Pump up the volume

Pump up the volume: Super Bowl Ads blogOnce again, I’ve had the opportunity to be mesmerised – in person – by the phenomenon that is the Super Bowl advertisements. The shushing when the ads come on; the volume turned up for the ads, not the game. Fascinating.

In my last post, I said just how much I was looking forward to this. And broadly, it delivered. I steered clear of nearly all of the previews, wanting instead to experience the first flush of excitement alongside my fellow viewers. And I had the pleasure of watching it all with my rather excitable family, who got even more in the spirit than usual, once they realised I was taking notes.

Celebrities, humour and the occasional tug on the heart string. There was a lot to like. Of course, not everyone hit that sweet spot of branding. And there was too little identification of said celebrities, leading to conversations that went like this:

‘Oh look, it’s that guy.’

‘What guy?’

‘The one from that show. You know the one, with that other guy and they do that stuff. We watched it last week.’

Nevertheless, there were some real highlights. I will let other pens, or iPads as in my case, catalogue the full extent. Instead, I’ll review the ones that stood out for me and my family of Midwestern Kansas City Chiefs fans.

In the funny department, a few stood out either by memory or for the laughs they created. The Doritos goat ad was one of the earliest to generate guffaws. My cousin pointed out, appreciatively that this one had its seed in social media. It did the branding thing very well (impossible to ignore that it was for Doritos) as well as being genuinely funny. The other Doritos ad was also appreciated. Good, though, I think, that the goat one came first in the rotation.

Taco Bell’s ad generated the biggest laughs of the first half and prompted a ‘that’s the best one so far.’ To me, this played really well with the brand’s revised positioning, which resonates with the desire that we all have to get out and have fun with friends at least every now and again. It places the brand in an even more dynamic space than just ‘thinking outside the bun,’ their exhortation to consumers for many years.

There were also some male / female divides, mainly around the more emotive ads, although some of the humour played better among one group or the other, a very small sample notwithstanding. For my auntie, the emotional winner was the Budweiser Clydesdale instalment

There was a little misting in the eyes. By contrast, many of the men in the room loved the Dodge Ram’s Farmer, narrated by Paul Harvey. As I said, these are Midwesterners, but not farmers by any stretch of the imagination. My uncle said that it was ‘the most inspirational’. I’ll definitely concur with that.

The other one that appealed strongly to the ladies in the room was the Tide ad. I’ll admit that it wasn’t as much the hero as I typically like to see, but the payoff was strong – and Tide such a leader in the category – that I don’t see branding as greatly problematic. I just love that payoff, too.

My personal favourite, i think, though, was the Bud Light Lucky Chair instalment. This is part of the ‘it’s only weird if it doesn’t work’ campaign, which has been used all throughout the NFL season this year.

The two ads from the Super Bowl leveraged the fact that the game was in New Orleans, associated with voodoo. And they also used the power of celebrity. What’s been great about the entire campaign is the fact that the brand is the hero, a crucial part of the action. In this case, it’s the payment for the required voodoo. But I love this one especially for the little twist. Brilliant to see so well told a story in such a short time.

Yes, there were others, and some of them good. But I’d be up all night reviewing them all if I don’t stop now. What’s crucial to remember is that relevance, good branding and a compelling story can help stand out from the crowd. We mightn’t all have millions to drop on a one-shot 30-second TV spot, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t apply the same principles to bring joy, drama or intrigue to the hearts and minds of viewers.

Tara Beard-Knowland is a Director at Ipsos ASI. Follow me on Twitter @TaraatIpsosASI.

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