Sports Advertising Is Hard
Respect where its due: the Super Bowl is one of the most challenging promotional environments for advertisers. The event is a spectacle, so and it takes creative boldness to cut through the clutter, connect with viewers, and to make an impression that matters. It’s tough, and external evaluation can be subjective.
So, what’s a good ad?
I’d offer three tests for effective advertising. It has to create a level of Clarity. This means certainty about the identity of the advertiser, consistency with its larger brand, and establishing credibility along with a clear message. Beyond that, ads should increase the audience’s Motivation to consider purchase. And finally, it should give an idea of the ownership experience, from actual benefits to how you’ll feel if you buy. Each of these four inspired a level of joy, mystery and wonder – and along the way elevated their brand.
Where I’ve known the agencies, I’ve sent hat tips. And would love to hear what you think of these and the rest of the day’s ads.
1. Mercedes, Deal with the Devil
The devil (Willem Dafoe) bargains with a man to trade his soul for a Mercedes CLA and a high-rolling lifestyle that includes hanging with Kate Upton and Usher. The man is tempted until he finds out the CLA is affordable and decides he can get it on his own.
This ad is a marketer’s dream because it pays off on the creative with the payload of a price point that gets noticed more than any celebrity appearance. It’s also an advertiser’s dream because the action and celebrity of the ad break through the clutter of game day. Omnicom Group’s Merkley + Partners has combined branding and message to put a fact inside buyers brains which they’ll carry straight in to the showroom.
Clarity: High (Wow, they talked pricing! Perhaps the only time that will happen today.)
Desire: High (While their value proposition is exaggerated – the fun vibe should adhere to the brand.)
Experience: High (Amazing production values, casting, and clever writing.)
2. Milk Saves the Universe
In a day dominated by beer ads, positioning milk as a great drink could be a slog.
But like a modern day Popeye, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson set’s out to get milk for a table of little girls before setting off to save the world. Similar to Mercedes in its use of celebrity and vignette narrative, Deutsch New York has made a transfixing ad through its production values. Delivering the message that everyone needs milk before they take on their world.
Clarity: High (well-known campaign)
Desire: Medium (Its milk, medium is probably as high as this setting goes.)
Experience: Super High (linked to the values of strength, adventure, and caring for others.)
3. Allstate: Mayhem’s Apple
The Insurance firm tells the history of Mayhem as the cause of disasters from the Trojan Horse to the Chicago Fire, to this season’s regrettable NFL referee replacements.
Allstate’s spot is smart, and like milk, it continues building a brand that is relevant, helpful and hip, in a category that would otherwise be unwelcome at game time. Its message is simple, “when stuff goes down, you’ll be glad you planned ahead and have insurance from Allstate.” Hat tip to Publicis Groupe’s Leo Burnett in Chicago for this simple concept, well executed and repeated in a familiar and entertaining way.
Clarity: High (also a well known brand campaign.)
Desire: Medium (great message, but the ad isn’t about demand creation.)
Experience: High (very smart, funny and hip – great attribute to affix to insurance.)
4. Taco Bell: Viva Young
Old man Bernie Goldblatt and friends break out of the nursing home for a big night of dancing, making out, getting tatoos and eating late at Taco Bell, all set to a Spanish version of “We Are Young” by Fun.
Big hat tip to Deutsch LA for using octogenarians to engage and amuse Millennials in a daring and fun way. The dark production values are a counterpoint to the humor, it makes the ad a scream. Its smart branding, and a reminder that Taco Bell is open late and welcomes hoodlums of all ages.
Clarity: High (authentic and consistent with the brand.)
Desire: Medium (its not about the food as much as being open late.)
Experience: High (for daring and humor)
There you go — there are four ads I though did well. What do you think? And now — here are a few Super Bowl ads that might have done far better.