Rams’ Work in Spotlight at Super Bowl
University Public Affairs
VCU may not have a football team, but few universities could boast such a robust alumni presence during Sunday night’s Super Bowl.
Eight graduates of the VCU Brandcenter, the university’s graduate advertising and marketing communications program, were on the creative teams for commercials that aired nationally during the game, which doubles as the world’s grandest advertising showcase. In addition, an alumnus of the undergraduate advertising program in the VCU School of Mass Communications in the College of Humanities and Sciences also served on the creative team of one of the big game’s big spots.
Three of the commercials with Brandcenter ties made the top 10 in USA Today’s annual Ad Meter, including: No. 2. – Tide’s “Miracle Stain” (Luke Behrends, 2007 graduate); No. 6. – Kia’s “Space Babies” (Steve Yee, 2000); and No. 10 – Audi’s “Prom” (Kendall Beveridge, 2010, and Raunak Munot, 2010).
Social media outlets lit up Sunday night with comments from VCU alumni and others who were excited about the creative work of the school’s graduates. Those whose pieces were featured during the game felt a similar pride in being joined by so many of their fellow graduates.
“I think the Brandcenter (or Adcenter as it was called in my day) has consistently proven that it develops some of the industry’s top talent,” said Mark Peters, a 2000 Brandcenter graduate who has worked on ads for Volkswagen for three straight Super Bowls. “I do take pride in seeing so many alumni can take part in what is still probably called ‘advertising’s biggest stage.’ Pretty neat.”
Mark Peters (right) with reggae legend Jimmy Cliff, who appears in a current VW ad
Having your work shown in such a high-profile setting can be both nerve-wracking and rewarding. Peters, for instance, said that the anticipation, scrutiny and pressure that accompany a Super Bowl spot “can make all involved a little crazy.” Peters, who works at the Deutsch LA firm, didn’t even watch the game after the build-up this year, opting to go surfing instead.
Yee, who works at David and Goliath in Los Angeles, described the experience as a kind of psychological roller-coaster, saying it’s “very rewarding, then oddly deflating, then back to rewarding. Rewarding because you finally get to witness the fruits of your labor broadcast to 100 million people who are actually paying attention. Oddly deflating because all that hard work is over in 60 seconds. Then back to rewarding when you read it was well-received.”
Both Peters and Yee said their time at the Brandcenter played a critical role in preparing them to create work ready for such an intense spotlight.
“Your approach and effort should always be the same,” said Yee, who had worked on one previous Super Bowl ad. “You study the product, study the target, come up with human insights and concept. You do that for big ads. You do that for small ads. Our focus as creatives should be the idea and only the idea. You focus on anything else, or get caught up in the stage, then you run the risk of putting something terrible in front of everyone. And that’s always much worse. The school taught me that.”
Peters pointed to “amazing instructors,” such as former professor Jelly Helm, who helped students seek to produce work that might “transcend advertising.”
“Lots of people can tell a good joke, but can you make something that has real meaning to someone, or offer a point of view that is needed in the world, or just make somebody feel something?” Peters said. “That was (Helm’s) challenge to us. It’s a bit of an idealistic way to think of your work, but I think if that’s how you approach everything you do, then you’re prepared for any setting, including the Super Bowl.”
Patrick Simkins, who graduated from the School of Mass Communications’ undergraduate advertising program in 2006, has served as art director on a number of Toyota ads through his work with the Saatchi and Saatchi advertising firm. The firm’s latest work, “Rav4 Wish Granted,” premiered during the Super Bowl and accumulated millions of views online.
In an interview with the School of Mass Communications, Simkins credited his time at VCU with steeling him for the rigorous demands of the advertising industry.
“Learning how to take criticism is the most important thing I learned,” Simkins said. “Yes, you have to know how to use some software and how to engage an audience while still talking about a product and the various processes of marketing. But none of that matters if you don’t learn to put your ideas out there and boil down someone’s comments into actionable feedback.”
A complete list of VCU alumni whose work was featured during the Super Bowl:
A scene from the Tide "Miracle Stain" ad that ran during this year's Super Bowl. Luke Behrends, a 2007 Brandcenter alumnus, was on the creative team for the spot.
In addition to the national spots, three Brandcenter graduates and a theatre alumnus from the VCU School of the Arts figured in commercials that aired regionally during the Super Bowl. These included: Matt Bloch (Theatre, 2012), who starred in the nTelos commercial “Dan and Dave;” Britton Taylor (Brandcenter, 2001), who worked on Old Spice’s “Irresistible;” and Laura Fallon (Brandcenter, 2010) and James Wood (Brandcenter, 2009), who worked on BMO Harris Bank’s “Dream Home.”
Current VCU Brandcenter students got into the act with a running commentary of commercials as they aired during the game. The discussion was carried out on Twitter with the hashtag #BCBigGame.
Matt Miller, president of the Association of Independent Commercial Producers and a member of the Brandcenter board of directors, credited the Twitter discussion on NBC’s “Today Show” when he explained the appeal of the Budweiser commercial that took the top spot in the Ad Meter. In citing the students’ commentary, Miller referred to the VCU Brandcenter as “the best ad school in the country.”
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