If you didn’t catch Super Bowl XLIX last Sunday, you at least watched the ads, or have seen all the buzz on your social media platform of choice. This year’s Super Bowl topped out at more than 114.4 million viewers, which makes it the most watched broadcast in U.S. TV history, according to CNN Money.
Which of this year’s ads made you laugh, cry, laugh-cry, cringe or feel inspired? Some ads were forgettable, some were terrible and some had true potential to shape our cultural climate. What can the financial and insurance industries learn from these wide-reaching and very expensive marketing spots? Here at LifeHealthPro.com, we had so many piercing questions that we contacted international branding expert Scott Deming to gather more intel on what these ads mean for marketers this year.
1. Emotion drives conversation … and sales.
“This year, the ads were more emotional and socially conscious of what’s going on, a much different feel from the past. And that’s a good thing, because emotion helps brand building,” Deming said.
Right off the bat, he starting dissecting the controversial and sad Nationwide ad, “Make Safe Happen,” in which a kid narrates the things he’s not going to get to do because of an accident that killed him at a young age. “A lot of people are saying that Nationwide’s was a ‘Debbie Downer’ or ‘we are having a party at the Super Bowl, why do you have to put this (ad) in my conscience?’ The ad was about preventable accidents; they didn’t try to sell. This truly is to raise awareness. Did you know that every 14 days healthy kids are killed from furniture or TV tip overs? Nationwide took an opportunity to not try to sell a product or service, but to send a message and that’s very commendable,” Deming said.
Deming speaks from experience; his granddaughter passed away two years ago after an accident with falling furniture, so this ad hit home. He said that it’s great that the ad is creating so much buzz around child safety and awareness.
Nationwide defended their ad in a statement Monday saying the ad was designed to start a conversation on how injuries around the home are the leading cause of childhood deaths in the U.S. (you can read the full statement here.)
Another ad that caught Deming’s attention, and that falls within the “feel good” category, was the Coca-Cola spot. It took all of the negativity and bullying that we often see in the Internet and news, and turned it into a positive. This messaging is precisely what the brand has been associated with for a long time: happiness, compassion and love.
2. Different angles make some ads stand out.
Unlike some of the plays during the game itself, the ads that aired during the Super Bowl went from the emotional to the cute to the ridiculous and funny. Deming mentioned the McDonald’s ad in which customers were asked to pay with a “random act of love” like calling one’s mom and telling her that you love her. “It was an effective and cute ad. Companies who are associating themselves with empathy and conscience are really associating themselves with something that is greater than themselves, greater than the brand,” he said.
Another very popular angle, especially in past Super Bowls, has been tickling the viewers’ funny bone. The Snickers spoof on The Brady Bunch featuring Danny Trejo and Steve Buscemi was funny, mostly because Trejo and Buscemi scare the beejeezus out of some of us and they’ve made their careers out of playing the villain. Recasting them as Marcia and Jan Brady was a shock to viewers, both memorable and funny.
In the same way, Fiat’s ad with the little blue pill was “genius and the subtle terminology that they used was brilliant,” Deming assessed.
Another car ad that made the funny list was Dodge’s “Wisdom,” which featured people really into their Golden Years dishing out pearls of wisdom. It’s always funny to hear a great-grandma or grandpa say what they really feel … like stop complaining and live your life.
3. Ads must reward the audience to be effective.
While a funny ad might be remembered and even quoted for the next few weeks, is there truly a reward? “Television ads are an intrusion, but people are actually tuning in specifically to the Super Bowl ads. The ads have to draw you in and they have to have a payoff. In the past, Super Bowl ads were about being competitive, about companies topping each other, and not about the payoff for the audience,” said the branding expert.
What’s in it for the audience, for the customer, and will the ad really drive sales for the company? Is creating buzz of this magnitude worth the millions of dollars spent?
One example of a weak ad, according to Deming, was the Doritos spot “When pigs fly.” He says that even though Doritos has made brilliant ads in the past (remember the one with the adult in the make-believe time machine?), this time around “When pigs fly” didn’t work because it was funny but it wasn’t memorable.
Doritos has been known for starting social media campaigns in an effort to engage their consumers and create buzz around a contest for the ad that will show during the Super Bowl. Deming, however, asks himself if that buzz is really worth all the effort and money behind these types of campaigns. “Does it sell more Doritos? I don’t know … but you really need to figure out what you want to do (as a brand or company),” he cautioned.