NEW YORK: Super Bowl advertising must return to a focus on consumer insights, rather than being ruled by the desire to "go viral", a leading executive has argued.

Speaking at a discussion organised by Zeta Interactive, the digital-marketing firm, David Sable - Young & Rubicam's global chief executive - stated too many brands now issue the simple instruction to "make me a viral".

"What has happened is we've stopped looking for insight, and we've said 'OK: how do I dupe the system? How do I get something that's shared?'" he said. (For more, including the views of John Sculley, ex-CEO of Apple, read Warc's exclusive report: The changing face of Super Bowl advertising.)

The result has been a decline in the long-term impact made by Super Bowl ads, which today frequently provoke an immediate interest but fail to make a lasting impression on consumers.

As a consequence, few recent spots have threatened to match the iconic status enjoyed by "The Showdown", a McDonald's ad starring basketball legends Larry Bird and Michael Jordan, or Apple's "1984", previewing the launch of the Macintosh computer.

"None of the stuff that you've seen over the past two years that has caused such a big stir in the advertising community is in there," Sable said.

In addressing why this is the case, he suggested that ads which primarily aim to encourage sharing are often "incredibly, memorably, forgettable".

The truth is that viewers may engage for a moment and "people will send it out millions and millions of times, but no one is really paying attention to it".

Sable's advice to marketers was to adopt a more nuanced approach that is informed - but not dictated - by data and has a clearer commercial objective in mind.

"Sometimes, we need to be in front of a lot of people," he said. "Sometimes we need to take the sales messages, and the ability to interact, which is really the key: that's what you want to bring down at the very, very end of the funnel so that somebody can actually make a purchase or make a recommendation."

Data sourced from Warc