Aha… Now we know — the Olympic$

In an earlier post (here,) I had wondered what happened to our trusted Madison Avenue executives who during the Super Bowl had rolled out mostly mediocre TV ads (notably exceptions were Budweiser with “Puppy Love” and “A Hero’s Welcome” and Audi with “Doberhuahua.”)

Here is the puppy love Budweiser ad, which was created by the ad agency Anomaly:

In my posting, I wrote:

Where were all the creative geniuses of Madison Avenue? The Super Bowl is just as much an advertising event as it a sporting event, and it would appear that both the Broncos and the Mad Men fielded a sub-par team this year.

Well, now we know. Madison Avenue had shifted its focus to the Winter Olympics, and, oh boy!, did they roll out the big guns.

While most ads that ran during the Super Bowl were… well… bad, most of the ads that ran during the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics were outstanding, lead by the United Airlines commercial thought up by the ad agency McGarry Bowen:

Brilliant!

Now, the ads were not alone in demonstrating excellence. The Russians really pulled out all the stop, handily delivering the best Winter Olympics opening ceremony ever, with a stirring national anthem performed by the choir of the Sretensky Monastery, founded in Moscow in 1397 to celebrate the city’s 11thescape from invasion by Tamerlane, Uzbekistan born, Turko-Mongol ruler (say what you want… the Russians are steeped in history and they certainly know how to pull it out and use it in a pointed way in national propaganda,) and overwhelmingly beautiful composition.

Bundesarchiv_Bild_101I-218-0503-19

Bundesarchiv_Bild_101I-218-0503-19

And, to the credit of the arrangers and Mr. Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, the President of Russia, there was restraint, too. In a superb walk-through of the history of Russia, the Great Patriotic War was was totally ignored, sparing the feelings of Italians, Romanians, Hungarians, Finns, Slovakians, Germans, and Austrians whose countries had been involved in Fall Barbarossa, the Axis powers’ invasion of Russia during World War II, the largest military operation in history in both manpower and casualties, which, literally, raped the Soviet Union and caused an estimated 18 to 24 million deaths, amounting to almost 15% of the pre-war population — a staggering genocide by any measure.

This restraint is the more remarkable given that the great Patriotic War has been a cornerstone in Mr. Putin’s efforts to galvanize Russia and re-establish Russian as a leader in the world, culminating with last year’s celebration of the 70th anniversary of the routing and wholesale destruction of the German 6th army at Stalingrad, arguably the turning point for the Soviet Union in World War II (I have written about Stalingrad and the Adolph Hitler’s repetition of the the error of Bonaparte Napoleon in attempting to race across the vast steppes in Russia in an earlier posting (here.))

Anyway, great ads, great opening ceremony… But, of course, at enormous costs.

According to an article by Ms. Meg James in the LA Times (here,) NBC will spend approximately $900 million on the 17 days coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympics, which is courageous given the $223 million loss it suffered with the Winter Olympics in Vancouver in 2010.

However, as Ms. James notes, citing Mr. Sam Sussman, a senior vice president of Chicago-based Starcom USA, which plans ad campaigns for Kellogg’s, Best Buy and Hallmark, NBC is comfortable with the bet:

“NBC is benefiting from a healthy marketplace and the value of sports programming, which is typically live viewing,” Sussman said. “They secured most of their media deals well in advance of the Games, and advertisers continue to be very optimistic.”

In the last few years, audience levels for live events, including sports and award shows, have skyrocketed because viewers don’t want to miss being part of the conversation on social media and in the workplace. The increased viewership has prompted advertisers to open their wallets wider to buy spots in sports, where they can be guaranteed that fewer people will use digital recorders to fast-forward through their commercials.

NBCUniversal has cleared the decks to make room for plenty of commercial time. The company is providing 80% more hours of coverage compared with Vancouver, which notched 835 hours.

The cost to Russia for conducting the event is staggering. According to an article by Ms. Kathy Lally and Mr. Will Englund in the Washington Post (here,) an estimated $50 billion will be spent by Russia (or much more, if you listen to Mr. Putin’s opposition, which is questioning the official numbers,) amounting to between $2.5 million and $12 million per athlete attending (again depending on whose figures you believe.)

I wrote about the blatant money focus of the Olympics (or, as I prefer to say the Olympic$,) here, detailing the amazing demands for perks raised by the International Olympics Committee — a posting that I reread before every Olympic$, just to keep myself honest.

In my Olympic$ posting I also commented on NBCs media coverage of the 2012 Summer Olympics, spearheaded by the always inane Mr. Bob Costas.

In this Winter Olympics, Mr. Costas was particularly annoying.

In an interview with President Barack Hussein Obama II, he clumsily attempted again-and-again to politicize the Olympics in spite of Mr. Obama’s continued gentle and respectful deflections. The questions were, frankly, instigating and should, I think, cause NBC to terminate its contract with Mr. Costas:

…neither you nor the Vice President, the First Lady, nor any high ranking member of your cabinet will be in Sochi for these Olympics. Why not?

…you are sending openly gay athletes like Caitlin Cahow and Brian Boitano as part of the delegation. It’s hard to miss the message that’s being sent there.

…Well, not calling out any specific leader or nation by name, the new head of the IOC, Thomas Bach, was bluntly critical of world leaders who have distanced themselves from these Games. The way he put it was, they are politicizing the Olympics on the backs of the athletes. Do you have a response to that?

…How satisfied are you about the level of cooperation between Russian and American intelligence and security forces when it comes to trying to keep these Games safe?

…You came into office promising to reset America’s relationship with Russia, and, if anything, it seems to have deteriorated, and it also seems that if anyone is doing the resetting it is President Putin. Syria, Iran, asylum for Edward Snowden, laws prohibiting U.S. couples from adopting Russian orphans. How well do you think you will work with President Putin going forward? How effective will it be?

… most people perceive your relationship with the Russian President, this might be the right adjective, this being the Winter Olympics, they perceive it as being icy. How would you characterize your relationship with President Putin?

Well, maybe this is what amounts to hard-hitting journalism these days, but, frankly, I scratch my head to understand what it is doing in the Olympic$ and why Mr. Costas, who is hardly a geopolitical expert feel that this is an area that he should step into. Perhaps Mr. Obama said it best when he swatted Mr. Costas like an annoying fly:

… the truth is, Bob, that the folks that the people are actually interested in seeing at the Olympics are incredible athletes.

…Well, first of all, Bob, that was sort of a selective list because in my first term we were able to reduce nuclear stock piles in both countries, and we were able to make sure Russia’s ascension into the WTO took place, so that they were abided by international norms and rules on trade that provided opportunities on U.S. businesses. We were able to cooperate on Libya and making sure Gaddafi wasn’t slaughtering many of his own people.

Shame on Mr. Costas for his shameless politicking.

Oh, and I would be remiss if I did not mention Mr. Costas inappropriate babbling during the very start of the opening ceremony, a dream sequence where a little girl links each letter in the Russian alphabet to a Russian writer, artist, or landmark. A beautiful and significant sequence — somewhat ruined by Mr. Costas inane and interrupting comments, akin to a rude, drunk guest who insist on speaking over the host’s welcome speech, and, eventually, stumbles, falling into the buffet table.

Wanna share your gold?

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