Tag Archives: Super Bowl Commercials

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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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

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