03 February 2014

Super Bowl XLVIII Advertising: Fumbles, Turnovers and Stats


I'm still trying to decide if yesterday's Super Bowl game was a metaphor for the advertising, or the other way around.

Both had fumbles and turnovers.  The Seahawks dominated the Broncos.  TV sales teams ran up the score about $4 million at a time.

Then there were the stats.  Did you know that losing quarterback Peyton Manning set a Super Bowl record for most completions?

In the same way, some advertisers won popular opinion surveys, or earned the most Likes, but failed to move the sales needle.

The Rules for Great Super Bowl Advertising

This was an ad for Pepsi, not pistachios
Every Super Bowl commercial has to be memorable, persuasive, well-executed and epic.  Ask yourself two questions:  Did you remember the advertiser?  Did you remember what they told you?

This year the ad industry disappointed the audience (and perhaps clients) on all these measures.  It's hard to pick clear winners and losers, so here are some group dynamics among some of the commercials you saw.

My Strategy's Showing!  No, It's Not

Early in the game we saw two carmakers take two totally opposite approaches.  Ford Fusion's "Nearly Double" was obvious and clear, practically hitting us over the head, while Maserati's Ghibli "Now We Strike" was pretentious and muddy.  Ford, a mass appeal car with a mass appeal message, surely got more for their money than Maserati, a car for the 1%.

Don't Tell Anyone, But That Was a DEMO!

Product features can be communicated with great drama, and even smart product demos can work in the Super Bowl.  None of these were "epic" but all three pass the two-question test -- you know Hyundai has an auto-emergency brake, that Jimmy John's is easy to order, and that Beats earphones sound great.  Among all the auto advertisers, do you think people remember Brand Hyundai today?

Tug at the Heartstrings

Super Bowl audiences expect emotional ad moments, and four advertisers did a credible job.  MetLife's Peanuts, a licensing deal I never understood, made sense for once.  Coke's America Is Beautiful continued an E Pluribis Unum ad tradition.  Chevy surprised us with a strong tribute to cancer survivors.  And Cheerios brought back Gracie -- I hope they keep that series going.  None of these were truly epic, however.  They could have been turned up to... well, given the Seahawks win, they could have been turned up to 12.

Pistachios and Pepsi

I have a sick fascination with bad Super Bowl advertising about nuts (see here and here).  Wonderful Pistachios -- Gangnam Style last year, Stephen Colbert this year -- understands that pistachios are green, but the branding still gets lost.  Having a generic name surely doesn't help.

Pepsi's halftime show was an ad.  The game and the advertising were boring, but Bruno Mars validated Pepsi's long experience working with celebrities and judging talent.  The show will turbocharge Mars' career, and surely helped Pepsi build their brand.  They need the help.

Lastly, a wise word from beer advertising expert Dan Fox, who tweeted this about the new Bud Light campaign:  "Crazy night for one guy.  Which beer?"

What About You?

Let me have it:  Which commercials did you think were memorable, persuasive, well-executed and/or epic?  Comment below.

5 comments:

  1. Thanks for the kind mention, Steve.

    I thought the Radio Shack ad was a terrific balance of solid strategic message and clever-but-relevant storyline... with a satisfying helping of self-deprecation tossed in for good measure.

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    1. Dan, thanks. I was ambivalent about that one. My first impression was positive, exactly because of the self-deprecation. What retail remodel ever admits how dated the old stores are? Then I thought...this '80s nostalgia thing is getting out of hand. Bottom line: It will look way smarter if they actually complete the remodel and sales go up.

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    2. Out of hand? At my age, the 80s still seem leading edge!

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    3. So, I'm not denying I felt a bit of nostalgia when I saw the spot. WSJ reports today that Radio Shack is actually closing many of those Reagan Era leftover stores: http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303442704579362870830018510

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  2. I have to tell you Steve, using your criteria, the answer is: none. Some nice spots: Heinz, the U2 RED and Gracie are good but none were worthy of the forum sadly

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