Tag Archives: Advertising

Super Bowl Ads 2019 – The Most Popular May Not Be the Most Strategic

5 Feb

IMG_0816     There were clearly two games on Super Bowl Sunday, the battle on the field and the battle during time outs.   This year, major brands spent more than $5 million for 30 seconds of airtime to compete for your attention and social media approval.  Viewers have already spoken on tracking sites such as USA Today’s Ad Meter as to which commercials were their favorites.  But when brands spend this much money to promote a message, it needs to fulfill a focused business strategy that’s more tangible than simply winning a popularity contest.

     In several cases, there were brands that successfully married a core business strategy with an entertaining, if not an emotional appeal to the viewer to know something and perhaps feel something about their product.  The goal of course, is to position the brand and the product in the mind of the viewer when they are making a purchasing decision.   I’m singling four key business strategies clearly on display during Super Bowl LIII and perhaps the best creative examples of how individual brands executed them.

Switch Brands/Products: Stella Artois

     One of the strategies marketers use to increase sales is to convince consumers to switch brands or products and purchase theirs instead.  That’s exactly the strategy on display in Stella Artois’ Super Bowl entry.  In this case, Stella sees its competition as premium cocktails.  They creatively use the concept of humor and star power to build a narrative about not being afraid to “change up the usual.”

     The genius of casting Sarah Jessica Parker is that her best-known character is synonymous with cosmopolitans.  Likewise, The Dude, Jeff Bridges drinks only white Russians.  Not anymore.  The strategic message here: if Carrie Bradshaw and The Dude can switch products, so can you.

Product Introduction:  Mercedes Benz, Microsoft

    If you’re a global brand needing wide exposure to launch a new product or innovation, the Super Bowl is the best platform on the planet.  It’s exactly why you see so many ads each year unveiling new car models.  Enter Mercedes Benz.  The point of differentiation in its new A-Class sedan is that one can customize the driving experience with simple voice commands.  The ad is strategic in its message, target audience, desired response.  The ad is squarely aimed at achiever millennial men who like experiential settings and crave creative control.  The targeted message: say the word to change your car.   The desired response: if your car doesn’t do this, come test drive ours.

     Microsoft hit the emotional bulls eye with its ad called “We all win.”  But this too is really a product introduction for its new adaptive game controller.  It features the little boy Owen who we met last Fall in another brilliant Microsoft ad about children and the equal playing field of gaming.  In this ad, Owen and other children like him demonstrate how with Microsoft’s new adaptive controller, disabilities become abilities.   While this may be a new product marketed to parents and children with physical barriers, its broader audience is all of us.   In this ad Microsoft is challenging us to change our views on what it means to be disabled and how technology elevates us all.

Rate of Use:  Mr. Peanut

    Another strategy that brands use to improve sales is to encourage consumers to buy their product more often.  That’s the core strategy behind Planter’s Mr. Peanut ad.  Again, this ad is very strategic in its message, audience, and desired action.  Planter’s cleverly uses humor and a schema of Mr. Peanut trying to save sports fans from a snacking emergency.  The brand uses former baseball star Alex Rodriguez to target sports watching men by encouraging them to buy Planters mixed nuts next time you need a crunchy, wholesome snack. 

Product Attributes: Amazon, Google

    Sometimes the strategy is about increasing sales through highlighting a unique product function.  In Amazon’s case, highlighting what its artificial intelligence speaker Alexa can, and most importantly, should not do.  Amazon used the star power of Harrison Ford to not only poke fun at itself with supposed Alexa misfires, but in doing so also hinting at the useful tasks Alexa can do.  The ad entertains and implores us to use Alexa more often for the stuff that didmake the cut.

    Google also gave us an admirable ad about a specific function of its search engine to help veterans with the military codes that are unique to them.  The ad reminds them that no simple code defines them, but can help them search for what’s next.  It takes a brave and secure brand to talk about others more than itself, and Google gave us a message that is both memorable and useful.

    Together, these ads may not be among the most popular among Super Bowl viewers, but they all creatively target a specific audience with a clear business purpose. At the end of the game, these ads need to help brands achieve their goals.  Winning a popularity contest is nice, but if the ads don’t help the brand move sales, market share, or awareness, then they were perhaps a waste of the millions it cost o produce and air.

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Best Ads of 2014 — How Storytelling Mattered

31 Dec

Collage 2

              Exemplary advertising always leads the consumer on a journey.  Often times that journey leads to the decision to buy a product.  In 2014, some of the best ads created journeys to affect attitudes and beliefs about brands and causes.  Their messages didn’t just aim for our heads, they also aimed for our hearts.

                 I’ve compiled a short list of six video advertisements that represent some of the most strategic brand messaging of 2014.  There are other lists of the most viewed, most shared, and most popular, this is simply a compilation of transformational messaging that used narrative storytelling to achieve a specific brand objective.

                 First on the list is a commercial from a brand American’s have never heard of, in a language they can’t speak, yet its message is universal.   DATC is an Indonesian telecom company trying to position itself in a hyper-competitive market.  Instead of creating a western-style campaign staking a claim on price, network coverage, or reliability, DATC’s agency Y&R instead crafted a narrative to lead the viewer on a smart, emotional journey called “The Power of Love.”

              The ad shows how technology can’t replace love, but it can uniquely connect people in moments of love.  The desired action DATC wants consumers to make is to use their phones and network to never miss a loving moment.

                 Chevrolet’s Silverado pickup truck this year made an equally brave and powerful ad.  It leveraged its considerable brand equity to make a statement about cancer–without speaking a word. 

                 The silent schema of a solemn ride down a country road forces the viewer to think deeply 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 a new attitude and create the belief that they can take action by supporting the American Cancer Society.  The underlying message is not about the truck, but the journey of strength the truck allows one to take. 

 

                SaveTheChildren had a daunting task in 2014.  It had to find a way to make the world care about a war that western leaders want no part of.  In this case, they constructed a narrative that could be about the day in the life of any child in any country.  But this not any country, it’s Syria. 

                Its powerful schema leads the viewer on a second-by-second journey of conversion from comfort to conflict.   It uses Appraisal Theory to force one to see the child as if it were their own daughter.  The goal of the ad is to elicit an emotional response that confronts our own beliefs and attitudes about the Syrian War.

                John Lewis is a British department store that has become as well known for its holiday commercials as Macy’s has for its Thanksgiving Day parade.  Once again, John Lewis did not disappoint.

                 The brilliance of this year’s ad uses a little boy’s imaginary penguin named Monty to become the human metaphor of love and sharing.  Think Calvin & Hobbs. The result is a touching narrative about the power of imagination in giving–and the department store that can make it happen.

 

               The World Cup soccer games produced the year’s most viral advertisements, but the one that I will argue created the most power came from the Bank of Chile. 

               Chile’s soccer team was placed in the same World Cup division as top-seeded teams Netherlands and Spain.  Soccer fans called it the “death group” because no other teams survived.  In this case, no men were better suited carry the Chilean flag than the trapped Chilean miners who stared down death and won.  The salient message from the Bank of Chile is that it is the bank which can build impossible dreams.

Figure 1 - Means-Ends Model

Figure 1 – Means-Ends Model

                 Finally, the 2014 Winter Olympics crowned a new series of world-class athletes, but the BBC created gold of its own for a cognitively powerful advertisement promoting its broadcast coverage of the games. 

                 Both the BBC and the American network NBC used a means-end model in how they promoted their Olympics coverage. (Figure 1)  NBC appealed to humanity where the BBC used mythology.   Its man vs. nature promotional approach set up its coverage to beckon the viewer to witness immortality in the making–becoming one with the Gods.  That’s powerful.

 

                  We’ve come a long way from the great recession when risk averse consumer messaging was all about boosting immediate sales.   In the past two years brands once again feel free to think strategically about positioning themselves along the consumer’s emotional curve to create relationships and sharable moments to last beyond the next quarterly report.  The result is advertising that’s not just gutsy, but smart, and yes, fun!

Fiat’s Branding Machine — What Are YOU Looking At?

20 Mar

For a tiny car, the Fiat 500 is telling a big story.  And it says a lot about how to create multiple brand narratives around a new product.

Fiat 500

Since its creative splash during Super Bowl XLVI, Fiat has given us two sequels that speak to different audiences highlighting unique product attributes to each one.  The brilliance of the Super Bowl Abarth ad is that it took the age-old “love affair with a car” metaphor and made it real.  The woman seductively bending over at the curb wasn’t just any kind of sex symbol; she was an Italian sex symbol.  It was the embodiment of lust and bust.  “Che cosa guardi?” she screams in Italian.  The translation is simple, “What are you looking at?”  The answer is just as simple–a brand new sexy-hot Italian sports car.

 

Fiat has since followed with two more ads that stretch the storytelling for different audiences.  The latest incorporates another babe–this one in a car seat.  The ad follows two family guys with tickets to the big game and extra baggage strapped into the back seat.  But they get caught behind a grey-haired senior citizen in his vintage Chrysler Imperial.  (Think Clint Eastwood)  But the speed of the Fiat shows this is clearly not Halftime in America–it’s full throttle.  The message: drive the kids in the fast lane.

 

Then there’s the House Arrest ad once again featuring the Abarth, but this time in bad boy black.  The car races through the hallways of a mansion stocked with booze and babes.  When the car finally screeches to a halt in the ballroom, the driver climbing out is none other than Charlie Sheen.  The tag line is “Not all bad boys are alike.”  The message: have fun on your terms.

 

They are three ads with three distinct stories about a new product.  It’s sexy.  It’s practical.  And, it’s fun.  Can’t wait to see what else Fiat has up its sleeve.

The Best Advertising of 2011

4 Dec

             It’s that time of the year when the “Best of…” lists come out.  My favorite so far is Ad Week’s  top 10 commercials of 2011.  Some of them you’ve seen and some you have not. 

            My two favorites on the list actually promote European brands and are outstanding examples of the strategic use of a concept that advertising psychology expert John Eighmey calls “Attitude Toward the Ad.”  Simply put, if one “likes” the ad, it will affect one’s attitude AND their beliefs and expectations about the brand and the product.  The Super Bowl each year is ground zero for brands which rely on this expectancy-value mode approach to advertising.

            One of the ads that effectively uses this concept mashes up milk with cats and Leonard Bernstein.   The ad for Cravendale milk asks us to think:  What would happen if cats actually had opposable thumbs? 

 

            The other ad is a wonderful demonstration of taking a well-known metaphor and bending it into another.  In this case the schema is that of a mad-cap movie director, but viewers soon discover all is not as it seems.

 

         The implicit message here is that the Canal+ movie channel can bring out the “inner-director” in you.

            Both ads are wonderful examples about using the power of creativity to establish positive attitudes toward a brand.   Now, where is the glass of milk and the TV remote?

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