The Super Bowl Ads Take Brands Digital
By Jennifer Beck | February 06, 2013 | 1 Comment
It’s Day 3 of the post game evaluations of over 50 big bucks ads that ran during the Super Bowl. I watched them all, some several times. And I have a slightly different spin here. The success and pay off of those investments will play out over time as consumers vote with their spending. But the real winners, IMHO, were the social media sites and digital marketing agencies and the advertisers who all took full advantage of consumer engagement and helped create the big brand buzz. Twitter won the day, with a reported increase of over 300%¹ in hash tag use from 2012. But it wasn’t all pretty. If you create the buzz, better be able to capitalize on it. Keynote, a provider of mobile and internet cloud testing and monitoring, reported some disappointing results on website readiness for some of this year’s advertisers. The fact that some of these very sophisticated brands failed on the basics perhaps points to a surprising level of immaturity still in applying process and technology innovations to this art of digital marketing. Or maybe they just underestimated the power of those empowered consumers.
What fascinated me is the concept-to-flawless-execution of some of these $4 million works of art and their trans-media experiences. Here are some of the attributes we look for when taking brands digital – and my top picks for who got it right.
Attribute: Emotional Appeal
At the end of our digital day, we ultimately make an emotional decision about a product. Sure, we’ve done due diligence. We’ve gone from window shopping to kicking tires. We’ve watched the video or done the taste test. We’ve read the ratings and reviews, and then tracked down the best price. But eventually our consumer brains can do no more analysis and we make the gut decision. It just felt right. Don’t tell me you didn’t cry during both of these:
Budweiser Clydesdales: Brotherhood – This one has two things going for it – one, animals are still one of those images that has stopping power. And even if you’re not a horse person, most people can identify with the raising of young, letting go and lifelong connections that remain, even when they’re all grown up and have a job. So this ad hit home. And two – the colt needs a name. Talk about extending the life of a 60 second spot with a crowd-sourcing contest and all the virtual ink that will generate. Nice.
Dodge Ram Trucks: Farmer – The overwhelming majority of Americans believe in God and this one hit the heartland in its heart. The political message was not lost either. It’s brave to turn brand building into a movement with a moral message. The choice of visuals was simply brilliant – stark stills – no gimmicky animation or high production values here. We’re talking down home facts – truths to be held self-evident. It preached without being preachy. It played on national pride without polarizing. Image building at its best.
Attribute: Psychographic Profiling
Even sophisticated demographics are failing a lot of advertisers so they’ve added new dimensions to their profiles to drive personalization and relevance. Even short of neuromarketing mechanisms that claim to predict the success of products based on wiring up the brains of test consumers, it’s easy to see why these picks had target audience appeal.
Taco Bell’s Viva Young – Pretty obvious what demographic this was attracting. But what really held appeal were the generational cross-overs. From those innocent days of harmless pranks and stolen moments to the hip tattoo craze and rave dancing. It breaks through the age barrier using the common denominator of fun. The young viewers can imagine their grandparents in those scenarios and the grandparents equate a new lease on life with – yes, a Taco.
Best Buy’s Asking Amy – Did anyone else see the Cougar Town connections? The thematic innuendo is glaringly obvious. Amy is hitting on the sales guy at every turn. But she’s very current; smart TV, touch screens and noise cancelling head gear are front runner products that appeal to the football watching demographic. The celebrity personality as mascot is high risk if they fall from favor, but when you have a winner like Amy Poehler, who pulled top numbers in net sentiment analysis², you run with them as long as you can. Best Buy’s corporate messages about no commissions and full on customer services, pop against the backdrop of common consumer questions.
Attribute: Basic Instincts
You can get all outraged, but sex sells. It always has and it always will. Agencies will tell you there are a few images with major stopping appeal – basically they make you look. Those are animals, children and faces. Well people, faces may make you look; the whole body shot holds your undivided attention. But the artsy technique this year is the “slow mo” effect. Oiled and wet bodies take a back seat, to the slow turns, stretches and pan shots.
Calvin Klein’s Matthew Terry – CK’s answer to Victoria Secret’s angels? You only need one Matthew Terry to match what a runway full of Victoria Secret’s models project. But what’s with the demographic match up here? 100% all beef ball game viewers gawking over the rippled perfection of Terry in black, hip-hugging briefs? Get real. I suspect this didn’t swing anyone in the net sentiment scores even though it dripped sexy and garnered plenty of postings. Note the subtle choreography that subliminally makes the connection to the audience. Those were football warm up moves at their best.
Mercedes Benz, Kate Upton’s Sexy Car Wash – compared to the Southwest Patti Melt, (one that was too hot to air) – this is rated PG. You can hate her shoes, her legs or her hair, but there’s no denying the built-in tease. Reminiscent of Cameron Diaz’s car wash scene in Bad Teacher, this wasn’t as hot cause she didn’t follow through. With the long tail run ups to this year’s ad parade, the promise of a slow motion car wash by a supermodel is all it takes to draw you in. Our kudos to the copywriter for the best one-liner ad this season. “You missed a spot.”
Attribute: Lifestyle Appeal
If you can’t differentiate on product features – go for the lifestyle image. From carbonated water to autos, just make buyers believe they can attain, compete, be beautiful, be cool, brave, smart or strong and you’ve dialed in to some very basic human experience stuff with powerful mojo. What remains to be seen is how well these advertisers extend the seconds of connections they made in traditional media into multichannel campaigns that incorporate second screens, mobile, social and live events that cater to the life style persona.
Audi’s “Prom” – This one has it all. It’s well-written, precisely timed, the characters are actually believable for ad actors and it races over the finish line with a simple punch line – (pun intended). It invokes images of a brave, sensual, winner, and propels the underdog dude persona into James Bond stardom. The message is simple. You drive an Audi, you go from loser to hot hero in 60 seconds or less.
Mercedes: Soul – This ad is a great example of the marketing mantra go brave, bold and big or go home. Pretty brave move to hang Mercedes image on a pact with the Devil even if you do have one of the all time great rock and roll songs of our times as the sound track. Really bold to talk price, and a low price at that, for a luxury auto when the traditional buyers have lived by the credo, “If you have to ask what it costs, you can’t afford it.” And then enter the rather average looking young kid with big dreams of fame who decides he doesn’t have to sell his soul to own a Mercedes. We’re left with the idea that maybe the car is enough.
I’ll confess, like most of us today, I avoid all TV commercials by various means. But I watched an hour of them on CBS’s special. Funny how very few of us are actually talking about the game. According to Networked Insights’ analysis Beyonce’s half time show was more the buzz than the 49ers or the Ravens. Maybe the NFL should add more digital marketing techniques to the playoff series as the run-up to the big day. But be ready to catch the darn ball.
Note¹ Networked Insights
Note² net sentiment analysis is the process of measuring the nature of responses, positive and negative, across social media channels.