Super Bowl LII is upon us, and the US ad industry has been stressing over creating the ad to end all ads: powerful, emotional storytelling sure to stun any Cannes jury. But some of the best work thinks of the game not as an ad showcase, but as a very specific context in which brands can add to the enjoyment. Here are some of this year’s best.
You can imagine the scene… Client phones their media agency. “This year is the year. We want to book a spot in the Superbowl.” Media agency inhales, narrowly masking their excitement – “That’s fantastic!” Cue inter-agency briefing sessions, a whole heap of head scratching, until an idea dawns that’s almost too good to be true.
You get the picture. It takes guts, and an extremely vast budget (approx. $7m this year for the 30” airtime alone) to take on the beast that is the Super Bowl spot. The public are getting ready for the only day of the year when they’re actually excited about the advertising that will interrupt their TV viewing. According to Nielsen, last year saw 111.3 million people (a whole third of the U.S) become active armchair critics—cheering on the best adverts and panning the worst from their sofas and socials —which in turn dials up the pressure for marketers to make sure they deliver great work.
Which means you’ve got to get it right, right?
Sadly, we’ve seen some turkeys. And, like Christmas in the UK, everyone is out to be better than the other; the ad of all ads. Getting carried away, it seems, has been exactly what some brands and their partners have been doing. Should your spot be just a spot? Or should you release a teaser to generate excitement about said forthcoming spot. How about a teaser for the teaser? And down the media rabbit-hole we go.
But – sometimes, over-reaching, lateral posturing in the quest for attention and applause, bears some truly genius work. Take Skittles for instance. ‘Taste The Rainbow’ has been an imaginative, long-standing brand position that’s quirky and funny, perfectly complimenting the brand’s fun-loving confectionary. Each new campaign is an adventure to better the last, to somehow climb the ladder of success one step further. And in my humble opinion, their ads for the Super Bowl do just that. Choosing David Schwimmer for this content – ‘Ross from Friends’ – has never been better, and is a marriage made in heaven for Skittles.
Likewise, take the joint ad from Doritos and Mountain Dew, starring Peter Dinklage and Morgan Freeman. A lip-synching battle where Dinklage completely owns the stage.
Or Amazon’s Alexa video – sure, Jeff Bezos is no actor, but Rebel Wilson is hilarious.
Three great Super Bowl ads. But why? And what can we learn from them?
1. Not the faintest whiff of short-termism – they focus wholly and only on building fame, and creating positive lasting memories within the viewers’ minds.
2. Most brands have created a teaser, launched ahead of the main event in a bid to queue attention and increase brand recall. Not particularly rocket science, but when you have a captive audience and anticipation is high, it makes a lot of sense to play on the approach of enforcing the appointment to view. This can work in multiple situations, as long as ‘the moment’ is sure to capture attention.
3. Remember your audience and the context into which you’re investing. In the case of the Superbowl, it’s a feel-good family and friends event, and so humour will always win the day here. Stella Artois has pursued a more purpose-driven approach with its bid to encourage donations to Water.org. A worthy and noble cause, but (sadly) I’m not sure it will hold up to the stiff competition.
4. If you can’t join ‘em, then beat ‘em by ‘hijacking’ the moment.For those that don’t have infinite budgets, brands can learn a valuable lesson from the likes of Mercedes Benz (and in past instances, Jet.com and Newcastle Brown Ale).
This can be done either by directing viewers’ attention elsewhere when they’re not zeroed in on the main event, or thinking how you can utilise other channels to create even greater noise. The social newsfeed is the obvious place to do this (we can’t tear ourselves away after all). There are many techniques and tactics, from TV Sync to interest-based targeting, geo-fencing or sponsored hashtags and stories to tempt American football fans across the world
If I had to choose a Super Bowl ad winner so far, it would be a tussle between Skittles and M&Ms. Both commercials have genuinely made me giggle, and I find myself not only thinking about the videos they’ve showed me so far, ahead of Sunday’s showdown, but I’ve been compelled to share with friends and family. And that’s surely what it’s all about, isn’t it?