my super bowl was filled with guacamole

You didn’t think I’d let the Super Bowl ads come and go without commentary, did you?!  Although I was trying to sit quietly by while others Monday-morning quarter-backed about the ads, I just couldn’t do it.  I have to weigh in with a few points — so I’ll keep it short and sweet.

Here are 5 lessons I suggest be learned from the spots: (I’m not inserting the videos here since you can find them on pretty much every other site including USA Today.)

1.  Creativity is a must. As a general rule, TV advertising should be entertaining and engaging.  In the case of the Super Bowl, a show whose ads rival the attention of the show content, the spots need to be even more so.  VIZIO’s spot for its flat panel TVs was such a boring, low-production-value piece that after I watched it, I was sorry I hadn’t used the time to take a bio break.

A few years back, Jim Stengel, then CMO of P&G, charged his agencies to make the company’s advertising more watchable.  In an address called The Future of Marketing, he explained, “When we think of permission-based marketing, most of us think about opt-in online newsletters. We really need to expand this mentality to all aspects of marketing. We must develop creative that both maximizes the channel and appeals to the consumer.For each element of the marketing mix, we should ask ourselves ‘would consumers choose to look at or listen to this,’ and let that be the benchmark.

2.  But too much creativity can backfire. As with many Super Bowls past, this year featured several spots in which the story line completely overshadowed the brands they were promoting — GoDaddy.com and Pepsi Max are just a few of the offenders.  Although GoDaddy.com has dramatically boosted brand awareness with past Super Bowl ads, I have yet to find someone who remembers the brand for what it is or what is does.

And while I know I just said that Super Bowl ads need to be entertaining, I should clarify that the entertaining element should serve to communicate the brand message.  Cars.com did this quite effectively — its spot featuring an overachiever who still gets nervous when buying a car wove the benefit of the brand seamlessly into a stimulating, imaginative story.

3.  Be mindful of unintended brand associations. Cheetos = pigeon food — need I say more?

4.  Always portray your products users as heroes — not losers. Pepsi’s MacGruber spot had so much potential — and I’m not just saying that because I loved the show McGyver.  Headlining Saturday Night Live’s MacGruber character in a campy story line served to capture and hold attention well — but the creatives missed the boat by ending with MacGruber failing in his effort to save the day after taking a swig of Pepsi.  Even in a scenario as far-fetched as this ad, the act of using the product should have been rewarded with success.

5.  If you have something to say, say it. Denny’s chief marketing and innovation officer, Mark Chmiel, was quoted as saying the chain’s Super Bowl spot describes “a customer offer that has never been done in the sit-down segment.”  Indeed, a free breakfast for all Americans (which was offered today — sorry if you missed it) is big news.  But I wonder why they chose to bury the message in a spot that also featured some pretty convincing mafiosi, clown pancakes, and a great portrayal of a diner waitress.  While I’m glad Denny’s didn’t choose the self-congratulating tack of running a spot that talks about how breakthrough the free breakfast deal is, they probably could have done a better job of making the offer more front and center.

OK, there you have it — I’m finished — thanks for listening.  Now, where’s that guacamole…

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