Editor’s note: Billy Warden is a writer, marketing exec and multimedia producer based in the Research Triangle, where he co-founded the p.r. agency GBW Strategies.  He’s now a regular contributor to WRAL TechWire. His columns appear on Mondays. 


RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – Super Bowl LVI’s ad blitz gave us a Clydesdale-canine bromance, a linebacker tackling a grandmother and Arnold Schwarzenegger stooping to play a Greek god  – but did it really give us any new kinds of stuff to lust after? The $7 million-per-spot parade glittered with the usual suspects: beer, snacks, cars, gizmos.

Who but the fattest of cats can afford to play, right? Budweiser, Hellmann’s, BMW, Expedia.

Photo courtesy of Billy Warden

But what if a few creatively frisky but less well-heeled folks had the chance to bolt into the scrum and score? In the name of widening the ad playing field, I asked a team of good sports – an artist, a hype-local entrepreneur and public safety ambassador – to come up with their own football-spiking Super Bowl spot:

Ad agency veteran Adam Cohen now pours a lot of his imagination into his paintings. But clearly, he’s still got a way with :30-seconds of TV time. Here’s Adam on what his spot would look like:

Open on a dramatically lit, huge conference room…an enormous conference table with 3 men sitting as far apart from each other as possible: Joe Biden, Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping. They stare at each other suspiciously and grumble under their breath in their respective languages. 

Suddenly, a spotlight hits a wall, revealing a beautiful, large Adam D. Cohen painting. All three men jerk their heads in surprise and stare at the painting, transfixed. Then another spotlight hits another wall, revealing another Cohen painting, and they all jerk their heads to see, gasping simultaneously. 

This repeats several more times, rapid-fire, accompanied by swelling orchestral music. With each subsequent painting, the leaders’ faces and demeanors soften. A single tear actually falls down Putin’s cheek. (Biden’s eyebrows raise, as if to say, “Really, Vlad? That’s a bit much.”)

After the last painting is revealed, there’s a pause. Then the leaders look at each other, smiles crack across their faces, they simultaneously get up and meet each other in the middle of the room (as several security guards and Secret Service agents on the perimeter reach for their guns and talk into their headsets) – and the three men EMBRACE EACH OTHER IN A WARM GROUP HUG, LAUGHING AND SLAPPING BACKS AS MUSIC SWELLS.

Cut to a wider shot of the room and super fades up: “JUST IMAGINE WHAT IT COULD DO FOR YOUR LIVING ROOM.”

Then the logo: “ADAM D. COHEN, PAINTING AND DRAWING. AdamDCohen.com

Think of John Pugh as the consummate home team quarterback. His House of Swank Clothing specializes in on-demand apparel customized to towns, cities and states.

As John puts it, “We make the raddest damn North Carolina and Raleigh-inspired t-shirts and gear on the planet, period. Our whole deal is Place Attachment. All our stuff is meant to connect people with their community or ideal.”

Here’s the rad way John would bring that mission to life for a supersized Super Bowl audience:

You’ve got a couple walking on the beach with a kid about 5 years old. The kid picks up a House of Swank sticker with our logo on it. Looks at it, front and back, then asks: “Daddy. What’s a House of Swank?”

Dad looks at the kid, pans to the ocean, then says “Well son…” 

Enter Dreamworld. Harps, clouds, and all that sort of stuff.

Then a montage (always with the montages) of someone jumping at the Wright Brothers Memorial with a ‘First in Flight’ shirt. Then Sam Jones cooking a pig with a ‘Tomato / Vinegar’ shirt, Somebody at the Vollis Simpson Whirlygig Park with a ‘Wiltson’ shirt. A couple of ladies in Asheville with an ‘Asheville: 10,000 Lesbians Can’t be Wrong’ shirt. Sunset over Raleigh with somebody in a Raleigh skyline shirt. 

More images, faster and faster, (crescendo like at end of the Beatles’ “A Day in the Life”), then stop with our logo at the end over a piano chord. 

Boom. Done.

Program director Mark Ezzell has run point on some of the state’s most recognizable public health campaigns, from tobacco-free schools to seatbelts.

Recently, Mark and team revealed that traffic fatalities in North Carolina hit a two decade high in 2021. “Driving is the most complex, dangerous task we engage in each day,” he says. “That’s because we’re commanding the equivalent of a one or two ton missile through a maze of other missiles. It requires all your mental, physical and emotional attention.”

With that in mind, Mark draws up this ad play:

Screen shows a middle-aged soccer mom in the cockpit of a jet fighter plane. She’s adorned with a helmet & flight suit, and surrounded by advanced technology typical of an advanced jet plane. 

But she’s also surrounded with other items in a cockpit. She takes off her seat harness, she’s talking on a cell phone with someone about gardening, the cute family dog in the front seat is barking, and a couple of screaming kids in the back are trying to get her attention while they, out of their car seats. 


Thanks to the all-stars who played today. Everyone’s a winner in the game of “Imagine This …”

More from Billy Warden

The Purity Trap: Wordle, Snow White & The Clash  

Watch the video: TechWire contributor Billy Warden & ‘Saving the world through media training’

Saving the world … through media training? Here’s your ‘how to’ guide