BIG OPPORTUNITIES FOR ADS AND BRAND MANAGEMENT (OR BIG FAILS?):
Regardless of who is on the field, every Super Bowl viewer develops an opinion about the commercials run during the game. We're sure you've heard quite a few opinions already, so we're taking a little bit different angle. What if we looked at Super Bowl LI and posed some important questions about brand management, advertising, and marketing as it might relate to your business?
HOW DO SUPER BOWL COMMERCIALS RELATE TO YOUR BUSINESS?
When we stopped to think about and discuss the ads, our initial conversation evolved to something we could share to help you. We talked about what worked and what didn't; we talked about what was enjoyable and what wasn't; and we looked at overall themes, too. Those themes can be applied on a number of levels and a variety of businesses, so here are the resulting questions that may be important for your business to consider.
1. Is eCommerce Advertising a Bad Fit in Some Situations?
Advertising for eCommerce isn't really a truly new concept, but branding still appears to be the clearest objective for most Super Bowl advertisers. This kind of brand management often falls short of demonstrating staying power with viewers, but with such a vast audience, it is hard to pass up.
This concept may be widely embraced by big brands, but we don't recommend it for small businesses and those who would like to see evidence of performance.
When it comes to the absence of eCommerce ads during the Super Bowl, the following questions come to mind: Was it simply too expensive? Is the ROI too questionable? Do eCommerce businesses just get beat out by other types of businesses?
Unless we missed something, it seems Weathertech and Nintendo were the only companies overtly plugging their website. You might also count Mobile Strike or World of Tanks (ads here and here), but they are free downloads that monetize using ad placement.
While Amazon's connection to eCommerce was implied, Nintendo's ad is particularly noteworthy as they put their website in the final few seconds of the ad and have enhanced their YouTube ad with buttons to pre-order online. Watch the ad (and listen to the catchy new song by Imagine Dragons) here:
2. Where Did All the Light-Hearted Ads Go? Does Heavy Substance Work?
This year's ads seem to be marked by so many more topics with potential for polarization. No doubt, some viewers saw the commercials as a good fit for the world they want to live in, while others felt bombarded by subjects that may not have been a good fit for a Super Bowl.
Most were quite dramatic, while one ad set in particular (T-Mobile's) attempted to be cheeky. There were an array of topics corporations invested in with ads, but culture and immigration were common themes. By our count, there were at least six social issues included ad, including sexual mores, border fortification, cultural differences, the changing face of America, prejudice, and pay scales.
We will leave the heavier discussion to the talking heads on television, but our question is one focused on outcomes. Do these themes jive with the current economy and culture? Does it provide needed contrast? Does it all just get forgotten?
It's hard to say, but we hope to get a look at data that gives us a solid answer. For now, however, we recommend bigger brand management techniques that demonstrate relevance, credibility, and a willingness to be light-hearted.
3. What Led to the Extinction of Prescription Drug Ads?
Remember "Gut Guy" from 2016? We don't want to, but we do.
Overall, we are glad that the prescription drug ads were gone this year, but we were wondering what happened? After all, there are still plenty of prescription companies using television commercials with awful, anthropomorphically-depicted conditions right now.
Our best theory is that an old habit is hard to break with their technique here, but it's not paying dividends enough to put up during the big game. If that's the case, be sure to learn from their situation. Don't be afraid to try something new and work with agencies that would create a fresh narrative.
4. Are Sponsored Hashtags Bringing ROI?
T-Mobile took a bit of a risqué approach in two commercials, but do you think it worked?
What if your main competitor answers back like Verizon did?
Yes @Tmobile, we're into BDSM. Bigger coverage map, Devastating Speed, and Massive capacity.— Verizon (@verizon) February 6, 2017
And then Verizon kept going:
Unfortunately no one will hear your safe word if you're on @Tmobile. 🤐— Verizon (@verizon) February 6, 2017
It seemed like the best Verizon could do given the situation, but, aside from this spat, it is important to remember that there is a bigger theme here: hashtags have consequences.
In T-Mobile's case, with their tamer ad, they spurred engagement and buzz. Their hashtag #UnlimitedMoves is still going, too, getting people involved with social media and video.
On the other hand, Wix totally missed the mark with their hashtag #ItsThatEasy. So, actually, it looks like it wasn't that easy. Admittedly, we have a bias against Wix because you're always, always better off with a real website and real SEO, but we would acknowledge if they actually chose a decent hashtag. We'll go more in depth about that later, though.
Other companies using hashtags included Mercedes-Benz (#EasyDriver), Audi (#DriveProgress), Honda (#PowerOfDreams), Febreze (#BathroomBreak), GNC (#CourageToChange), Snickers (#SnickersLive), and Amazon Echo (#JustAsk).
There were good and bad among the bunch and we will follow up with an analysis of them all in a bit. Suffice it to say that sponsored hashtags are still not delivering much in the way of sales for most businesses. If you are going to get hashtagging though, your best bet is to go with a hashtag that does one of three things: 1) catalogs your post among other relevant posts, 2) starts an original, positive conversation, 3) ties a positive idea to your brand, and/or 4) adds SEO potential should hashtags become more of a factor.
5. Do the Meta Messages and Throwbacks Work?
Did people get the homage to the 1990s movie "Being John Malkovich"? Did it matter?
Additionally, how many viewers were alive and remembered who Spuds MacKenzie was? How many were invested enough in the commercial to care? People love to act like they didn't miss a beat, but Google search trends tell a bit of a different story.
In contrast with the more verbose ads, we also saw a pre-game ad that involved a different Spud and was quite mystifying. Simple, but still pretty meta. Was it effective though? If so, what did it do so effectively? You be the judge:
Believe it or not, that was an ad for Cards Against Humanity. It could be the most ineffective Super Bowl ad of all time. When you put their jocular explanation and ironic intentions aside, their objective must have been to generate buzz by providing the starkest of contrasts. That is, if they didn't just want to waste a ton of money because they can.
6. Katie! Katie! Katie! Wait, What is With the Groundhog?
Skittles had a pretty fun commercial, cute even, but no one here has quite gotten the connection to the furry friend at the end. Maybe that was the point, though.
This kind of intrigue in advertising can be a double-edged sword. It can be enough to generate interest, but (maybe unless you are Skittles) it is more likely to be completely lost on your audience. Be sure to consult an experienced marketer to make the best choice here, instead of throwing stuff against the wall to see what sticks.
7. Is Lady Gaga Okay?
Okay, maybe this one doesn't relate so much to your business, or it would take some work to try to make it relate, but we are honestly wondering. Last we saw, she ended her performance by dropping the mic and jumping. We're guessing she didn't jump to her doom, but someone please confirm to us that she landed safely!
WHERE DO YOU GO WITH YOUR BRAND MANAGEMENT AND ADVERTISING?
Chances are, whether you are scaling up or planning to do so, you need an experienced marketer to ask the important questions for your brand. Then you need them to act based on the best available data. Are you currently getting that?
This is important for every aspect of your marketing. It impacts the creative, the content, the analytical, and much more. It even matters when considering big external events like Super Bowl commercials and how they may relate to your brand. Be sure to put experience, skill, and performance on your side.