Marilyn Writes

Marilyn MacGruder Barnewall began her career as a journalist with the Wyoming Eagle in Cheyenne. During her 20 year banking career, she wrote extensively for The American Banker, Bank Marketing Magazine, Trust Marketing Magazine, and other major industry publications. The American Bankers Association (ABA) published Barnewall’s Profitable Private Banking: the Complete Blueprint, in 1987. She taught private banking at Colorado University for the ABA and trained private bankers in Singapore.

Thursday, February 24, 2011


By Marilyn M. Barnewall
February 9, 2011

The Super Bowl game was great – what a joy to watch Aaron Rodgers so effectively replace Brett Favre and come into his own! Favre once said he wasn’t taking Rodgers under his wing and that Rodgers would have to figure it out on his own. It wasn’t his job, Favre said, to mentor Rodgers.

It’s probably a good thing that Favre went diva on this issue because Aaron Rodgers managed to do something Favre has never done: Win the Most Valuable Player award for the game. Perhaps Favre could stand a little mentoring from Rodgers? Many people don’t know that Rodgers is the Packers’ Team Captain, too.

Though the game was enjoyable, the more football game halftimes I watch, the more convinced I am that people who plan these things have no common sense. And, though I heard the pre-game show about the history of our Declaration of Independence was excellent (I missed it), the pre-game singing left a great deal to be desired.

It’s usually Super Bowl halftimes that disgust me. This one didn’t do anything to impress or entertain me, but it wasn’t as tasteless as the Janet Jackson boob-mobile in 2004. This year, the most disgusting thing was Christina Aguilera’s butchering of our National Anthem.

I once sang for a living with the Air Force Academy Dance Band when it played at the Lowry Air Force Base Officer’s Club on weekends (before the Academy moved to Colorado Springs). I understand the difference between being a song stylist and a crooner. Even more important, I understand the difference between singing a hymn or an anthem and a pop tune. Our National Anthem is a hymn. I don’t know about you, but I’m sick and tired of hearing pop singers stylize the National Anthem of this Great Nation in an attempt to make it sounds like “them.”

Aguilera did more than stylize our nation’s song. She forgot the words! Ms. Aguilera sang “Whose broad stripes and bright starts through the perilous fight. What so proudly we watched at the twilight’s last gleaming.” The actual lyrics: "Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight. O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming."

During rehearsals, Aguilera cut off the rehearsal without singing the song all the way through. It was the way she wanted it and she saw no reason to rehearse the entire song. What a perfect example of why professionals do complete dress rehearsals… to prevent this kind of mistake.

Regardless of the cause, I’m tired of having singer/stylists think that because they have been asked to sing the National Anthem before an important event, they should turn it into pop music. That’s like taking the Lord’s Prayer and singing it to Bee-Bop-Ah-Lu-La.

So, dear Ms. Aguilera and every other warbler in the world, when you sing a song that represents the heart of a nation, remember that it is not intended to sound like it represents you and your singing style. Aguilera has a beautiful voice and had she sung the National Anthem as it was written it would have been wonderful. I don’t want to start an event by remembering a singer’s style. I want a National Anthem which memorializes my country.

NOTE TO FRUSTRATED, EGOCENTRIC SONG STYLISTS: Put your ego in your purse (or back pocket) and understand the honor that has been bestowed upon you when you are asked to open an event by singing America’s National Anthem. It would also be a good idea to make sure you know the words to the song before you butcher them in front of one of the world’s largest television audiences.

NOTE TO BIG EVENT PLANNERS (ESPECIALLY SUPER BOWL PLANNERS): Please ask the person who is retained to sing America’s National Anthem to sing it as written, not as interpreted. Most Americans don’t give a rat’s ass about how singers interpret the Anthem. The song vibrates in the hearts of patriotic Americans everywhere. They want to hear it sung to their vibration, not the singer’s.

As for half-time, one of the things Super Bowl entertainment is known for is innovation. Black Eyed Peas has been doing pretty much the same thing on television the past few months as it did during the half-time show. The entry onto the field was good, but Black Eyed Peas doesn’t carry the kind of reputation in the music biz sufficient to carry such a large event. Their lyrics were clichéd and tired and they were sung to unyielding beats, often in a rap style exhibiting little singing talent.

Who do Super Bowl planners think comes to these games? What do they think the average age of the person is who has the money to buy Super Bowl tickets and advertised products? I haven’t done a statistical analysis of it, but the average age is far older than people who are attracted to Black Eyed Peas.

Dallas Cowboy General Manager Jerry Jones surprised me. I thought he would ensure that the new state of the art Arlington, TX-based home of the Cowboys that hosted Super Bowl XLV would make sure the world’s spotlight on Dallas would cast a positive shadow. Jones is a personable guy who is Chairman of the NFL Network Broadcast Committee, a member of the Management Council Executive Committee, the Special Committee on League Economics and the Pro Football Hall of Fame Committee. Jones has served two prior terms as a member of the NFL's Competition Committee as well as a stint on the Business Ventures Committee. He has all of the experience and contacts to produce a first rate Super Bowl production – but didn’t.

One interesting question is: Why do advertisers tolerate it?

Here are some tips for all of the people who plan athletic event shows and those who spend advertising dollars on them.

1. People are more easily led gently into purchasing products than being shocked or entertained by an ad.

2. If your company has been an advertiser of big event athletics, you might want to check more closely the content of half-time shows. Do you think I forget my distaste for what advertising dollars make possible? Re-think it. I don’t forget.

3. Americans view sports as healthy competition. They do not like it mixed with morally questionable performances like Janet Jackson in 2004, or programs that are out-of-touch with the average age of attendees and viewers.

4. Which group is most likely to be at home watching the Super Bowl on a holiday? Which market segment tends to have money in its pockets? If you said “over 45” – those most offended by a lack of taste (and is the most patriotic market segment) – you are right. If you said parents who want to enjoy spending holiday time with their children you are also right. Wow. Was that hard to figure!

5. What is it parents with children and friends most enjoy sharing? Simple things like pride in country and community, and/or a sense of togetherness (which reflects the make-up of most Super Bowl parties).

6. Last, but not least, the purpose of advertising is to primarily get people to remember your company’s name and products. The young people writing ads today don’t seem to understand that. They think using shock or entertainment to get people to watch is the name of the game – and half of the time I don’t know what product is being advertised after watching the ad.

7. You have to have a “hook” to do entertainment advertising. There will never be a better Super Bowl ad than the Budweiser Clydesdales lining up in the snow to play football. People knew it was Budweiser because the Clydesdales ARE Budweiser. The horses were the “hook.” If your product doesn’t have a famous hook like the Clydesdales (or, from ancient history, the White Knight for Ajax Cleanser), forget entertainment ads. Focus on your company name and the product!

Why do the people who plan these events show so little common sense? Why do advertisers tolerate such a lack of good judgment in how advertising dollars are spent?

It makes little or no sense that big company advertising dollars are directed at the market segment with the least amount of cash to buy their products. It makes no sense that advertising dollars don’t sell a company’s name and the product being advertised.

Let me plan the Super Bowl half-time next year. Please.

I’ll get one of the Big Bands to play Jimmy Dorsey and Glenn Miller and other songs from the World War II era. Or, I’ll find the right group to play hits from movies from various eras… running film clips while the music plays. Tie what’s playing on stage to past Super Bowl competitions. So much could be done here!

Camera tricks using vague copy to present your message are advertising losers. Get yourselves some Clydesdales if you want to do cute ads people will remember and associate with your company’s products. Look at the numbers, for heavens sake! The returns advertisers get for their bucks are going down. Does that tell you anything?

A good rule of thumb: When planning entertainment for a national event, celebrate America (and please, get someone who can sing the National Anthem so I can sing along with her/him in my heart – and please make sure the singer knows the words).

Celebrate the things Americans share in common: Americana.

© 2011 Marilyn M. Barnewall - All Rights Reserved


Marilyn MacGruder Barnewall began her career in 1956 as a journalist with the Wyoming Eagle in Cheyenne. During her 20 years (plus) as a banker and bank consultant, she wrote extensively for The American Banker, Bank Marketing Magazine, Trust Marketing Magazine, was U.S. Consulting Editor for Private Banker International (London/Dublin), and other major banking industry publications. She has written seven non-fiction books about banking and taught private banking at Colorado University for the American Bankers Association. She has authored seven banking books, one dog book, and two works of fiction (about banking, of course). She has served on numerous Boards in her community.

Barnewall is the former editor of The National Peace Officer Magazine and as a journalist has written guest editorials for the Denver Post, Rocky Mountain News and Newsweek, among others. On the Internet, she has written for News With Views, World Net Daily, Canada Free Press, Christian Business Daily, Business Reform, and others. She has been quoted in Time, Forbes, Wall Street Journal and other national and international publications. She can be found in Who's Who in America (2005-10), Who's Who of American Women (2006-10), Who's Who in Finance and Business (2006-10), and Who's Who in the World (2008).