Super Bowl PR Blunders: Shortest TV Spot, "Milkless" Mustache


I just landed in Arizona. I haven't done any work here yet to prepare for an all-day Super Bowl marathon on CNBC on Friday, but I decided it was appropriate to talk about botched PR during Super Bowl week.

Companies get so excited to have the stage, they misunderstand that they should probably sign the contract for an ad before announcing to the media that they've secured it (the story is below).

Companies also put themselves on the line when they attach themselves to athlete spokespeople, who expouse the virtues of their brand to the media having been given a five-minute primer before.

I'll never forget when one athlete (I will save him from further humiliation) went on "Cold Pizza" on ESPN2 only to spend the entire interview promoting the competitor's credit card brand by mistake.

Now on to the shenanigans. To the folks at 5WPR and Weatherproof Garment Company-- shame on you. Shortly after 3 p.m. ET yesterday, you issued a press release stating that Weatherproof "will make television and advertising history with the shortest television commercial of all-time, for broadcast during the 2008 Super Bowl."

The release went on to explain that Weatherproof's ad would be two seconds--the time it took to say "Weatherproof"--and that it cost $200,000.

Despite the fact that commercial was spelled wrong in the headline of the release and I was skeptical that Fox was willing to sell this slot (how do you get two seconds left over somewhere?), the e-mail turned out to be legitimate. So we went with the story.

Well, less than two hours later, another release came into my inbox calling for a retraction of the story.

Here is the text for your enjoyment:

"Unfortunately, due to timing restraints, Weatherproof Garment Company will be unable to run the two-second ad during Superbowl (sic) 2008. The company had every intention in running the ad, but learned that the timeslots for airing the ad, which was intended for a national audience, were unavailable. Weatherproof president Freddie Stollmack states "We are very disappointed we will be unable to air our ad and look forward to continuing to break barriers in our industry."

Freddie, guess what? You just did break barriers. You just became the first president of a company to announce that he had a spot in the Super Bowl without having one.

And, by the way, you did have the shortest Super Bowl ad in history--unfortunately tied with many other companies--zero seconds!

My favorite phrase of the retraction: "Due to timing restraints." You mean, the two seconds? Where is the responsibility? What happened? The media who reported the story and the public who was duped deserved more than that.

The next one is not a blunder per se, but I will call it a missed opportunity. While watching one of my favorite shows, Mike & Mike on ESPN2 this morning, I was struck by their interview with Kurt Warner.

Warner was there to promote milk and their trademark milk mustache campaign. And while Warner hit his message points he needed to hit and he was wearing a "Body By Milk" shirt that was covered by the information at the bottom of the screen, he somehow wasn't wearing a milk mustache.

You might not think this is a big deal, but it is. Warner could have garnered some 13 minutes of television exposure for the mustache had he been wearing a lip sticker mimicking the milk stain. (There was more air time to be had for milk when Warner went on "First Take" on ESPN2 a couple hours later.)

It wasn't like he was on radio row and was doing the media tour that would just include radio. The milk people took him out to Scottsdale for Mike & Mike, which is of course both radio and TV. A PR person should understand that.

If Warner wouldn't want to do something like that, there are plenty of players of his caliber or better who would do it for the same amount of cash.

Questions? Comments?