And you also saw some fumbles and outright clunkers. (Not to name names, but we’re talking to you Ram Trucks.)
Take a look at this Budweiser “Stand By You” commercial.
On the surface, this was an excellent commercial. There’s a strong narrative flow, very good performances, and a cinematic feel to how it’s filmed.
But this commercial was mis-run during the Super Bowl, precisely because it failed to maximize The Law of Environment, which I state here as:
Consumers are either open or closed – indeed available or not available – to your advertising message depending largely on the environment in which they find themselves when that message is presented.
Environment, as it’s used here, includes four important ingredients, which you can remember as the T-A-M-E scale:
Timing: What time of day or night is it? How long does the message last? Does the viewer/reader have ample time to process the message in detail, or just in broad strokes, and general images?
Atmosphere: Is the viewer alone or with company? Is it loud or quiet? Is it indoors or outdoors? Up close or far away? If there is one, what size is the screen? What else is happening while the advertising appears?
Medium: Is the message itself in motion? Is it on a screen, on a surface, or delivered via audio? Does it use words, or just images? Can you hear sound? Is it interactive?
Emotion: How much emotion – and which one(s) – is included/embedded in the message?
If we review the Budweiser commercial against these qualifiers, we see that it demands the viewer to spend some attentive, even quiet, time with the spot to take it all in. The viewer can perceive the seriousness, and the smoldering heroics of the lead character. It’s perfect for a full-size screen to get a sense of scale and distance, and there is a swell of emotion, in the “going outside of oneself” or “doing good by doing for others” sense of service.
And while that’s all very positive, you can see how it’s a mismatch for the Super Bowl environment, based on the atmosphere.
To generalize, the “average” Super Bowl environment finds the consumer in a living room with a group of friends or family, with conversations going on, and it’s largely a social event with a lively atmosphere. When this ad comes on, it may immediately be perceived as “too serious” or “too quiet” or even too much of an intellectual investment. So it fails to connect. And that’s a shame, because it happens to be very good advertising.
Understanding your consumer is of course critical to advertising success. But when you go beyond demographics and psychographics to an understanding of these critical advertising receptivity parameters, you can “TAME” the environment to maximize your message’s efficiency, no matter where or when it runs.
Well, the Super Bowl had its “golden” anniversary last night, and, by all accounts, the anniversary was about the ONLY golden thing of the evening. The game was a bit of a mess, dominated by Denver’s defense, with a lot of fits, starts, sacks and turnovers.
But the advertising that showed up was a little dull, too. Which is sad, because last year’s big game didn’t live up to 2014. Alas, we’re on a downward trend.
A couple of notable items:
Scantily clad women were kindly asked to stay OUT of the advertising this year. Weird.
There were very few surprises, but the ones that were held back were certainly worth the wait.
A couple of newcomers likely won’t be back. They’ll be lucky if they’re in business.
It was basically the “Celebrity Bowl” of advertising this year. A few of the standouts (read more below) were Christopher Walken, Helen Mirren, Drake, Ryan Reynolds.
And say farewell to the Doritos “Crash the Super Bowl” party. This was the 10th and final year of that enormously successful campaign.
The ads that made me grin:
Snickers – “Seven Year Itch” with Willem Dafoe
They continue to nail this campaign with the “you’re not you when you’re hungry” meme year in and year out. And this year’s offering, a takeoff on the Seven Year Itch scene with Marilyn Monroe, was so well done and so well executed and so well performed, it made me grin twice. (I still think it may be slightly off target, unless Snickers is now being marketed to Boomers?? But still, this spot kills.)
Mtn Dew Kickstart – “PuppyMonkeyBaby”
While a lot of people just scratched their heads at this, it’s actually very funny, and simplistic enough to be strategically on point. “Three awesome things combined,” says the ad, referring to Mountain Dew, juice and caffeine. So they combined three awesome things into one triple-cute mascot: puppy, monkey, baby. Makes perfect sense!
Quicken Loans’ Rocket Mortgage – “What Were We Thinking?”
This was most certainly a reach, and some may argue an over-reach. But it was also so helplessly optimistic, it was hard not to like. Plus, when introducing a new product, what better way to get people to remember it than by comparing it to, say, the Internet? Well done.
Bai Antioxidant – “Horse Whisperer”
This was a spot that wasn’t leaked earlier, and it’s super funny, super on target, and super performed, and so super unexpected! What a great risk to take – I think they pulled it off!
Doritos – “Ultrasound”
The “ultrasound” commercial was funny. In a gross, male, immature way, but funny. And that’s EXACTLY what Doritos advertising is about. It’s not supposed to be haughty, it’s supposed to position the chips as so insanely delicious that people will do anything to get them…including jettisoning from the womb. Also remember that this ad was submitted by an “amateur” into the “Crash the Super Bowl” sweepstakes.
Hyundai – “Ryanville”
How far can you go to promote one tiny little (optional) feature on a car? Well, in this spot, they went all the way to Ryanville, and nailed it. Not only do they make a good case for the auto-braking-pedestrian-detection feature, they do it with a nice flip-of-the-gender-script, and have the gals ogling the guys. Well, it’s one guy, but apparently, this one guy is all girls need.
Audi – “Starman”
Audi has basically been killing it for the last three years with their sweepingly cinematic spots. But this one manages to do something that the last couple haven’t done: connect (finally) more completely to their target audience. It’s a piece of fiction, and a momentary suspension of disbelief, but we are more than willing to go on the journey to the past and back to present within a span of seconds. Really well done. And wow – they had Bowie.
But my biggest grin came when I saw this spot from Kia called “Walken Closet”
Could anyone else have delivered such a compelling performance? “It’s like the world’s most exciting pair of socks….BUT – it’s a midsize sedan!” Funny, and drives home a core point about standing out of the “beige-ness” of midsize sedans. (I know what you’re thinking. “But Kia IS a midsize sedan!” True, but the average car buyer in that category doesn’t consider Kia as a car with any excitement, or performance, or as Walken so eloquently puts it: “pizzazzzzzzah.” The mere fact of CONSIDERING Kia, as opposed to the “safe” choices in this category, like Honda, Nissan or Toyota, is what makes this a leap out of the “beige.” Good stuff.)
Prius’ “The Chase”
Two brand (and beautiful) spots from Jeep
Texting PSA for domestic abuse
Drake for T-Mobile
As usual, there were some groans this year.
Persil Pro Clean – It’s always risky to come into the Super Bowl as a first-time advertiser, and Persil didn’t really do enough of a job of distinguishing themselves. It was a clean and well-produced spot, but there wasn’t much there to grab onto.
OIC- this spot, entitled “envy,” shows a man wishing he could go to the bathroom, and envying all these others that can. Again, a well-produced, well-executed spot, but because it wasn’t for one particular brand, but rather, more of a PSA to get you to a doctor to talk about OIC, it just lost any connective tissue. The spot is “made on behalf of those living with chronic pain and struggling with OIC.” Which is everybody, sorta. And nobody. Sorta. Just think what they could have done with the roughly 8 or 9 million bucks this spot cost to get this message to the right people in the right places at the right time. Smells like a consortium buy to me.
My least favorite: SoFi.
Listen, no matter what anyone tells you, you never, EVER, EVER say mean things to your consumer. Not even anything that can be misunderstood as mean. Well, there’s nothing misunderstood in this spot, except why it was made in the first place.
This commercial starts its first eight seconds of life like this: “Jim is great. Sara is not great at all. This guy – NEVER been great. (then the camera pans down to a cute baby in a stroller…) No.” So inside of eight seconds, we’ve identified that three out of four random people, including a baby in a stroller, are not great. And since they’ve set up the construct that there are basically two kinds of people in the world (great and not great,) we’re all nervously wondering if we’re great. I probably don’t need to tell you this is NOT what you want your consumer doing when you’re trying to get them to like you.
The ad goes on to say that SoFi gives great loans to great people. (And leaves the rest out in the cold, I might add.) And then…are you sitting down?…the ad invites you to visit SoFi TO FIND OUT IF YOU’RE GREAT! (I bet a zillion people did that.) I know you can’t believe this, but it actually. Gets. Worse. The final line of the voiceover, after saying “find out if you’re great at SoFi.com,” says “you’re probably not.”