Tag Archives: Super Bowl ads

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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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.

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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.     

The Best Super Bowl Ads That Did NOT Air During The Game

11 Feb
Volkswagen's Das Hund

Volkswagen’s Das Hund

         So you’ve seen all the Super Bowl Ads.  The gals cried over the Clydesdale reunion, the men wanted more of Kate Upton, everyone sang with Jimmy Cliff, and in living rooms across America Paul Harvey’s voice once again made time stand still. 

          There was one Super Bowl ad that didn’t cost a penny and didn’t air on CBS, yet scored a strategic touchdown on social media.  Two more ads that skipped the Super Bowl were equally as creative and targeted, but they too stood on the sidelines as their brands chose different offerings—one a pared down version.

          The most brilliant message was posted on Twitter 20 minutes into the third quarter blackout inside the Super Dome.  The creative team at Oreo cookies, which had earlier aired an ad about people fighting over the virtues of light and dark, fired up their computer and went to the dark side.  They created a simple picture and copy: “You can still dunk in the dark.”  Targeted at social media savvy consumers trolling for entertainment during the black out, Oreo’s brand loyalists found the message and the picture turned viral in minutes.  

Oreos Super Bowl Tweet 2

          For advertising scholar John Eighmey, the stroke of brilliance by Oreo’s team demonstrates that brands don’t necessarily need a multi-million dollar ad budget to get attention.  In a post-mortem forum of the 2013 Super Bowl ads held at the University of Minnesota, Eighmey said, “It proves you don’t need infrastructure, just really smart people.”  He adds, “If you’re smart with strategy, you can react quickly.”

          Another exceptionally targeted ad that never aired during the Super Bowl has just hit the airwaves in Europe.  Volkswagen’s agency DDB played off of well established psychological research showing viewers of advertising most remember dogs and babies.  In Das Hund, DDB gives us the comical story of a dog who thinks he’s a car and falls in love with the new VW.    The target audience is not just dog lovers, but drivers who covet style and performance.   USA Today’s Ad Meter shows Super Bowl viewers liked VW’s Jamaican Get in-Get Happy, but with so much pregame exposure one can’t help but wonder if Das Hund wouldn’t have been a better choice.  

 

       And then there’s Coca-Cola.  I have to admit, I’m a big fan of Coke’s messaging strategy and its new brand extension of encouraging people to conduct random acts of happiness.  I’ve written in a previous post about Coca-Cola experimenting with this strategy in South America.  In the Super Bowl’s first quarter, Coke gave us a new U.S. 30-second version of the same concept complete with a soundtrack from Roger Hodgson formerly of Supertramp.  However, the 1:30 version is actually stronger and dare I say—more satisfying. 

          I’m only one voice, but I would have loved to have seen this version in the Super Bowl instead, perhaps even tied to a social media campaign about sharing one’s own acts of kindness. 

         Game on.   

AdAge/Blue Fin Labs - Top Social Super Bowl Commericals of 2013

AdAge/Blue Fin Labs – Top Social Super Bowl Commericals of 2013

Halftime in America. How Chrysler Found a Voice, and Missed an Opportunity

14 Feb

                The silhouette emerging from the darkness on Super Bowl Sunday was more than a man stepping into the light.  It was a car company emerging from the blast furnace of scrap metal.  And, it was a nation emerging with it. 

"Halftime in America"

                The advertisement for Chrysler wasn’t directly selling a product, it was selling an idea—economic patriotism.   It picked up where Chrysler left off in Super Bowl XLV when Eminem introduced the new Chrysler 200 luxury car proclaiming “Detroit was back.”   This year’s message is  that Chrysler has survived a brutal first half of the recession, and if Chrysler can do it so can the rest of America.   As I wrote in a previous post, the ad was no accident and was strategically positioned to elicit a desired response.

  • Idea:  Halftime/Patriotism
  • Target Market Audience:  Anyone who has struggled in the economy
  • Desired Response:  Feel confident about Chrysler—feel confident about yourself
  • Competitive Frame:  Apathy and pessimism
  • Message Argument:  We’ve only just begun—can’t wait for the second half
  • Rationale:  Emotional trigger to build loyalty and awareness to Chrysler 

             The positioning of Clint Eastwood as the metaphoric coach giving the country a sobering Super Bowl halftime pep talk was brilliant casting.  Who’s not going to stand tall with Dirty Harry giving a “Million Dollar Baby” lecture? 

                Apparently, plenty.

                From Fox’s Bill O’Reilly, to former Bush White House Aide Carl Rove, many people saw it as a rallying cry to justify the auto industry bailout.  Additionally, many of those same people saw the halftime in America theme as a metaphoric campaign commercial urging voters to give President Obama a second term.  Media analyst John Rash said the backlash should not be surprising.  

Media Analyst John Rash

                “The commercial is a real shock test in that people can read into it what they bring politically,” said Rash.

                “Many republicans might be able to read here they have a well known conservative who in effect is trying to rally the country for a fresh start in the second half.  To some that would suggest electing a new administration.  Other’s certainly some democrats read into it using the auto bailout in Detroit as a template for the country’s comeback and they hear second half and they think second term.  So, people will project onto a spot what they think politically and socially.”

                But critics of the ad need to hear at least one more perspective.  Anna Ciaramitaro lives in Detroit and has witnessed its slow death in the new economy. 

Detroit resident Anna Ciaramitaro

              “It was one of the best commercials ever made,” said Ciaramitaro. 

                She added, “It was a commercial that touched the heart of Detroit and the people that lived there, the citizens, the residents there that experienced everyday what it’s like rebuilding a city again.  And we just wanted to share that with the rest of America.”

                And this is exactly where Chrysler missed an opportunity.  What if it didn’t just create an ad, what if it had created a community?  What Chrysler missed was the chance to launch a multi-channel campaign where people can tell and create their own “second half” stories.  Here are a couple of ideas:

  1. Branded website:  A separate webpage called secondhalf.com where Chrysler can showcase comeback stories/videos of ordinary Americans and companies.  User generated content would be the key component of this website.   Ideally, the stories would include some thread of how Chrysler products helped in the comeback.  The website should be prominently embedded on Chrysler’s homepage that customers can easily find.  The website branding would be integrated within Chrysler’s media buys:  “Tell your story. Secondhalf.com”
  2. Daily Twitter updates:  A separate Twitter feed of daily success stories tied to the Chrysler brand.
  3. Elementary School Art Contest:  Involve local Chrysler dealerships and schools in an art display that encourages children to tell their own stories through art work of how perhaps their own families have found ways to succeed.   The local Chrysler dealerships would serve as the galleries to display the art and present a cash prize to the school with the best presentation.
  4. Video contest:  An invitation to young film makers to create their own second half ad showcasing a comeback story.  All ads would be screened and judged by Oscar winning director Clint Eastwood.  The winning commercial would then air during the halftime of the NLF kick-off game in September. 

             During the Super Bowl, Chrysler implored the world to “hear the roar of our engines.”   Building a community could provide the echo chamber to let those engines roar from every corner of the planet.

                Yes, Chrysler is a car company.   But as Americans in every walk of life emerge from this brutal recession, Chrysler is also a success story.  Americans love winners.  That’s a sustainable brand value Chrysler can build and drive.

The Best Super Bowl Ads. Three That Were No Accident.

7 Feb

             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.

VW - Dog Strikes Back

             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.

Star Wars Sequel: VW Strikes Bark

20 Jan

            Volkswagen has done it again.  The same folks that gave us the Beetle and Farfegnugen have collided Das Auto with Star Wars and once again have succeeded in creating a memorable brand experience.

             The venerable VW has just released a pre-quel to its 2012 Super Bowl ad and it successfully uses a pack of dogs to bend the Star Wars meme from its wildly popular and successful 2011 Super Bowl ad.

 

             The deliciously wonderful ad by VW’s agency Deutsch is no accident.  It’s a smart and highly purposeful means of communication.   It targets a specific audience and asks them to take a specific action.  Here’s the strategy:

  • Target Market Audience:  Speaks to everyone who LOVED the 2011 Darth Vader ad.
  • Desired Response:  SHARE IT and watch the new Super Bowl ad.
  • Competitive Frame:  All other Super Bowl ads.
  • Message Argument:  It’s entertaining.
  • Rationale:  It builds anticipation for the new product ad and reinforces the intangible value of the VW brand.

             It’s clear the creative forces at VW/Deutsch wanted to borrow from the momentum of the most shared advertisement of 2011.   The Passat ad cleverly used two strong replicators in a child and Darth Vader.   They created an emotional force that caused viewers to watch, enjoy, and pass on.

 

             This time, VW has kept the Star Wars theme but replaced a child with an arguably stronger replicator: dogs.  Will it take off?  Three million YouTube views in the first 24-hours suggest it’s already in another galaxy.   And all of it with no media buy.   If the most valuable commodity on earth is attention, VW is getting it.

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