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.”
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 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
Finally, the Muppets used Vine to send several short videos of Pepe trying to watch the game from the back of the Highlander.
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.
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For more expert analysis of the Super Bowl ads, I invite you to follow John Eighmey’s The Psychology of Advertising.