer, a Super Bowl ad has been the gold standard for 40 years, ever since Lee Clow and Jay Chiat did the original Mac ad. As a result of advertiser demand, the per-viewer cost of running an ad for this mass audience is actually more than it would cost to run targeted ads at only the people you actually want to reach.

To put this clearly: advertisers are paying extra to reach people who don’t care and won’t take action.

Because it’s big. Super. Easy.

A few brands can actually justify these ads with results. They make beer and chips. For just about everyone else, mass isn’t your friend. Mass means average, and the average person isn’t ready to sign up, talk about it or switch. That’s because change always happens at the edges.

The same thinking drives companies to advertise on the biggest podcasts, exhibit at the biggest trade shows and hire at the biggest colleges. Not because it’s effective, but because there’s a crowd.

The pitfall of Big Game thinking is our lack of focus. We are distracted by what others are doing, have decided is important or chosen to value, instead of doing the rewarding work of focusing on the change we seek to make.

Noise is a generalized function. Messages are specific.

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