Friday, February 3, 2012

Ten Super Bowl Wins and Fails From 2011

Teaser: Déjà vu all over again. Let’s take a trip into the past by checking out the Wins and Fails of last year’s Super Bowl ad-off.

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Ain’t nuttin’ like the Superbowl.

It’s the loudest shout of old media – the opportunity to connect with more than half the nation in an afternoon with a message more or less guaranteed to be watched, discussed and scrutinized. Plus, if your ad is really really good or, like, a total piece of poo, there’s always the chance you’ll be featured on the front page of newspapers coast to coast.

But it’s a lot more than that. It’s also a brilliant beacon within new media. People talk about experiences. And the Super Bowl is something we all experience. What an opportunity for a savvy (and well heeled) brand to drive thousands of friends and follows in one short afternoon. To mesmerize bloggers from coast to coast, and to motivate their typing and embedding fingers.

It’s the perfect media storm. And if your ad actually makes the product compelling, it’s the opportunity to sell loads of stuff lickety-split.

But whatever. Let’s all relive some of the Wins and Fails from last year’s Super Bowl!

WIN: Chrysler “Imported from Detroit”

It took Fiat management to teach us ‘Murikans how to “do” patriotism right. Not that there was ever a shortage of flag wavin’ in our spots – I am told that visitors to this great land get the willies from our ads. But it took Chrysler’s new Eyetalian management to craft a patriotic message that connects with the side in all of us that hopes for a future in which not every single American must take a job wearing a headset. And saying “How can I give you excellent service?” while simultaneously training his replacement in Bangalore.

This wasn’t just gratuitous flag waving. The ad screamed strength and power and democratic ideals. And, yes, quality, from a mark that sorely needed to stand for SOMETHING. The choice of Eminem was genius – a “brand” inexorably connected with Detroit and a gritty, authentic appeal even broader than his MP3 penetration. Plus he’s cute.

Proof of the Win:

·        Tremendous increase in Chrysler 200 sales versus the Sebring it replaced (Allpar)
·        Tens of millions of ad views on YT and other sites (YT)
·        4X increase in Chrysler Google searches (Google Trends)

WIN: Bud Light Dog Sitting

This slice of family friendly physical comedy was the highest rated ad in the USA Today AD Meter study (along with a Dorito’s ad,) and not without good reason. The beauty of the Super Bowl is its mass appeal. And dogs playing poker is always good for a yuk whether you’re 21 or 91. Just ask the people that sell velvet pictures! No objectification of women, no insider cultural references. It’s dogs. Doing funny things. All connected to the product.

When you do dogs playing butlers, you aren’t gonna win a Cannes Lion. But you WILL sell a lot of beer. Which is actually the point.

Proof of the Win:

·        Highest rated by consumers (USA Today)
·        Millions of online views (YT, Y! Video, Google Video)

WIN: VW L’il Vader

No red car. No talk of zero to sixty. Nor, I venture to say, is the woman a MILF, though perhaps she’s a MYLF – to each their own. But I digress. We were talking about which of the gimme car ad things aren’t in this baby. Oh, here’s a biggie. The VO about “zero point nine percent financing” followed by the whisper “for highly qualified buyers” – it’s decidedly MIA.

But what VW understood is that emotional storytelling trumps “speeds and feeds” in 2012. That the target would make a visceral connection with this evil l’il toddler. That connection carried the brand into tens of millions of social discussions and consumer decision sets. And hey, it’s fun, and exciting, and memorable -- three equities not then connected to the “people’s car.”

VW needed to restore a place on our radar. A three year old did it for them.

Proof it’s a win:

·        Almost 10 million views and 49,000 likes BEFORE the Super Bowl, when it was “leaked” by VW (SEW)
·        Winner of the coveted University of South Carolina “Cocky Award”
·        Best Passat sales in six years in 2011 (VW Vortex)

WIN: Snickers Logging

I have adored this campaign since it relaunched Betty White’s career. But the challenge of something so acutely funny as Betty playing football is how to extend it. This great message combines the legendary whininess of Richard Lewis with the crabby obnoxiousness of Roseanne Barr in a one two punch.

The product message comes through loud and clear, and a big ole log hits Roseanne right in the gut, which would seem to have both fantasy and real world appeal.

Proof it’s a win:

·        Millions of online views (YT, Y! Video, and Google Video)
·        1.9 million references and features (Google)
·        Manual comment analysis reveals that consumer reaction is almost always positive

WIN: Dorito’s Crash the Super Bowl

Dorito’s is always ahead of the pack digitally, but especially in social. Their Super Bowl strategy was and is to turn to budding videographers like you and me (and small studios just getting their start) to capture the desire and crunch.

It’s a win in several ways. First, the ads, such as the one above, are very good. Second, their “Crash the Super Bowl” website showcases dozens of entries, which more or less guarantees that millions of people will waste whole minutes watching when they should be generating their weekly TPR reports. Third, the contest itself creates tremendous buzz in social media among both lay people and the opinion leading “creative class.” And that to no production costs and you got yourself a fat end-of-year marketer bonus!

Proof it’s a win:

5,600 submissions and 28 Million YT page views (ThoughtPick)
Strong traffic every year to the web site. (Quantcast)
Consistently high rankings in the USA Today SuperBowl Ad Meter (USA Today)

WINS: PETA and Go Daddy

Tits are not an idea. But each of these brands uses them to drive awareness year after year. PETA never actually makes the “big game” because they produce ads DESIGNED to be rejected by Network Clearance. is just an example. Because of its content, it can’t be embedded.

Go Daddy put itself on the map with buxom models driving awareness for what is almost by definition a commodity product. The problem with T ’n A as an awareness building device is that it’s hard to keep busting through the clutter year after year. How do you follow up DD-riven awareness burst? DDD? GGG? Surely there is some point at which larger ceases to be appealing to a general audience.

So whaddaya do? Call Joan Rivers! Who was proud of her ad and said it had important meaning: "The message for young girls is, marry rich while you've got it. If you want to look like me, you want a shake for breakfast, a shake for lunch and extensive surgery for dinner." 

Proof that it’s a win (PETA)

·        Doubled web traffic (Quantcast)
·        One million+ online mentions/discussions (Google)

Proof it’s a win (Go Daddy)

·        Huge popularity of tandem social media campaign in which Joan tweeted, “Yes, yes, it is my body.”
·        Millions of social mentions on Twitter and Facebook, in addition to hundreds of blog features

FAIL: Stella Artois: Underground Club

I like the quirky campaign for Stella Artois and its depictions of idealized European lifestyles. The stories are at once entertaining physical comedies and carefully constructed tableau underscoring the irresistible appeal of the beer. LOL. Tableau indeed.

Pretentious? Moi?

Then we come to this spot. It’s not a bad ad, but I question the placement. Perhaps it’s because I love the brand and want to see it place ads before art house movies, or at the very least dramas starring Angelina Jolie.

And I’ve been in American marketing long enough to know that women in Packer’s sweatshirts eating Rotelle Velveeta dip like their men smelling of Old Spice and Pert Plus, not Galousies and Camembert Cheese. Super Bowl is the time to show ads starring a shiny faced Brett Favre (making sure, of course, to omit any of those photos of his winky.) It’s NOT the time for messaging starring a funky looking Adrien Brody.

Signs it’s a fail:

 <20,000 YT views
Very low level of US social buzz

FAIL: Hyundai Elantra Kaleidoscope

Hey, nothing I can say can detract from the tremendous success of this brand year after year. Hyundai marketing clearly rocks. But this Elantra ad tries really hard to be noteworthy, yet with limited success.

One of the common denominators of successful Big Game ads is storytelling. There’s no story here. Rather, Hyundai served up a visual feast that is interesting to watch but doesn’t leave the viewer with “it.” It being the message. The positioning is powerful as an idea, but this ad, and running it in the Super Bowl, seem to be poor ways of communicating it.

And why are women’s legs spinning at me?

Signs it’s a fail:

<100K YT views (YT, Y! Video, Google Video)
Almost no social media “buzz” (Technorati)

FAIL: Home Away Government Agency

The most memorable bit in the ad is the (test) baby’s head being crushed against a Plexiglas wall. Virtually all of the social discussion on this ad is about that instant of film.

Based upon my admittedly cursory examination of the comments, it appears that men – young men in particular – found it hilarious. Older folks and especially women seem generally horrified. This campaign was a lightning rod of emotion. Strong visceral reactions are, of course, great for socializing a message. But what is the brand benefit of this discussion? Do couples sit at kitchen tables browse the web together and say, “Hey, Home Away! They are the ones that crushed a baby’s skull against a wall! Let’s rent from them!”

Hey, maybe they sold bazillions of rentals. I don’t actually know. The fail here is with Network Standards and Practices. You approved an ad of a baby’s head being crushed? I for one would rather see PETA’s women fellating broccoli than this.

Signs it’s a fail:

High number of negative comments about the ad (various sources)
No link between the discussion and the actual service (various sources)

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