Resend: Last Year's Super Bowl Ad Winners and Losers
Read my analysis of last year's Super Bowl ads if you want something to talk about with friends this Sunday or more of a reason to watch this year's game.
For anyone new here, I’m the founder of Woo Punch, a brand consultancy rooted in evidence-based brand design. I write about the evidence that debunks brand purpose, differentiation, brand love, loyalty marketing, customer personas, color psychology, mission statements, customer engagement, AdTech, and “hustle culture.”
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Last year, I laid out my 5 keys to an effective Super Bowl ad and graded each ad. Next week, I plan to do the same.
Before watching the game on Sunday read last year’s article. It might just give you something to talk about with friends at your Super Bowl party or give you a reason to watch the game.
I bust the myth that great Super Bowl ads must be entertaining, grab your attention, be universally enjoyed by all, be clever and funny, use celebrities, and attempt to go viral online to be successful. The reality is, a boring but well-branded ad can go much further than some of the most iconic Super Bowl ads of all time.
Unless, as an advertising agency, you are looking out for number one and creative awards. Not planning to help the brands that hired you to grow.
An Excerpt From the Article:
#5 ATTENTION IN ADVERTISING
Ah, attention. We finally get to what most advertising experts, and the general public, believe is the most significant factor determining which Super Bowl ads were great and which were flops. Most experts will tell you that it was a waste of money if your Super Bowl ad wasn't entertaining enough to be noticed and actively paid attention to.
This isn't true.
THE DANGERS OF HIGH ATTENTION
We process ads at different levels of attention, and sometimes we process ads with no attention. But, more importantly, advertising can be more effective when it avoids high levels of attention. Let me explain.
When we sit back and enjoy a commercial, we pay very little active attention to it. We don't analyze ads we like. Instead, we turn our brains off and enjoy them. When we don't analyze advertising, we are more susceptible to an ad's influence over our purchase decisions. That's because the more attention we pay to an ad, the more room there is for us to counter-argue an ad's message and get turned off.
If a Super Bowl ad tries to be too funny and fails, or a brand attempts to paint itself as heroes of some societal cause, consumers' bullshit detectors will perk up. Most consumers won't remember an ad they argue with for long, but many will. So it's better to play it safe and avoid active attention.
There are a few ways to ensure your advertising isn't analyzed with high levels of attention but still remembered.
You can create a universally enjoyable "viral" ad.
You can lay low and not look like you're trying to do anything too clever while emphasizing a CEP and prominently displaying your brand assets.
You can create a universally enjoyed ad while emphasizing a CEP and displaying your brand assets.
An example of option 1 is the 2011 Super Bowl ad, "The Force," featuring a little kid dressed up as Darth Vader.
"The Force" was universally clever and funny, so very few people argued with the fact that remote start had been around since the 1980s or that Volkswagen was practically founded by Adolf Hitler, a real-life villain. But this approach failed to achieve advertising's primary objective. Everyone remembers the iconic ad, but no one remembers Volkswagen.
An example of option 2 is this year's WeatherTech ad. No one will remember this ad in a year, but WeatherTech's logo was prominently displayed, ultimately making it a more effective ad than "The Force." This ad won't win any creativity awards, but it likely achieved advertising's primary objective in a way "The Force" didn't. Sales. Consumers who buy protective rubber for their cars will now recognize the WeatherTech brand.
Finally, an example of option 3 is almost any Super Bowl ad from Budweiser over the last 30 years. Most consumers (old enough) remember (and enjoyed) the talking frogs from the 1990s, and no one confused Budweiser for Miller or Coors. The same can be said about most Clydesdale ads (even though this year's ad wasn't nearly as engaging or as well-branded as past ads) and Budweiser's Wassup! campaign.
Fortunately, in the case of the Clydesdales, Budweiser had already established and reinforced a brand asset that can double as an emotional asset. You can't build a storyline around a logo, but you can around horses. So even though Gary Vee's advertising agency dropped the ball in more ways than one with this ad, Budweiser's Clydesdales (regardless of poor execution) were still able to act as "workhorses" for the brand.
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