Changing the Pattern

photo courtesy of Business Insider
photo courtesy of Business Insider/FOX Sports

Don’t Get Caught Napping

Matthew Stafford – the Quarterback of the Detroit Lions – performed a brilliant sleight of hand on the Dallas Cowboys today. With just a few seconds remaining in the 4th quarter and his team down 6 points having no timeouts, Stafford had an obvious chance to win the same and the clock was in danger of running out. The obvious choice was to spike the ball and stop the clock, giving his team one more chance to win. And that’s what everyone expected him to do.

Stafford ran up to the line shouting to his team to line up so he could spike the ball. And then he did the unexpected – took a quick snap and dove over his offensive linemen for a game tying (and eventually winning) touchdown. The Cowboys were caught absolutely flat-footed, and lost the game.

Was this an Anti-Pattern?

Software developers use the idea of a design pattern – a best practice for approaching a standard problem – as a first step to solving a problem like the one Stafford faced at the goal line. In the case the proper choice might have been either to take a quick pass at the end zone or to stop the clock. An “anti-pattern”, then, is a commonly used method to solve the problem that doesn’t work so well. The typical anti-pattern to an end of the game is one last attempt to make a touchdown, often on a fade or a “jump-ball” effort from the Quarterback to the team’s best receiver at the corner of the end zone.

Both the Cowboys and the Lions teams expected Stafford to spike the ball and stop the clock because that’s what usually happens at the end of a game. But they also should have both known that any play that late in the game and that close to the goal line could be a QB sneak. This wasn’t an anti-pattern or a crazy unexpected move by Stafford – it was just smart football.

What would have a made a difference? If the Cowboys defense had the presence of mind and the ability to focus on the quarterback, they might have been ready for the sneak. And it also might not have made a difference. The defense had just been beaten on a long play to set up the goal line situation, and they might have been demoralized or just ready to give up. Or maybe they were genuinely surprised. In either case the Lions pulled one over on the Cowboys. And Stafford looked like the MVP.

Be Unpredictable while Making a Logical Choice

Stafford succeeded and won the game because he guessed right. There are lots of times everyday in the course of a business when we can do the same. Choosing the unexpected while ensuring that it’s a logical and non-sensical choice is a good way to get a new result. Hopefully it’s the result you want 😉

To see a classic version of the same sort of play, see Dan Marino’s fake spike and TD pass.

Why #Brandbowl Matters Just as Much as the Superbowl

photo by
photo by

Today, people around the world will be communicating on social media and sharing their ideas, snark, and observations about (arguably) the world’s most important day for advertising spend. Of course, we’re talking about the Advertisements shared during the Super Bowl. The fourth #brandbowl might be one of the best places to observe this phenomenon as it plays out in real time. The event, originated by Boston agency Mullen and now hosted by, invites Twitter participants to share their thoughts about the $4 million spots that will be shown during the commercial breaks of the Super Bowl.

Why #brandbowl matters

There are two main things happening on Super Bowl Sunday: there’s a football game to determine the Championship of the National Football League and there will be many simultaneous parties happening where the largest single audience outside of the Olympics will be gathered to celebrate America’s unofficial national holiday over Wings and Beer. And there is a separate competition for bragging rights over the most striking advertising of the year, as agencies attempt to one up each other with sentiment, spectacle, and humor. (And there will probably be the usual smattering of movie trailers, in-house local ads, and “we couldn’t figure out what to do, so we ran an old ad” punts).

The Biggest Audience, so what should you show?

The Brand Bowl matters because it’s the biggest single mass audience any brand is likely to get in the age of the Internet. It’s the opportunity to break out and create a memorable national event on the order of Apple’s famous 1984 ad.

Except that most of the time, the ads shown in the Super Bowl are so strident (either in their interruption, their “edginess”, the quest to have an ad so sexy or violent that it’s “banned”, or just their general stupidity) or bland in their attempt to reach a mass audience that they are easily forgotten and don’t even trigger a memory of the brand at hand. The amount of money spent is staggering, when you consider that the $4m to get your ad on the air is just table stakes.

The Value of Real-time Conversation

So #Brandbowl is an amazing real-time narrative of that process to go along with the “official” Superbowl Ad result articles that will be paraded around in the coming days (and this year, many of the ads were released early so that they could be reviewed, and potentially build additional buzz even before the event.) It’s also the only place where you can get people trash-talking about commercials in real time. It’s entertaining, funny, and sometimes even sublime. I look forward to seeing you there today.

#Announcerfail and other insta-news topics, courtesy of Twitter

The responsibility of the microphone: say something interesting

Twitter just made watching bad football games more interesting for me. I’ve been complaining this football season about the various wrongs the NFL has visited upon me: local game blackouts, the general poor play of my beloved Eagles just when it matters, and, of course, the inexplicable ineptitude of some of the announcing crews.

Today when I turned on the NBC broadcast of Jets-Bengals, I wondered why NBC’s NBA announcer, a washed up quarterback who bombed on Monday Night Football, and Joe Gibbs (great coach, lousy announcer) were calling … a playoff game. Basically this just reinforces that NBC only has a single crew of competent announcers and that they are assigned to the night game.

Good, you say, why shouldn’t the Eagles-Cowboys get the star announcer team (I agree)? The difference today has been the introduction of social media into the game, and the usage of the hashtag #announcer fail ( There’s a backchannel discussion going on during the game (pay attention, @NFLPRGuy), and the fans are not impressed with NBC’s coverage.

The takeaway? There’s no such thing as a break between news cycles. If you’re doing something amazing, expect to be cheered in unlikely places. If you’re not holding up your end of the bargain, expect, well … ridicule from social media. The fans are listening — they know a lot about football — and they know when they’re being played.

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