I got into advertising because of Super Bowl commercials. 

As a kid I’d always gravitated toward advertising in general, and even collected those Wacky Packs back in the day, but it was the ads during the biggest sporting event of the year that had me staring wide-eyed into the TV tube. 

So when I got into advertising as a junior copywriter at the ripe ol’ age of 35, I had dreams of doing high concept, high production Super Bowl commercials. Naturally.

Then I took a job in Charlotte. It was a good gig. I learned a lot. Won a bunch of awards. Made clients very happy. But during those first two years at the agency, I realized I was never going to do a Super Bowl ad in Charlotte. Sure, our agency might run a local spot during the SB, but those were going to be innocuous and safe. 

Before moving to here I had a chance to work in New York. It was the late-90s. I had a strong spec portfolio, and access to the Red Book at the library. I researched the top agencies on the east coast that I’d like to work for, and sent each CD at those shops an onion with a note and a link to my (way rudimentary) website. I landed interviews at my three top NYC ad agencies, and received offers from two. But that would mean moving back to NYC—when my new wife and I escaped it for Florida in 1996. (Trust me, there was a string of brutal winters in the mid-90s.)

So I took the job in Charlotte. And we bought a house. Then had kids. And, well, we settled down. We’ve now been here longer than any place I’ve ever lived. And it’s been great. Just totally unexpected. But unlike me, my kids will attend just one high school. While I realize that’s not like doing a Super Bowl ad, I’m still pretty proud of this. 

My career in advertising has moved in a thousand different directions over the past 20 years, but mostly as an independent—working for small and mid-sized businesses building brands and developing marketing strategies. And, ironically, for the most part I move these clients away from expensive traditional advertising (especially TV) into platforms that are more measurable, pliable, and sustainable. Sure, I still do the strongest work possible for these folks, but mostly this means simplifying their messages and making their voices sing. No, it isn’t exactly Super Bowl ad stuff, but it’s meaningful nonetheless. 

Still. I could do it. I could write a killer Super Bowl spot. Hell, just throw me a brief! After all, I’ve still got those wide-eyes. And a heartbeat that pounds out of my chest. I could do it. 

I could do it. 

I’ll never do it. 

And that’s ok. 

So on Sunday I’ll sit there watching the ads—wondering about how each concept was conceived, and then sold up the chain to become what it is we’re seeing on the screen. Some will excite me. Some will disappoint me. But all of them will impress me in the fact that behind each are people who were lucky enough to work on a Super Bowl ad. 

Because deep down, that’s every ad kid’s dream. 



The Matador Painting
And the Oscar goes to ...

Jim Mitchem

Writer. Father to daughters. Husband. Ad man. Raised by wolves. @jmitchem on twitter. First novel, Minor King, out now.