Super Bowl XLVI has recorded its winners and losers among teams and certainly among brands.
This year’s annual Super Bowl of advertising has produced another list of memorable commercials, and certainly a list of forgettable and regrettable ones too.
Tracking agencies have already ranked the ads based upon their popularity among viewers and it should come as no surprise that Doritos once again finished strong with its mainstay use of humor.
Part of the purpose of Super Bowl ads is to entertain. But, it’s important to remember that if those ads don’t creatively communicate a strategic message about the brand or product, then it’s a colossal waste of $3.5 million.
With that in mind, I picked the minds of two advertising heavy weights. John Eighmey is the Campbell Mithun Chair of Advertising at the University of Minnesota. Eighmey spent a good portion of his career at Young & Rubicam in New York and steered the production of many of the great advertising campaigns of the 1970’s and 80’s including the Hallmark card ads that made everyone cry. From Eighmey’s point of view one commercial this year stood out from the rest: Fiat’s 500 Abarth.
“It’s the one commercial any creative person would want on his reel.” Eighmey said.
Many car companies during the past 50 years have tried to sell the idea of having a love affair with a car. Eighmey says this is the first one to make the metaphor real. The hot model bending over at the street curb was the personification of love at first sight. But when woman stood up and started shouting in Italian and charging toward her admirer it became clear that this was the embodiment of every man’s dream—a siren that loved him back. The sexy tattoo of the Abarth logo on the back of her neck was the only foreshadowing of the surprise to come.
It wasn’t just a cleaver ad, it targeted a specific audience with a specific message and a specific desired response:
- Idea: Love affair with a car
- Target Market Audience: American men who love sports cars
- Desired Response: Test dive this car!
- Competitive Frame: All other compact cars
- Message Argument: Fall in love with the sexy Italian car that will love you back
- Rationale: Introduces legendary European car to an American audience
Campbell Mithun CEO Steve Wehrenberg noted a number of good Super Bowl ads including the VW Beetle dog training commercial, but the one that stood out for him was the Chevy Silverado Apocalypse.
This ad too, was no accident. It used the predictions of the 2012 apocalypse and a bit of end-of-the-world lore about the survivability of Twinkies to differentiate the Silverado from all other pick-up trucks.
The strategy of the Silverado ad jumps off the screen:
- Idea: Surviving the apocalypse
- Target Market Audience: Men who buy pick-ups
- Desired Response: Buy a Silverado
- Competitive Frame: Ford F-150 and all over pick-ups
- Message Argument: A Chevy can survive the end of the world
- Rationale: Uses humor to tell a story about the reliability of the Silverado
The ad presents what advertising Godfather Rosser Reeves would call a unique selling proposition—Chevy trucks last. In an economy where consumers are hanging onto their cars for 10-plus years, the Silverado has value.
I have to admit, my personal favorite made me stand up and cheer. It was Chrysler’s “Halftime in America.” The conceptual positioning of Clint Eastwood as America’s coach giving a halftime economic pep-talk was simply brilliant casting. Who wouldn’t want to stand tall with Dirty Harry?
Here again, the means of communication is intentional and very specific.
- Idea: Patriotism
- Target Market Audience: Anyone who has struggled in the economy
- Desired Response: Feel confident about yourself—feel confident about Chrysler
- Competitive Frame: Apathy & Pessimism
- Message Argument: We’ve only just begun—Can’t wait for the second half (Oh, and thanks for the bailout!)
- Rationale: Emotional trigger to build loyalty and awareness to Chrysler cars.
“Halftime in America” builds upon several salient ideas to help us make a positive association with the Chrysler brand. First, it blatantly bends the old Ronald Reagan metaphor of “morning in America” which was Reagan’s positive, optimistic view of the country. Second, the ad was perfectly positioned to run at half time of a hard fought game building upon the sports come-back metaphor. And third, it awakens the reality that this economy is really not a game; real people have lost—we are turning a corner and refuse to lose again.
Three ads, three takes. Can’t wait for Super Bowl XLVII.