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BBB: Bowl ads hearken back to early days of big ideas

Back in 1967, when the Green Bay Packers took on the Kansas City Chiefs in the first Super Bowl, did AFL and NFL leaders even consider that the event would turn into the television advertising showcase it is today? One in which the ads are as much a part of the buzz as the teams and the contest?

In 1983, a dark, memorable Apple ad kicked off this venue’s journey to the showcase we know today. Mickey Lonchar with Quisenberry Marketing and Design shares a pertinent story about that in his October 2011 blog:

“According to (ad agency Creative Chief Lee) Clow, the week before the Super Bowl, Apple’s board refused to air (a particular) spot. ‘Under no circumstances will we pay for this to air,’ they were said to say. At which point (Steve) Jobs turned to his partner Steve Wozniak and said ‘I’ll pay for half if you’ll pay for half.’ The very idea that a client felt so strongly about a concept that he would reach into his own pocket to pay for it is beyond inspiring.”

The spot in question was the Ridley Scott-directed “1984” Super Bowl ad that launched Macintosh.

I wonder what those nay-saying board members think now. But I want to go back even further in time to 1926, right here in Spokane, to a different board. The ones who founded the local BBB and focused its energy on truth in advertising. 

The Better Business Bureau as a whole will blow out 100 candles this year (along with the Girl Scouts of the United States of America) and I have been searching through old minutes, old articles and other materials as we prepare to kick off the next century. In the summer of 1926, our BBB board was meeting with assorted industry groups about problems in their advertising. Some of the hot topics were: 

•  Radio dealers misusing the claim “dynamic speakers”

•  Fahey-Brockman ads in three local newspapers that prompted a men’s ready-to-wear group to meet and adopt standards for fair advertising

•  Fuel dealers’ claims of what specific fuel products did for the life of your car

• Jewelry claims – this industry later became one of the strongest self-regulating industries in the United States

• The Perpetual Encyclopedia Co. and its door-to-door sales pitches

•  Con men selling Spokanites shares in the “Ford Motor Company of England” – this alarmed the board enough to vote to write letters and send telegrams.

Things have sure changed. Back then the group of businessmen on our board met at Culbertson’s Tea Room each week to review complaints, listen to industry concerns about advertising, and review all three papers for content of printed pitches. They brought together industry leaders and helped them to craft standards they would all follow. The men’s ready-to-wear group was quite busy a few years later in 1928, thanks to out-of-towners making all sorts of impossible promises in the press.

Forward to Steve Jobs and his passion for his “1984” ad. He and his partner knew they had to do something to stand out; to convey the message that a Mac really is a different experience. And boy did they.

In some aspects, advertising has not changed. People still exaggerate, mislead or even lie to impress us. On a national and local level, self-regulation in advertising still exists. The BBB still reviews ads, only now the majority of that time is spent on company websites. We continue to ask companies to put passion aside and substantiate their ads – or if they can’t, to change them. Most do, while some do not. That success or failure is reflected in business reviews at

As you watch this year’s Super Bowl, know that the ads we see scattered throughout the football game will cause a reaction, and that is the point. Realizing that industry groups as well as the Better Business Bureau are working to make those ads truthful could make it just a bit more fun.

Jan Quintrall is president and CEO of the local Better Business Bureau. She can be reached at