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2018 Best Super Bowl Ads That Aren’t Dilly, Dilly

2 Feb

Super Bowl Ads.002       

    The NFL’S Super Bowl is often called the Super Bowl of advertising.  As the league’s best teams square off for the Lombardi Trophy, the world’s biggest brands square off for relevance and sales glory in front of a global audience.  It is the one place where the world’s most creative advertising minds compete for a high stakes game in creating brand value and boosting market share.

     There will be many polls and surveys by the end of the game determining the favorite ads among viewers.  Among them, USA Today’s Ad Meter, which gives viewers the opportunity to watch all of the released ads and vote.  But at $5 million a spot to air, this is more than a popularity contest.  It has to drive sales.  That’s why the best of these ads come with a highly focused game day strategy aimed at a specific audience, with a specific message, asking them to take a specific action.

     Of all of the pre-released ads, six of them stand out for their highly creative focused strategies.

Amazon: Alexa Loses Her Voice    

    Amazon’s ad called “Alexa Loses Her Voice” is one of this year’s best—and not just because it’s funny.   The ad asks viewers to contemplate a whimsical “what if?”  What if Amazon’s Alexa smart speaker actually lost her voice?  The ad features a cameo from Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos who is assured that there are emergency back ups.

     Part of the creative brilliance of this ad is the writers take the viewer on a journey of surprises—each one engaging deeper thought into the story, the product, and the conclusion that the substitutes voices are a total disaster.   The ad successfully puts Alexa into a human form with the help of Chef Ramsey and Rebel Wilson only to show that humans are not as smart at Alexa.  

     The metaphors are not just funny—they’re powerful.  Amazon is strategically targeting not just its own Alexa users, but consumers who want to become smart speaker adopters.  In a marketplace where Amazon is competing with Google and now Apple for smart speaker market share, its message is to avoid the imitators because there’s only one Alexa.

Kia Stinger:  Feel Something Again

    I’ll make the prediction now that Kia’s “Feel Something Again” ad will not be among the most popular in the post game surveys, but I’ll argue it’s among the most strategic and brilliantly creative of the ads.

     In advertising terms this is called a product introduction ad.  Kia believes that its new 2018 365 horsepower Stinger car is a legend in the making.  And who better to establish its legendary status than a faceoff between racing legend Emerson Fittipaldi and rock legend Steven Tyler.   The ad is strategically targeted toward baby boomer men wanting to feel young again.  After all, no one under 50 will recognize Fittipaldi let alone know who he is—or was.  And Tyler is no fountain of youth himself.   But one of the creative giveaways in the message is when Tyler walks past the picture of his younger self and then keeps seeing the same image in the rear view mirror.

     Using a musical riff of Tyler’s “Dream On” this is an ad about nostalgia.  It metaphorically makes the message argument about racing backwards to one’s long lost wild side–it’s a supercharged time machine.  The desired response from viewers is to come test drive the Stinger for themselves.   The strategic message is that if you, like Steven Tyler are longing for your own Fountain of Youth, it just so happens Kia has a new car to drive you there.

Michelob Ultra:  I Like Beer

     Of all of the beer ads, Michelob is the only one to come to the Super Bowl with a highly focused game plan and unique selling proposition.  This ad is both nostalgic and contemporary.   The ad for Michelob Ultra takes Tom T. Hall’s classic drink til you drop sing-along-song and collides it against Rocky.  Unlike the fuzzy Super Bowl strategy for AB Inbev’s other brands, Budweiser and Bud Light, this one is highly focused.  It targets middle-aged achievers and adventurers who count carbs along with their workout reps. The desired response is to switch brands—Ultra is the new “tastes great, less filling” beer. The message argument here is simple: the beer you like for the body you like.

Febreze:  The Only Man Whose Bleep Don’t Stink

     Meet Dave.  His bleep don’t stink.  This simple and creative assault against a favorite insult takes a new whiff on an age-old complication: bathroom odor.   This is a classic problem-solution ad.  The creative idea by ad agency Grey New York is to use humor.  It works.  Proctor and Gamble makes this a duel strategy ad.  For consumers who don’t know Febreze now makes bathroom spray, this is a product introduction.  For those consumers already using Febreze Air, this is a rate of use ad—encouraging them to stock up for the Super Bowl party.

M&M’s:  Human

     Advertising researcher and retired University of Minnesota Professor John Eighmey likes to argue that the most effect advertising puts the product into human form. Amazon’s Alexa did it with Chef Ramsey and Rebel Wilson.  And now M&M’s does it with Danny DeVito.  By making the red M & M human, it makes a direct cognitive connection to the message argument that M&M’s are more than just candy—they’re fun!  The ad is targeted not just at other candy lovers to switch brands, but also at lapsed M&M’s users who need to be reminded about the simple pleasure of portable, easy to eat candy.  The targeted and strategic message to candy lovers is that M&M’s are your lucky penny, find a bag and live a little.

Coca-Cola:  The Wonder of Us

     I’ll admit it.  I’m a sucker for Coca-Cola.   But Coke Classic has a problem.   Its gloriously satisfying sugar-filled bottle is a product that long ago matured in a marketplace demanding reduced sugar beverages.  Coca-Cola now has to retrain its customers to think of Coke not as a single product, but as a brand with many Coke products.  That’s exactly the strategy behind this year’s Super Bowl ad.

     It begins with a childhood game of spin the bottle, a metaphor for the unexpected joys in life that have long been the core of Coca-Cola’s brand image.   It wastes no time in hitting the new strategic message, “There’s a Coke for all of us.”   The ad implores us to understand that, “No feet have wandered where you’ve walked.”   This is all about individualism.  In a marketplace where consumes want customized experiences and products, Coke is reminding us that they have drinks as unique as we are.    In telling us that there is a Coke “for we and us” it pays homage the great Coca-Cola branding of the past that simply wanted to teach the world to sing.  The great harmony and power of the Coke brand is that it’s always been about inclusion and sharing.   Coke is now reminding us that in addition to sharing a Coke, the new harmony is in sharing yourself.

     Together these are six ads that take a creative, yet very business-like approach to the Super Bowl.  They may not be among the most popular after the big game, but I’ll argue they are among the most strategic.   There are plenty of ads that offer up “Dilly, Dilly.”  But if they don’t achieve business goals, they’re just silly, silly.

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Lessons from the Kendall Jenner Pepsi Ad

20 Apr

     The fizz has gone flat on the latest Pepsi ad and it offers lessons for marketers and communication managers trying to reach their target audiences in a time of rapidly changing consumer attitudes.

    The ad featuring reality TV and social media star Kendall Jenner in many ways followed a tried and true Pepsi formula nearly as old as the soft drink itself.  Pepsi has always marketed itself as “The Voice of a New Generation.”  The slogan may have disappeared years ago, but Pepsi has never wavered from positioning itself as the celebratory fountain drink of youth.   Whether it was a young Michael Jackson moon walking across the stage with a can of Pepsi in the 80’s, or teens and twenty-somethings street dancing in Brazil during the 2016 Summer Olympics, Pepsi has consistently marketed youth, fun and independence.  

    The latest ad didn’t stray far from the recipe.  Pepsi found an archetypal pop culture star in Jenner and placed her in an ad that loosely celebrated the social consciousness of millennials.  Furthermore, it was launched as a digital-only campaign with the strategy of targeting social media savvy youth who would like and share the video generating buzz.  

    What could go wrong?

    Well, what did go wrong was brilliantly spoofed by Saturday Nigh Live.

   Pepsi wasn’t just trying to create buzz about its brand, it was also trying to stimulate a social discussion in a time of high emotional tensions on race and justice.   Those are admirable goals.  But the ad is guilty of creating an augmented reality that conflicted with the strong memes and images of the protests that occurred from Dallas, to St. Louis, to St. Paul and Minneapolis.  

Pepsi Patttern Assoc Graphic.001

Figure 1

    When Black Lives Matter activists last summer protested the police shooting of Philando Castile by shutting down the I-94 freeway in St. Paul, it looked nothing like the Pepsi ad.  Many Americans have their own observations and experiences with the tensions mediated through their smartphones or televisions—and the images don’t match.  It’s what psychologists call cognitive dissonance. [Figure 1]  Presidential advisor Kelly Anne Conway would call them alternative facts.  The memes which spread through social media and the news simply didn’t align with the Pepsi’s recreation of the memes in its ad.

    What the creators of the Pepsi ad missed is authenticity.  It’s also one of the chief insights of marketing to millennials.  They want real experiences and real messages, even when they’re trying to be sold a product.

    For a lesson in using authenticity to leverage social change, look no further than The Real Thing–Coca-Cola.  Coke used its extensive brand equity several years to make a statement about selflessness and sharing, two long-time values of the Coke brand.  And they did it with real clips from security cameras around the world.

     In another era during the tumultuous 70’s it was Coca-Cola that brought the world together by teaching it to sing.    Pepsi tried bringing it together by teaching it how to protest, or make fun of it. 

    Pepsi thought it had captured buzz in a bottle.  It was just the wrong kind of buzz… with no fizz.

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The Strategy Behind Budweiser’s Super Bowl Ad – Born The Hard Way

3 Feb

bud-2     During America’s most important game, Budweiser may have produced America’s most important and timely message—by accident.

     For the first time in memory, Budweiser’s Super Bowl ad keeps its Clydesdales in the stable and the puppies on a short leash.   This ad reminds viewers of the core values of Adolphus Busch, a German immigrant who risked all to travel an ocean and half the North American continent with nothing more than an idea in his head and drawings in his Journal.   The ad is not selling beer as much as it’s selling an idea.   That idea is that dreams are hard.   And when those dreams are fulfilled it can produce success.

     Called “Born the Hard Way” the ad comes at a timely crossroads when the national discussion about immigration and who has the right to become an American is debated from TV screens to coffee shops.   Not only is the theme familiar, so is the language.   As Adolphus Busch gets his papers stamped in New York you can hear the voices in the crowd shout, “Go back home.  You’re not wanted here.”

    Anheuser-Busch executives say the ad is meant to celebrate the American dream.  In its press release rolling out the ad, Mike Byrne, the chief creative officer of ad agency Anomaly Global said the inspiration came from Budweiser itself.  “When Budweiser told us they wanted to celebrate those who embody the American spirit, we realized the ultimate story lived within their own brand history,” said Byrne.  “Adolphus Busch is the hero of the Anheuser-Busch American dream story, which makes him the perfect protagonist.” attitude-toward-the-ad-001

     The ad’s story has little to do with selling beer and everything to do with building brand equity.  This is not a transactional advertisement trying to convince the viewer that Budweiser is a superior product that offers a unique selling proposition to solve a problem or improve one’s life.   The strategy is to build a positive emotional connection to the brand.   It’s what consumer psychologists and advertising scholar John Eighmey call “attitude toward the ad.”  If the viewer enjoys and likes the advertisement, it is likely to have a positive effect on his or her attitude about the beliefs and expectations of the brand or its product. (Figure 1)   In this case, if you like the ad, you’ll like Budweiser–and just maybe buy a six-pack the next time you’re at the store.  It’s virtually the same psychological formula used in every Super Bowl ad—a popularity contest.

     Many will argue that Anheuser-Busch is trying to make a political statement.  If it was, it’s perhaps by complete accident.  But it’s no accident that people viewing this ad through the lens of their own values and political beliefs have caused the viral explosion of more than 6 million YouTube views even before the big game’s kick off.  Consumer psychologist Richard Bagozzi has established that mood directly influences one’s cognitive processing and attitudes towards advertisements.  If one holds a negative mood toward immigration, they are more than likely to view Budweiser’s ad with a negative feeling.  

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Picture 1

     The time it takes to produce such an ad means that its director Chris Sargent had to start production months before President Trump’s executive orders to temporarily reset the nation’s immigration policies.  Even then, executives at Anheuser-Busch would be reluctant to risk a brand as big as Budweiser by taking a political stand in a highly polarized consumer marketplace.  It would also be naive to believe Budweiser didn’t think it would cause controversy.  This is where it takes a strong brand, and brave marketing executives willing to stimulate discussion.

     Indeed, in the hours leading up to the Super Bowl, Budweiser doubled down on its social media sites inviting followers to learn more about he heritage of the brand by viewing the advertisement.  (Picture 1)

    In some ways the new ad makes sense for Budweiser.  Having temporarily rebranded the beer as “America” last summer, the new ad attaches a powerful story to the name.  But without the horses and dogs Super Bowl viewers have come to expect, Budweiser might be advancing its new message the hard way. 

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El Gordo Christmas Lottery Sells Sharing Over Winning in Latest Tear Jerker Ad

21 Nov

el-gordo-2016-5     The holiday season’s best ad so far is not for a retail store and it’s not even from the United States.  It’s for Spain’s famous Christmas lottery.   First organized in 1812, the Loteria de Navida is the second longest running national lottery in the world.  At more that 2B euros, it’s also the largest.  

     The chance of winning the giant prize, the El Gordo, is a prime motivator to buy tickets.  But in recent years, the lottery has pushed the selling of multiple tickets holding the same number so more people can share in the prize.  Sharing has become part of the culture.  Families, offices, even neighborhood bars now buy group tickets.

     This is where advertising firm Leo Burnett Madrid steps in.  For the past three years it has created the Christmas Lottery ad campaign based on the idea of sharing.  This year’s ad centers around a retired school teacher named Carmina who mistakenly watches a rerun of last year’s draw and thinks she’s won the prize.  Rather than disappoint her, Carmina’s family plays along and creates an elaborate charade.  In the end, they are the ones who are surprised. 

 

appraisal-theory-el-gordo-001

Figure 1

   The lesson of the ad is there’s no bigger prize than sharing.  It’s also a lesson in the powerful use of emotion.   The ad relies upon Appraisal Theory to leverage emotion to persuade the viewer to act. (Figure 1)  As the viewer watches the narrative unfold they are drawn into the story based upon their own experiences of hope and anticipation.  They watch as Carmina’s family cleverly perpetuates her beliefs of winning.  The emotional response to Carmina’s happiness and giving away the very source of the happiness leads the viewer on a powerful journey to consider sharing tickets with their own friends and family members.

 

     “Carmina” is just the latest Christmas Lottery creation of Leo Burnett Madrid.  Last year it gave us “Justino,” the lonely night watchman at a mannequin factory who mischievously brought happiness to the co-workers he never saw.  The ad won the Cannes Loins Cyber Grand Prix award.

 

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Figure 2

     The genius of both “Justino” and “Carmina” is the ads also use Means-End Model to lead the viewers on a journey of discovering higher level values. (Figure 2)  In the case of Justino, those values were about the joys of giving thanks.  With Carmina, it’s about the fulfillment and love that comes from making someone happy.

 

      Sharing has become a key component of the Christmas Lottery.  As a business model, the more tickets people buy to share, the bigger the prizes become.  Using the power of emotion to creatively leverage the act of sharing becomes a higher-level motivator than the simple act of winning.  It’s a concept the agency unveiled with its 2014 ad about “Manuel” who didn’t buy a ticket for himself.

     During a holiday season that revolves around giving and sharing, the Christmas Lottery campaign has found a strategic sweet spot in the hearts of viewers.   In a world-wide climate of 30 second TV spots and 10 second digital ads, Leo Burnett Madrid has bravely raised the bar with long-format creative messaging.   Bring on Christmas 2017.

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Presidential Campaign Ads – What Bernie, Hillary, Cruz and Trump are Really Trying to Say to US

25 Jan

Ads 2

         Don’t touch that dial.  Despite the more sophisticated uses of social media, big data, and earned media, the political TV ad is far from dead.

         All of the major presidential candidates have so far deployed a limited air campaign in hopes of attracting money and votes.  But as a means of communication, are they effective or even persuasive to their intended audiences?

         There are clear strategies behind the first ads from Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz and Donald Trump.   At least two of these ads are very similar to product introduction campaigns we would see in the consumer-packaged goods category.   In many respects, the candidates are consumer-packaged products.  But each one takes a different strategy in attracting support through their campaign commercials heading into the voting in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina.

         Perhaps the most surprising ad so far comes from one of the most surprising candidates—Bernie Sanders.  In a field where every candidate is in some way shouting at the voters, Sanders found a powerful way connect without saying a word. 

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Screen frame from Bernie Sanders’ “America” campaign ad

         Sanders’ use of the Simon & Garfunkel song “America” underneath the imagery of everyday Americans and people packing into Sanders’ campaign rallies give the illusion of a country longing to re-discover itself.   This is an aspirational ad that plays to our emotions and hopes through the use of a beloved folk song from the late 1960’s.  

         For Millennials, the ad appeals to their need of belonging and their search to build a future in their own image.   For their baby boomer parents, the Simon and Garfunkel song is a powerful priming cue—a time machine that takes them back to their own idealistic youth when they too wanted to “look for America.”  

         Keep in mind, when “America” was recorded in 1968, the country was at a pivotal political and social crossroad.  That year witnessed the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr., Bobby Kennedy, the Tet Offensive in Vietnam, and the upheaval at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago.   The song that so much appealed to a new generation of Americans at that time has now been re-branded by Sanders as anthem for another new generation.  

          All good advertising should create an emotional bond between the product and the viewer—this one makes a powerful attempt.

         Where Sanders effectively uses nostalgia as an ad strategy, Trump just as effectively uses fear.

         By playing up to voters’ fear of terrorism Trump is effectively using Prospect Theory to mine for votes.   The behavioral economic theory holds that people are more fearful of potential loss than they are assured of a potential gain.   By tying terrorism to immigration, Trump uses those fears to make an argument that he is the candidate who will keep them safe.

 

         Hillary Clinton doesn’t outright use fear as her strategy, but she certainly is trying to appeal to voters’ anxieties about their economic and social struggles.

         In her latest ad, Clinton is not necessarily competing against Sanders, but instead republicans to whom she believes are not looking out for all Americans.

          Her message argument is that she’s fighting for all people who think they don’t have a chance.

 

          Finally, Ted Cruz trumpets his competence and authenticity.

         In many respects he’s re-introducing himself to voters in his latest TV ad as they prepare to head to the polls.   This ad is a clear appeal to rural voters reminding them of his Christian faith, commitment to freedom, and his political accomplishments.  While the ad doesn’t mention any specific opponent, it clearly attempts to differentiate himself from Donald Trump and Marco Rubio as the accomplished conservative in the race.

 

         When you break down all of the ads, there is a distinct strategy to each of them. (Figure 1)  They all have individual targeted audiences and a fairly clear message argument. 

Campaign Ad Graphic

Figure 1

         Arguably, Sanders may have the most powerfully aspirational ad of them all.  Trump effectively uses fear to motivate us to pay attention to his message.  Clinton plays to our desire to get ahead, and Cruz appeals to his competence help restore America.

         These are just four ads from four of the top candidates.   The race is young.  Stand by… and don’t touch that dial.

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Britain’s John Lewis Gives Us The Best Christmas Ad So Far

16 Nov

John Lewis Spotlight Pix     One of the best advertisements of the holiday season is out.  What makes it remarkable is that it doesn’t just sell a brand, it sells a cause.  That cause is the gift of giving oneself in a different way.  And it comes from a brand that Americans have likely never heard of.

     Britain’s John Lewis department store has built a reputation in recent years for memorable, emotional, and strategic holiday advertisements that lead the viewer on a journey to giving.  This year that journey leads viewers on more than a path of finding the perfect gift within a John Lewis store.

     The brilliance and formula of Lewis’ ad agency adam&eveDDB is that it consistency makes us see Christmas through the innocent eyes of children.   This year that child is a girl named Lily whose inquisitive eyes peer into the heavens in search of the stars but becomes moon struck instead.  Her man on the moon discovery becomes not just a metaphor for giving, but for discovering the elderly living in their own vacuums of space and loneliness.

     The ad is strategically created to use the power of emotion to not just change beliefs and attitudes, but to contribute to Age UK, an agency that works and advocates for the elderly. (Figure 1)

Figure 1 - Donation page to Age UK

Figure 1 – Donation page to Age UK

     Cleverly,  John Lewis takes it a step further.   It created a mobile phone app that allows people game against other users and look up more information on the moon.  By encouraging those users to engage with the app, it creates a new community to interact with the brand.

     It takes a strong and brave brand to shift focus from itself and invest valuable marketing dollars to promote social awareness.   We’ve seen some admirable examples in recent years.  One of my favorites is Chevy’s recent Super Bowl commercial promoting the Purple Roads campaign for cancer survivors.

     Intel also spent a considerable amount of brand equity to convince apathetic viewers that girls can and should change the world.

     Likewise, there’s Coca-Cola.   Coke’s brand has always been about sharing happiness.  After all, it taught the world to sing.  It also recently taught us to share random acts of kindness.

     They’re all brave examples of promoting social awareness.  And for John Lewis, it’s especially fitting to choose the holidays as a time to spread the love and search for the men on the moons hidden right in front of us all.

 

Celebrating SCOTUS Gay Marriage Ruling – Brands That Got it Right and Wrong

30 Jun

 SCOTUS Tweets Blog Pix        Perhaps the only thing that has shifted faster than public opinion on same-sex marriage is the number of brands that have embraced it.

         When the Supreme Court released its landmark decision, many of America’s leading brands were ready.  They instantly posted visual content on social media with the sole intention having people share it—and boost brand awareness. 

Picture 1 - Orbitz Super Bowl XLVII tweet

Picture 1 – Orbitz Super Bowl XLVII tweet

         Ever since Oreo’s pulled off the social media hit of the new millennia with its “dunk in the dark” tweet during the Super Bowl XLVII power blackout, brands have been keen to never again get left in the dark themselves. (Picture 1)

         But jumping on the social media bandwagon creates some inherent risks—especially with such a polarizing issue.  The Supreme Court may have eliminated the legal roadblocks to same-sex marriage, but social acceptance will still be fought in many corners of the country, even many curb cuts of the neighborhood.   Brands face risks on two fronts.  First, they don’t want to come off as opportunists simply trying to sell a product.  Second, they don’t want to alienate a segmented customer base that may be opposed to same-sex marriage.

       Some of the brands that took to Twitter immediately after the SCOTUS decision were very strategic and measured.  Among those that got it right was Delta Airlines.  Where many brands seemed to make their congratulatory messages about themselves, Delta wanted to say something about their employees.  Classy. 

        The branding archetype that is Coca-Cola spoke volumes without saying anything at all.  It didn’t have to.  More than any other global brand, Coke has stood for diversity since it taught the world to sing more than 40 years ago.  Its minimalist tweet represented everything we’ve come to expect and respect about Coke.

         Strong brands have the leverage to make bold statements.  General Mills’ Cheerio’s brand made such a statement more than a year ago when it introduced to America “Gracie” and her mixed race family.  Diversity has become part of the Cheerio’s brand ethos, which is why it was only fitting for it to have something to say about marriage too.

         Maytag may have been the most metaphorically clever.  The two Maytag repairmen are not only “perfect together,” they’re also a subtle reminder that their washers and driers also complete each other. 

         Target is another leading brand that thinks long and hard about messaging.  In this case they built an interactive GIF to say something about marriage and Target.

         Orbitz took a strategically different approach aimed at community building.  Their social media campaign may seem self-serving, but it’s actually an inclusive message promoting interactivity with the brand and offering  a valuable reward—a free vacation.   

          But there were also swings and misses.  Among them, Procter & Gamble.  Its attempt at supporting the Supreme Court ruling was really all about selling soap and toilet paper.

          Likewise with Jet Blue.   Its message seemed to be an afterthought complete with a stock picture. 

          Kellogg’s should get credit for being ready when the Supreme Court decision came down, but their message clearly seemed equally as focused on selling Corn Flakes.

          Social media is always risky especially on polarizing issues.  But as these brands show, there’s a fine line between striking a chord and being tone deaf.

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