You’re probably thinking, oh great, another Superbowl blog post. I know that’s what I’m thinking whether I’m reading one or writing one. But there are some interesting developments worth noting. Given the cost of advertising on the game, the pressure to run a memorable spot and the vocal participation of viewers on Twitter, Facebook and online polls, advertisers have to pull out all the stops if they expect to win on both effectiveness and public reaction.
Here are some practices, if not possible trends, worth noting.
Super Bowl spots are getting longer
It ain’t cheap to run a commercial on the game in the first place — $3.5 million for a 30-second spot. Nevertheless we’re seeing multiple brands running 60’s and Honda ponying up to produce a two-and-a-half minute spot for pre-game release, likely to be a sixty-second buy in the game itself. The cliché explanation, of course, is the need to break through the clutter. But the real reason is that no matter what you run, the pressure to do well – on polls, on Twitter, in the court of public opinion – is higher than it’s ever been. Twice as long may not mean twice as good, but it does leave more room for gags, humor and story-telling. Some, like Toyota succeed. Others, like Acura, don’t. Honda may or may not play as well in the on air :60 as it does in the online version.
Story telling gives frat humor a run for the money
I’m sure the latter isn’t extinct quite yet, but it does appear there may be a little more true story telling this year and maybe fewer formulaic reveals at the end. Honda’s Matthew Broderick spot is a miniature movie. It may not tell me anything I don’t know about the vehicle, but the length of the commercial alone will put it at the right end of the buzz meter and the charm of the performance will no doubt win plenty of votes on USA Today and Brandbowl. Granted that doesn’t necessarily turn into sales or even consideration – just because I like an ad doesn’t mean I’ll buy the car. Brand likeability may be a motivation to buy, but that remains different from liking a TV spot.
While Honda may have nothing to say other than it stands for playing hookie, Audi has some very specific features to share with us. Like the LED technology in its headlights. The carmaker may have jumped on the overcrowded vampire bandwagon but at least there’s a relatable story in its 60-second execution. And as we all know, stories make things easier to remember and share with others.
User generated spots start to feel old
While I am a big fan of getting our customers involved, it comes with a huge problem: formulaic, highly derivative, re-cycled ad ideas. The Chevy spot in which a college grad thinks he’s getting a car is among the most expected. We’ve seen it done for everything from wallpaper to Pepsi in the famous Cindy Crawford ad. The Doritos dog trick spot is even worse. Strategy: product looks, tastes, and is so good that customer can’t resist it. Seen it. Done it. Plus I think Bud Light has used up all the jokes in that genre.
The use of social platforms grows
I am excited to see what Wieden does with the Coke polar bears. Given that they’re the guys who brought Old Spice to Twitter, I’ll guess that the execution of the bears’ reaction to the game, their respective teams (the bears are not rooting for the same team) and even the commercials will be fun, and ideally offer some genuine interactive features for the user. At least I hope so. If it’s just more “pay attention to us,” but in different venues, that would not be very Wieden like. Will be yet another coup for Facebook.
We can also assume that everyone, or at least Bud Light, will have a hashtag, now that they know what they are. A year ago, when Audi stuck one on the back end of an ad for a full half second, the press went nuts. “A hashtag!” What an innovative marketing technique. Now, 12 months later, it’s practically mainstream and expected. A reminder that it’s not about using the media, it’s about what you do with it. You still need a creative idea.
The “Mikey, he likes it,” metric matters more than ever
It started with USA Today’s Ad Meter. Then came Brandbowl. And now likes and +1s and embeds and views. It’s almost as if the only thing that matters is whether or not the ad and the execution win praise and thumbs ups. We may make believe that other numbers – reach, awareness, consideration, a bump in sales – really matter more. And, of course they should. But I wouldn’t want to be the agency whose work comes in the bottom third of the polls. Or doesn’t get a few million views on YouTube (even though many of those are paid for.)
The pre-release strategy goes mainstream
It was only a few years ago when Superbowl spots were kept under wraps and guarded at all costs until the day of the game. Now, we’re likely to be tired of the commercials before they ever actually run. After the whopping success of VW’s The Force in 2011, pre-releasing one’s Super Bowl spot appears to be the new normal. They’re on Hulu, on YouTube, on blogs and all over Twitter and Facebook. Not everyone welcomes the loss of surprise; there’s something culturally communal about having 100 million plus fans sees the same spot for the first time all together. But the web has changed that. And certainly a marketer could argue that every view counts so extending them from before the game to after stretches the media budget. In fact the Honda spot went from no views to 4 million in the first 36 hours.
Borrowed interest still reigns
This year we have inspiration from Twilight, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and Seinfeld. No doubt there will be more. Some will be clever. Some might border on brilliant. They’ll probably make us laugh or smile as they cover us in the warm glow of familiarity. But something in me wishes that advertising would work the other way around. That we would create the cultural icons worth borrowing or stealing from.
That would be worth even more than an extra 10 million views on YouTube.
Would love to hear your thoughts, and hope to see you in the stream on Brandbowl2012.com. The pre-game site is up now. But we’ll be rocking come game time. Remember: #brandbowl.
Below, one of my favorite spots so far.
Why Shazam won’t work, by @mrahmey
Thought I’d share a deck I recently used to kick off Strategic Creative Development, a class I’m teaching this semester at Boston University’s College of Communication.
The premise behind the syllabus is simple: advertising is no longer about making ads. At least not all of the time.
Now it’s as much about digital experiences, gaming dynamics, mobile utility, Facebook apps, and creatively leveraging the interest graph as it is about crafting a message. Of course you know that.
Nevertheless, it was fun to create a journey just by looking at the automotive category. It telegraphs the change brilliantly.
In the beginning – presuming we all believe that Bernbach ignited advertising’s Big Bang – there was Volkswagen. Picture of the car, usually. Clever headline that juxtaposed with the image produced a “concept,” often telegraphing as much about the user as the car. “Do you have the right kind of wife for it?”
Twenty years later Amirati and Puris filled the awards annuals with iconic work for BMW. Picture of the car, usually. Clever headline that juxtaposed with the image produced a “concept,” often telegraphing as much about the user as the car. “You’re judged by performance. Why drive a car that lives by a lesser code?”
No much changed in 20 years. Art and copy and bought attention.
But fast-forward 16 years and all hell breaks loose. BMW films in in 2001. The first big campaign to acknowledge consumer’s use of the web, the idea that advertising could actually be sought out, and that “commercials” need not be limited to 30 seconds. Mini-Cooper in 2002, a forerunner of imitators to come, so to speak, as a CB&B makes a brand social before there’s Facebook or Twitter to help it along.
A few years later we see Art of the Heist, and some of the very first trans-media story-telling. And finally the Ford Fiesta Movement, crowdsourced content that offered both insights about the customer and content to populate the web.
- VW and BMW: ads that buy our attention
- BMW Films: ads that we seek out and find online
- Mini-Cooper: ads that leverage community and membership
- Audi A3: ads that invite our participation and let us play along
- Ford Fiesta: ads that hand the brand and the content over to us
I used some non-automotive examples to demonstrate the dramatic change,too, including a comparison of the infamous Mr. Whipple with the Charmin’s most recent effort: the Sit or Squat iPhone app, a crowdsourced utility helping us locate clean, accessible public restrooms when we’re on the go. We’ve come a long way, baby.
Take a look at the deck if you’re so inclined. It includes some discussion guide and questions that might help anyone who teaches advertising and social media. It offers some thoughts and suggestions for aspiring industry employees to think about. And it has a few nice little sound bites borrowed from the like of Clay Shirky and Contagious.
Plus it includes a fun assignment at the end. The re-launch of the VW microbus, coming again as the Bulli in 2014.
If you’re a student, feel free to download. If you’re a teacher, take whatever you want to and use it for yourself and your students. Got thoughts to share? Leave them below. And as always, thanks for reading.
(Special thanks to CP&B for sharing all its Mini Cooper work.)
It’s that time of year again. The online Superbowl party that Mullen started three years ago to celebrate the age of Twitter is well into development. If you remember, we began our annual project when there weren’t very many ad types on Twitter. In 2009, most of the industry was still like “huh?”
A few of us at Mullen, the kind folks at Radian 6, and some friends like Sally Hogshead and Lisa Hickey made the effort to get ad land excited. We launched what was then called Trash Talk from the Twitter Section, shared instructions for how to sign up for Twitter, and encouraged people to open accounts. Today it’s hard to imagine that Twitter needed an introduction as recently as three years ago.
Now here we are for our fourth anniversary and we’re excited to introduce some new features. For starters, we’ve made the site, brandbowl2012.com, more interactive. (Note that at this posting it re-directs to last year’s site.) For the first time, users will be able to compare brands head to head in a statistical showdown. Whose ads are getting more attention or more favorable reaction? Brandbowl knows.
We’ve isolated a box at the top of the page, held high by a digital fan, to feature the best tweets of the game. Post something particularly insightful or clever and you could find your tweet featured atop the stream for everyone to see.
Brandbowl 2012 also has some new data to share. This year’s analytics will track the geo location of tweets and also the gender of the participant. Might be interesting to see comparisons between the sexes when it comes to talking about Superbowl ads.
The mobile experience will be better, too. Let’s face it, there’s likely to be more people watching the game with a smartphone in hand than a laptop resting on their knees. You’ll be able to check live rankings and post instantly from your iPhone or Android. Given that it’s a site, not an app, it will work everywhere.
And finally, we’ve been approached by Billboard, which wants to get in on the action. So we’ve offered them the featured tweet board for the half-time show. Madonna better watch out. Billboard knows what it’s talking about when it comes to reviewing music and performances.
Once again, our partner Radian 6 is back with its sentiment data and analytics. And for the second year in a row Boston.com is hosting the site and helping to promote it. Given that Twitters active user base continues to grow and that social media advertising couch critics is an expanding population, we expect to get some pretty good data.
Hope to see you there. On brandbowl2012.com. Using the easy to remember hashtag #brandbowl. I know who I’m rooting for. The creative.
If you need a reminder or are interested in what this is all about, here’s a video recap of last year’s effort.
The bank we love to hate is looking for a new advertising agency. While still the second largest bank in America – JP Morgan recently snuck past BofA in assets, $2.289 trillion to $2.219 trillion – Bank of America’s stock – both on Wall Street and on Main Street has plummeted. It’s share price toppled by more than half in 2011 and its public opinion fell even more sharply.
In fact it’s hard to find much positive sentiment anywhere. The Occupy Wall Street movement targeted the financial giant at every opportunity. A congressman from the bank’s home state of North Carolina went after them for greed and abuse. Consumers pummeled them with complaints after the bank announced an ill-advised $5.00 fee for debit card use, a decision from which they quickly backed down. And just this past Friday, the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) turned Bank of America’s San Francisco ATMs into “truth machines,” covering them with non-adhesive stickers that offered customers a slightly different option menu. ATM visitors could invest in coal-fired power plants, foreclose on American homes, bankroll climate change, or fund executive bonuses. Pretty funny and clever stuff if you ask me.
Anyway, call me too modern in my thinking, but I’m not sure an ad campaign will solve much of this. No doubt we’ll see executions that pat the bank on its back for funding inner city growth, helping send kids to college, providing entrepreneurs with money to launch new businesses and practicing corporate philanthropy with efforts that include free admission to hundreds of museums.
Such messages might make management and employees feel better, but they’ll ring rather hollow to consumers. Ads will feel contrived, controlled and anything but transparent. Accomplishing the latter is likely to be particularly difficult, given the bank sought to achieve more openness with its last big campaign effort. And look where they are now.
Bank of America is trying to do away with this closed image of banking with its new, $40 million ad campaign that attempts to portray the Bank as more open and transparent. From MyBankTracker, 2009
A recent glance at Bank of America’s Twitter news feed shows an abundance of self-promotional updates, but not a single acknowledgement of recent image problems. I figured for sure there would have at least been a “touché,” tweet to RAN. Even a beleaguered bank needs a sense of humor once in a while.
The suits in Charlotte need more than a new ad agency and a $300 million ad campaign. They need a new mindset for how to solve their marketing and image problems. The “us and them” strategies that yield fee hikes rather than collaborative programs have to go. The bank should “design” its way toward good will and trust, starting with a new way to engage and a better connection with its detractors. I might even do something really radical and invite someone from RAN or Occupy to join the board. Or at least an advisory committee.
It will probably take years and multiple behavioral changes for BoA to prove themselves. You only have to read Bill Bernbach to know that peppering us with paid media to tell us how great they are, or even to celebrate the accomplishments and spirit of their customers, won’t change public opinion.
What do you think? Thoughts on what the banking giant should do? Should I make this an assignment for my class at Boston University? Is it possible to strategically and creatively turn Bank of America into good guys?
Fact: Twenty percent of the price of a new car is for the software.
Monday I take my seven-year-old car in to have the front end repaired. I hit a cement block in a local garage because my car didn’t let me know that it was there. It tore off the bumper and part of the grill. As you can see from the image on the left, hitting things head on is a recurring problem.
If I had an Internet ready car, it would have warned me. It would also have checked me in on Foursquare so that people would know where I was. It might have taken an Instagram image of the dangerous cement block so that others would be aware of it.
Looks like we can’t escape. The reason I’m still driving a seven-year old car is that it’s an Audi S4 Avant six speed. You can’t buy them in America anymore. You can’t even get an A4 wagon without settling for an automatic. If you like driving, you don’t have many options these days.
But if you don’t like driving, life on the road will soon be grand. Your car will know traffic conditions before you go anywhere. Since it will have access to your calendar, it will let you know if you need to leave earlier than planned to make that meeting or if you can continue tweeting from the office instead of from the road. You’ll be able to tweet from the road because your dashboard will be an over-sized digital touch screen from which you can update your status, check your Gmail, and access your friends’ playlists on Spotify.
For me the best part will be the satellite connection that informs every McDonald’s I drive by that I’m in the vicinity, so it can send me real-time offers based on how many people are in my car. The heat sensors in the seats will let the cloud know if there are passengers occupying the back seat or just luggage. And if they include digital scales as part of the system McDonald’s will even know if the car’s occupants are candidates for a Super Size meal or just a burger and fries.
Better yet, if the car can drive itself – inevitable within 10 years, I’m told – I can simply push the steering wheel out of the way and fire up the grill and deep fryer and make my own lunch. Then I can even share what I’m eating for lunch on Twitter. From my car. While I’m not driving.
Have you ordered your Internet ready car?
Recommended song for this post: Baby you can drive my car.