The Ads of World Cup… Move Over Super Bowl

14 Jun

World Cup Collage

              For decades, advertising in America’s NFL Super Bowl has long been considered the grand prize for the world’s biggest brands.  American football has just been left in the locker room.

                If one measures viral video sharing, World Cup Soccer has already won the trophy.  Unruly Media tracks social media movement of advertisements.  Its data shows the top-five World Cup ads have already drawn more than 6.1 million shares worldwide.   By comparison, the top-five Super Bowl XLIII ads drew 2.9 million shares.   The World Cup games have only just begun and their advertisements have already out-performed Super Bowl exposure by 210%.

McDonald's World Cup commercial

McDonald’s World Cup commercial

                 Much like the marketing in the Super Bowl, ad agencies and their brands are using some of the same theoretical communication concepts in targeting viewers.   Long time University of Minnesota advertising researcher John Eighmey likes to call the main concept “likeability of the ad.”   That is, if you like the advertisement, you’ll like the brand.  It plays off Balance Theory where congruity is formed between the viewer, the ad, and the advertiser.   That’s why so many of these ads are constructed to entertain rather than drive a hard selling proposition.

                One of the top World Cup ads that successfully plays off this theory comes from Nike.  It’s actually a short movie that uses Disney-like animation featuring soccer super stars Zlatan and Neymar Jr.  It’s an easily digestible good vs. evil schema that plays off of Nike’s well established brand of empowerment.

 

                The Bank of Chile has produced perhaps the most emotionally powerful ad of the games.  Chile’s soccer team is placed in the same World Cup division as the titanic teams of Netherlands and Spain.  It’s called the “death group.”  In this case, no men are better suited to sell the argument of fighting death than the very Chilean miners who stared at death and won.  The salient message from the Bank of Chile is that it is the bank which can help build impossible dreams.


                This kind of advertising forum is tailor-made for soft drink brands.  Pepsi has long aligned itself with youth—the Pepsi Generation.  In this ad Pepsi zeros in on its roots once again driving home the message that Pepsi provides the rhythm of fun to live in the moment.


                McDonald’s could have spent its World Cup marketing budget on selling burgers.  Instead it’s selling soccer and kids who are “Loving it.”  McDonald’s is making the bet that viewers will love this ad and love them back in return.

 

                Finally, Castrol is out to show that it too has a trick play up its cylinder head.  This video short pitting man against machine has already scored with fans who have viewed it more than 15 million times.

               

                 These are just five advertisements in a long list of brands vying for attention.   But they’ve already shown their viral communication power on the world stage.

Cross-Channel Integration – How The White House Made D-Day More Than a Speech

13 Jun

Obama D-Day Collage

       It’s a case of old school vs. new school communication.  Plato vs. Zuckerberg.  That is, speech vs. social media.  But in reality the two can and should complement each other and the White House communications team has just given another example of how to use and integrate these new channels to amplify an important message.  In this case D-Day.

      In many respects, President Barack Obama’s speech in Normandy was itself a teaching machine.  Filled with powerful rhetorical imagery and metaphoric values, he used the world’s oldest form of communication to commemorate and honor the past and reassure the future.

      The president’s opening line was itself masterful in its metaphoric power:

                   If prayer were made of sound, the skies over England that night would have deafened the world.”

 His second sentence was equally illustrative in its imagery:

“Captains paced their decks. Pilots tapped their gauges. Commanders pored over maps, fully aware that for all the months of meticulous planning, everything could go wrong: the winds, the tides, the element of surprise — and above all, the audacious bet that what waited on the other side of the Channel would compel men not to shrink away, but to charge ahead.”

      Gathered among an audience of D-Day veterans and foreign leaders the president had three clear goals in this address.  First, to remember and acknowledge sacrifices paid on the beaches of Normandy and to keep the story alive.  He did it in the form of a rhetorical challenge:

                   Whenever the world makes you cynical — stop and think of these men.”

     Second, the president needed to reassure America’s European allies that it’s un-waivered in its commitment to a free continent.  Finally, he had to acknowledge the continuing sacrifice U.S. service members are still giving in a post 9-11 world:

“And as today’s wars come to an end, this generation of servicemen and women will step out of uniform. They, too, will build families and lives of their own. They, too, will become leaders in their communities, in politics, in commerce and industry — the leaders we need for the beachheads of our time. God willing, they, too, will grow old in the land they helped keep free. And someday, future generations, whether seventy or seven hundred years hence, will gather at places like this to honor them — and to say that these were generations of men and women who proved once again that the United States of America is and will remain the greatest force for freedom the world has ever known.”

 

D-Day Blog WH Facebook

Figure 1 – White House Facebook post of the D-Day event linking to a YouTube video.

        For a president severely struggling at home and in congress, it may have been one of his better moments.  But the challenge for the White House was not letting the message disappear into the sands of Normandy.  Major media coverage significantly helped.   But as an established brand, the White House also controls its own messaging, and in this case it tactically coordinated and integrated the D-Day message across multiple media channels to ensure it was targeted to a series of narrow audiences for the widest possibly reach. (Figure 1)

         First and foremost, was the YouTube video of the speech.  But the White House communications team also targeted separate messages, pictures, and excerpts of the speech to individual social media channels. (Figure 2)  The multi-channel integration creates a hub and spoke network to target individual audiences where they live in social media.  

Figure 2 - The White House cross-channel integration profile.

Figure 2 – The White House cross-channel integration profile.

    In an age of modern communication it’s a smart strategic use of social media to amplify a message and engage participation.  If there was any fault in this particular strategy, it’s in the fact that the communications team should have tactically posted more images and messages throughout the day with a more coordinated effort in each post to link and drive audiences to the blog and the YouTube speech.   In that respect, it’s one miscue an otherwise disciplined communications team.

      It doesn’t have to be a presidential speech.  The lessons for brands, corporate communication teams and non-profits alike are profound.  Compelling content doesn’t have to live and die in a single space.   Integration across multiple channels is key—and often free.  The White House team gives a useful strategic road map for communicators to follow.

“The Heart Can Never Mess You Up” — Speech Lessons From a Once Homeless Marine

4 Jun

 

    On paper, it was no contest.  The speakers list contained a short agenda of polished politicians and accomplished CEOs.  And then, there was Jerry Readmond.

      “I have but one wish right now, that my anti-depression pill would kick in,” said Readmond.

      Those were his first words.

Former homeless veteran Jerry Readmond standing outside the historic Fort Snelling horse stables that will be converted into affordable housing for homeless veterans.  (Photo by Rod Wermager)

Former homeless veteran Jerry Readmond standing outside the historic Fort Snelling horse stables that will be converted into affordable housing for homeless veterans. (Photo by Rod Wermager)

       Hardly the opening line of a master orator.  And therein lies its simple genius—honesty.     

     Jerry Readmond is a former Vietnam War Marine who long ago stopped carrying a rifle and instead carried a burden.  What the war didn’t break, inner demons did.  He spent time walking and living on the streets of Minneapolis, another member in the national embarrassment called the homeless veterans club.  If not for the Marine Corps instilling in him a life-long sense of pride and adaptability, Readmond admits he might not have survived. 

      That’s exactly why Readmond was added to the speakers list at the recent ground breaking for 58 new affordable apartments for homeless veterans at Fort Snelling.  The fact that he’s a Marine gives him respect.  His one-time homelessness gives him standing.  Aristotle called it ethos, or credibility.  But the pathos, or emotion was about to come from the soul.

      “I don’t read from notes, because the heart can really never mess you up.” Readmond said.

     He didn’t need notes. All he needed was a narrative, and his heart gave him one.  Here are some of the excerpts:

      “I asked Senator Hubert Humphrey one time, ‘Where does it start?’ And he shook my hand.  And having been here today and witnessing this, it hit me.  After all these years, it starts with a handshake.  There have been many, many, many, many hands shook here.

      “We can build all the buildings we want for our veterans, but I hope when we leave here you will think of this one word:  Affordable.  I’m in a place right now, I have my social security and I have my compensation from the V.A., the first and the fifteenth.  My rent is going to be over a thousand dollars a month and I was homeless.  I just want to be not a perfect example, but I like to be an example because I got my housing through HUD VASH [Housing & Urban Development - Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing].  That’s why I’m so passionate about this.  It takes the honor and the courage and the strength of a warrior to ask for help, that’s why we have a hard time getting them in the door. 

Jerry Readmond walking through the building that will be converted into affordable housing.  (Photo from Rod Wermager)

Jerry Readmond walking through the building that will be converted into affordable housing. (Photo by Rod Wermager)

      “That’s what we’re all doing here.  Martin Luther King, ‘I had a dream.’ And everybody that’s going to fill these halls and walk the grounds will able to say instead of living down by the river or under a bridge… every winter I just get scared.  Really, really, really scared. How many are they going to find under a bridge or down by a river, or in the bush, dead because they froze to death. 

     “Now I know when Martin Luther King said, ‘I have a dream.’  And, for me it is my dream would be that we can fill as many of these buildings here as possible with affordable housing. That we can build affordable housing all over.  When President Obama was first elected he said that he wanted to eliminate veteran homelessness.  And I thought to myself one word and it was short: right.  But by golly, it’s happening. 

      “But it was the handshake.  God bless our veterans and God bless the United States of America.”

      Pity any speaker who has to come next.  In this case, it was Minnesota’s U.S. Senator Al Franken.

     “Don’t anyone ever let me follow Jerry again,” said Franken.

Jerry Readmond and U.S. Senator Al Franken.  (Photo by Rod Wermager)

Jerry Readmond and U.S. Senator Al Franken. (Photo by Rod Wermager)

 

     Readmond’s were the only words anyone remembered.  Readmond aimed for the heart, everyone else aimed for the talking points.

     The lessons for speech givers and communicators alike are profound.  Powerful persuasion comes in the emotional metaphors delivered by people who have credibility.  In this case, it came from a disheveled man wearing a USMC t-shirt.

Embracing Vine — How One Veteran Political Journalist Tweets a New Narrative

26 May

Rachel Blog Cover Pix

   One of the great challenges for brands and journalists alike is engaging consumers in an era where information is a snack and not a meal.  One of Minnesota’s premiere political reporters is now measuring that engagement by seconds in addition to column inches.     

    The Minneapolis StarTribune’s Rachel E. Stassen-Berger is more than a newspaper reporter.  She’s a multi-platform, multi-channel journalist who writes, blogs, tweets, and even produces video stories for startribune.com.  With more than 36-thousand tweets she is a prolific user of Twitter and one of the state’s most followed political journalists.  And it’s through Twitter that she’s experimenting with seven-second Vine videos to engage her followers in new ways.      

     “We’ve been using Vine for a while in various ways and I’ve sort have played with it a little bit in journalism,” said Stassen-Berger.       

     Like most news organizations, the StarTribune has encouraged its reporters to embrace social media and use various channels such as Facebook, Twitter and Vine to reach their readers where they live in social media.  New research from John H. Parmelee in the Journal of Media Practice shows how most American political reporters have settled in on Twitter.   For Stassen-Berger, the perfect opportunity to expand her use of Twitter with embedded Vine videos came during Governor Mark Dayton’s State of the State address where she approached Democratic lawmakers inside the House chambers and asked them what they wanted to hear from the Governor.        

    Here are three of her vines:

 

 

      After the governor’s address, Stassen-Berger captured the Republican response from two candidates seeking the party endorsement to run against Dayton.  

 

 

  

     For Stassen-Berger’s followers, the tweets and vines when followed in real time help tell a brief narrative about the story.  Furthermore, the Vine video with sound extends credibility to the tweet and makes the news event itself more accessible, more real.

     “I think the moment that it crystalized with me as a good use of it was actually on caucus night,” said Stassen-Berger.

     “I was in the office and was running a live blog and all sorts of reporters were out in the field and feeding to me so I could feed the live blog.  And one of the things I said to them was, ‘Try to use Vine and particularly if you can go up to someone and think of a specific question and say you’ve got seven seconds to answer.’” 

Figure -1 Pew Research Twitter News Consumers

Figure -1 Pew Research Twitter News Consumers

      Through trial and error, Stassen-Berger says the secret is to come up with a focused question that the subject can answer very quickly.  It also takes persistence and a little patience.  “It takes a couple of takes.  Because it’s only seven seconds and it’s a challenge,” she said.

      As news consumption habits change, the use of Vine to give little snippets of context to a news event through Twitter is a smart strategy.  New insights by Pew Research Center show the overall Twitter user base is still relatively small, but those who are on the channel are relatively strong news consumers.  Pew found that half of Twitter’s users are seeking news. (Figure 1)

     That important insight collides against further Pew research that shows the number of consumers watching online news videos is steadily growing—now more than half all online video viewing. (Figure 2)  Increasingly, more of that video is consumed on mobile platforms.  Digital analytics agency comScore just released new research showing mobile video viewing has risen 37% in the past year among German consumers, a strong indicator of a trend that is typically later matched by U.S. audiences. 

Figure 2 - Pew Online Video News Demographics

Figure 2 – Pew Online Video News Demographics

      Pew also finds that the viewers who are watching online news videos dramatically trend young.  Nearly half of all 18-29 year olds watch online news videos. This is a critical audience to news organizations as they try to engage young consumers who watch less television news and read fewer newspapers than previous generations.

    Furthermore, the use of Vine in news coverage doesn’t just tend to lend more credibility to the story but also the storyteller.  After all, much like the newspaper she writes for, Stassen-Berger is a powerful brand herself.  By using Vine to give her followers more accessibility to the stories she’s covering, she also builds upon an important theoretical model that I’ve established called the Blotz Typology.  It’s a four-part model that provides a road map toward building and sustaining credible online relationships that in turn could lead to more engagement and more followers.

      Stassen-Berger just sees it as another way to tell a story.

       “People do react and it allows them another way to see the news,” she said.

#GiveItBack – When Social Media Campaigns Turn Ugly

3 Mar

Giveitback 1

     It was a great idea, until it wasn’t.

      Minnesota’s Republican legislative leaders have launched a clever, and useful social media effort to rally public support for returning the state’s growing surplus to taxpayers.   Minnesota’s February budget forecast projects that surplus adds up to $1.23 billion and growing.  The surplus is the result of the state’s growing economy and newly enacted tax increases passed by the Democratic controlled legislature and signed by Governor Mark Dayton in 2013.

     “State government does not need this money.  Minnesota families need this money.  So, let’s give it back,” said GOP House minority leader Kurt Daudt.  

House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt launching the #giveitback campaign and his corresponding Tweet.  (insert)

House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt launching the #giveitback campaign and his corresponding Tweet. (insert)

       In that simple declaration, a campaign was born.  Republican leaders raised a poster before TV cameras with the words “Give it Back Act” and instantly encouraged citizens to Tweet their ideas about how the state should return their hard earned money by using the simple hashtag #giveitback.

      On many levels, it’s a smart strategy.  From a pure marketing point of view, by launching a social media campaign based upon the Republican core value of lower taxes, legislative leaders could hope to not only activate its base of brand loyalists, but create a populist buzz and use the groundswell of public opinion to influence the Democratic majority to return some or all of the surplus to taxpayers in the form of tax credits or reductions.

     In a matter of hours, the Tweets started rolling in.  But, the majority of them perhaps were not what the Republicans were expecting.  It turns out, Democratic party supporters and lawmakers hijacked the #giveitback campaign and turned it against them. (Click on Figure 1) 

Figure 1 - #giveitback Tweets.

Figure 1 – #giveitback Tweets.

      Twitter campaigns can be risky at best.  Unless a brand has a substantial base of loyalist or followers, its message can be undercut by critics and cynics alike with just a few clever Tweets that are retweeted among their own followers.  That can add up fast.  Researchers at the Korean Institute of Science and Technology have found that a retweet reaches 1,000 additional viewers on average regardless of how many followers the sender has.  Complicating the strategy is the fact that it’s launched in a hyper-political election year where opponents and detractors have extra incentive to disrupt the message.

     These kind of campaigns require research.  Brand managers need to vet the hashtags which can be easily done with simple tools embedded on Tweetdeck and Hootsuite.   Advertising and PR agencies have more sophisticated tracking tools that can also aid in the research.   A simple search of #giveitback Tweets indicates that it’s a popular hashtag among teens and millennials looking to retrieve stolen items. 

Figure 2 - Justin Bieber's #giveback campaign.

Figure 2 – Justin Bieber’s #giveback campaign.

      Pop superstar Justin Bieber has even used a variation of the hashtag, #giveback, and many of his 50 million followers use it in their own Tweets. (Figure 2)  Therefore the Republicans’ #giveitback campaign is co-mingled with hundreds of non-related Tweets and gets lost in the noise.  In this case a more effective hashtag would have been one that is more specific, such as #returnthesurplus, or #returnmymoneymn. 

     With research in hand, a smart campaign also needs a cross-channel integration plan.  In other words, it needs to be leveraged on a branded website, Youtube, Facebook, earned media, and perhaps even paid media.  An excellent example is how Toyota recently created cross-channel tactical support to drive Twitter conversations during the Super Bowl to create awareness for its new Highlander SUV.   

Figure 3

Figure 3

      Without that kind of cross-channel support, the chances of a social media campaign creating a viral groundswell are not particularly strong.  As evidence, nearly 72 hours after the launch of the #giveitback campaign, it has produced few genuine Tweets from the general public with the exception of several Republican lawmakers. (Figure 3) 

    It’s not that #giveitback was a bad idea.  In this case it made headlines and good news copy in the context of the budget surplus narrative.  And yes, there is exceptional value in that too.  But as a viral social media campaign it so far has been a swing and a miss.

NBC vs. BBC – The Olympics Ad Battle for Ratings Gold

9 Feb

Olympics Means Ends  Collage  

     Let the games begin.  As athletes from across the globe battle each other, there’s another global battle for viewers to watch them.

     NBC and the BBC have taken two differing approaches.  Both are grounded in successful communication appraisal theory to lead the viewer on a narrative journey to elicit an emotional response to watch broadcasts of the games.  But creatively, they appeal to differing emotions and values.   One appeals to humanity, the other to mythology.

     The BBC approach paints a narrative of battling the Gods.

 

      NBC takes a differing tactic, instead appealing to the narrative of human competition.

      Both promotional efforts are creative and emotionally effective.   But the BBC message is decidedly different than what American audiences are used to seeing and perhaps creates a stronger attitudinal conversion to watch the games.  

Figure 1 - Means-Ends Model

Figure 1 – Means-Ends Model

     The difference is easy to see when we break down the ads into a simple means-ends ladder analysis.   At the bottom of the ladder, both promotional ads are grounded with the attributes of athletic competition and sports.   But where they differ is in the narrative focal goals.  NBC takes a man vs. man approach, where the BBC chooses man vs. nature. (Figure 1)  Those opposing tracts create two powerfully different higher level value propositions, one based on unity and happiness, the other based on immortality.

      Arguably, the BBC approach takes the viewer on a deeper cognitive journey forcing one to think more intensely about the relationship between man and nature.  After all, it’s a given that men and women will defeat each other in the field of competition, but the real prize is whether they can defeat the Gods.   The elaborative journey of the “climbing the mountain” narrative combined with the higher level value of living forever is a powerful proposition.  

       The mountains are calling.  It’s time to watch.

Four Best Super Bowl Ads That Were Anything But Boring

3 Feb

Super Bowl 2014 Collage

     The big game is over.  More than 96 million viewers watched Denver and GoDaddy embarrass themselves.   At the same time Seattle re-wrote the rules on what it takes to be champions, and in between some of the world’s most powerful brands helped reshape our attitudes and beliefs on what it means to be Americans.   We are a country that builds great cars, embodies diversity, welcomes home our troops, and yes, swoons over puppies. 

General Mills' Super Bowl ad "Gracie."

General Mills’ Super Bowl ad “Gracie.”

      This was the year when several brands and their agencies appeared to turn a creative corner.  The bondage of uninspired play-it-safe advertising brought on by the Great Recession has loosened its grip.  Yes, there were still moments where it appeared the messaging was written by 13 years old boys (I’m looking at you, Butterfinger), but there were many more examples of creative bravery, among them Cheerios’ “Gracie.”   

      There are a multitude of post-game rankings sizing up the Super Bowl XLVIII ads, this one is merely an analysis of three that exemplified creative and strategic brand communication, and one that excelled in extending viewer engagement beyond the TV screen.   

     Part of the mark of a confident and strong brand is consistency.   We clearly saw that in two exceptional ads from Chrysler and Coca-Cola.   Since the easing of the Great Recession, Chrysler has positioned itself as America’s “comeback kid.”  It’s given us Eminem, Paul Harvey, and Clint Eastwood who proclaimed it “Halftime in America.”  This year Chrysler gave us Bob Dylan, another American original to say, “You can’t import originality.” 

      The Bob Dylan ad strikes at an important business insight and a critical strategic value proposition: Nobody builds cars better than America, and nobody in America builds cars better than Chrysler.   Using Dylan as the human metaphor for originality and legacy makes the proposition especially salient.   

 

         Another original American brand reminded us that what makes us original is our differences. Coca-Cola hit the mark with its ad called “It’s Beautiful.”  As one of the world’s most recognized brands with assets in virtually every country, Coca-Cola embodies diversity.   What Coke is selling here is acceptance, empowerment and the happiness that comes when you embrace shared moments—and a Coke—with others.   Its ad by Wieden + Kenney is a powerful brand extension that bravely comes from one the few brands strong enough to pull it off.

 

     Brave communication was not just cornered by Coca-Cola.   Chevy Silverado leveraged a lot of its own brand equity to say something about cancer—without speaking a word.   

      The silent schema of a solemn ride down a country road in a Silverado pickup  forces the viewer to cognitively elaborate about what is and what is not happening.    The three most powerful cues:  the shaved head, the teary eye, and the embraced hands.   Together they force the viewer to create their own story, form their own attitude, and create the belief that they can take action by supporting the American Cancer Society’s Purple Roads campaign.   The underlying message is not about the truck, but the journey of strength the truck allows one to take.  It’s emotional, powerful, and strategic.

 

     Finally, Toyota’s Super Bowl campaign is notable for not what it did on the TV screen, but what it did on other screens. 

Picture 2 - Swedish Chef telling fellow Muppets they're heading to the "Sferndy Boom."  (Super Bowl)

Picture 1 – Swedish Chef telling fellow Muppets they’re heading to the “Sferndy Boom.” (Super Bowl)

     Toyota’s agency Saachi & Saachi employed the Muppets for a campaign to promote the all-new Highlander SUV targeted strategically at upwardly mobile parents with chaotic families.   And who better to symbolize a loveable, dysfunctional American family than the Muppets?  The unique selling proposition of the campaign is that the Highlander has room for everything inside but boring.   

    To prove their point, Toyota branched out on three separate channels to engage viewers in its “No Room for Boring” campaign.   It started with a YouTube video announcing a road trip to the Super Bowl that of course, went terribly wrong.  (Picture 1)

 

     The Muppets also took to Twitter taking over the Toyota page to actively engage with Super Bowl viewers during the game. (Figure 1) 

Figure 1 - Interactive Tweets with Pepe and the Muppets on @Toyota

Figure 1 – Interactive Tweets with Pepe and the Muppets on @Toyota

    Finally, the Muppets used Vine to send several short videos of Pepe trying to watch the game from the back of the Highlander.

Picture 1 - Blotz family Tweeting during Super Bowl.

Picture 2 – Blotz family Tweeting during Super Bowl.

      The strategic insight in all of this is that the Super Bowl is no longer a TV-only event.   It’s a multi-screen interactive social village where viewers share and exchange the experience on Twitter, Facebook and other social channels.  It happened even in my own house by evidence of the Instagram picture shared by my wife with her caption, “Remember when people WATCHED the @SuperBowl?”  Guilty as charged. (Picture 2)  During the broadcast, Twitter reported 24.9 million Tweets, that’s 800,000 more than Super Bowl XVLII.

     As the price for Super Bowl ads continues to climb, Toyota’s foray into interactive space is the model more brands are likely to copy.   Not only does it create for a more entertaining and meaningful brand experience, it’s also relatively free.

      Four brands, four distinct messages.   Unlike Denver, they brought their A-game.

  *          *          *

      For more expert analysis of the Super Bowl ads, I invite you to follow John Eighmey’s The Psychology of Advertising.     

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 29 other followers

%d bloggers like this: