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Because I was being interviewed on TV news channels about the Super Bowl commercials, I actually watched them this year.I often don’t because few, if any, are effective at selling the products they are supposedly advertising. More importantly, the commercials the viewers like the best are typically the least effective at selling the product. Don’t get me wrong. I personally like to watch many of the same commercials that viewers voted as their favourites. They are funny, sexy, clever, and entertaining.
The problem is that, for the money invested (at least $3.5 million for 30 seconds of air time year and millions more to produce those with high-paid stars), they do not have what it takes to generate a significant blip in sales. Why?
Even if viewers can recall the product or brand being advertised, very few spots provided unique benefits that would give buyers good reasons to buy.
In fact, so many of the Super Bowl ads were based on recycled ideas that many viewers have seen too many times before. They had cute dogs, babies, celebrities, and sexy supermodels. Yes, these do attract attention and entertain. And yes, many of us like to see them. The problem is that they are overused “me too” clichés that distract viewers from the products advertised. People remember them and forget the product. In fact, the commercial that was overwhelmingly voted the best in the 2011 Volkswagen commercial was the Volkswagen spot that featured a kid dressed up as Darth Vader costume. Many people who vividly remember the commercial and the kid are unable to identify the company or the product being advertised. Adriana Lima, was in two Super Bowl ads. Can you remember which ones, or do you just remember her?
Let’s look at the spots voted as the top 5 in the USA Today Facebook poll.
This is very entertaining commercial that grabs your attention, communicates the Doritos brand and focuses on the good taste and crunch benefits. Of course, most chips also offer those benefits. Why buy Doritos? Too bad this spot does not explain Doritos’ more unique benefit – it is sturdier than other chips and is unlikely to break off in the dip. It may also be more crunchy than most.
This spot focuses on the desirability of Bud Light with everyone at the party asking a poor overworked rescue dog named “Weego” (presumably to embed the slogan Here We Go into our feeble brains) to fetch a Bud Light. The commercial anoints the dog an admirable hardworking hero at the same time it portrays the guests as self-entitled, arrogant, and not very concerned about the dog. Too bad dogs are not the ones that buy the beer because many viewers would rather identify with the dog than the people that are barking the orders. The commercial also focuses on a slogan that some have called the worst motto in the history of beer.
This commercial focuses on men – supposedly “real men” that dream of muscle cars, heavy metal music, and sexy women (Adriana Lima the hot Brazilian model is featured in this and another Super Bowl ad). They see themselves as cowboys and other stereotypes of the ultra macho man. And of course the hero driving the Kia ends up with the girl in his dreams because he drives this car. It is hard to believe that the advertiser really believes this commercial will transform Kia from its historically underpowered, cheap image into a macho muscle car. While Leo Burnett, the agency of Phillip Morris, was able to transform the Marlboro brand from a women’s cigarette into a cigarette for rough and tough men, it will be interesting to see if David & Goliath can do the same with Kia because of its established image and un-macho-sounding name.
This is a credible spot that trades on the good and serious image of the narrator, Clint Eastwood. It appeals to patriotism and transformation. Even though Clint has conservative voting credentials and a macho image from his past performances, some conservatives have called this commercial an ad for President Obama’s re-election campaign. That is a stretch. The pro-American theme is uplifting and credible, but it advertises Detroit and America, and gives buyers little reason choose Chrysler. Its competitors Ford and GM benefit too.
This spot’s intended purpose was to introduce a new M&M’s character, Ms. Brown. It did a fine job of that and of being entertaining. However, the references to nakedness and sex was a bit surprising given the traditional wholesome image of M&Ms and the fact that kids are a large part of the target audience. The biggest advantage of the M&M’s is that it they repeatedly voted America’s most beloved mascots. Perhaps they should work in their most important benefit embodied in their original slogan – melts in your mouth not in your hands. The commercial is a funny way to keep the brand alive in the minds of many in the audience. While many voted for it in the polls, the spot does not remind those that know the products why they should buy it or introduce the product benefits to those that don’t.
Not good enough for the investment
Yes, most of the Super Bowl ads were entertaining and fun, but very few (if any) are likely to inspire viewers to buy the products. In some cases, it was even hard for viewers (that did not already know the products) to figure out what they are, what they can do, and why anyone should buy them. While some may be deemed a viral success, “viral” is only good if the word-of-mouth chatter propagates the benefits of the products, helps viewers to remember the brand, and gives the audience reasons to buy the products.
The Super Bowl affords advertisers the opportunity to reach a huge audience at a time when audiences are fragmented over too many different media. By some estimates, the Super Bowl audience was between 111.3 and 117.7 million people at different stages of the game. The tragedy is that too many viewers did not remember very much about the brands or products advertised. While many said they liked the Volkswagen commercial with the overweight dog, all viewers learn from this spot is that a new Volkswagen model can beat a hefty dog in a race. Big deal. What car cannot out-run an overweight dog? I hope the companies paying the big bills for these spots want more than that.
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