I think as a whole the fact that the game ended up being one of the worst Superbowls in history (for those outside of Seattle) kind of diminished the advertisements a bit and probably hurt viewer numbers as well as people shut off their TV’s in hope of finding something more interesting to watch.
After a couple of days passed, I went back and started watching some of the ads from the Superbowl. Not just the ones that everyone thought were funny, but also those that were seen as controversial as well as those that were designed to inspire.
I took a closer look at the heart warming Budweiser Puppy ad, the comical Audi “Doberhuaua” ad and the Microsoft “Technology Brings Hope” ad.
Upon closer look I saw the creativity, the heart-felt desire to connect with the audience and even a bit of reach to in each case take their brand one step beyond the others, but even with all that I couldn’t help but find myself asking a different question:
Are Brands Going Too Far?
I get what they are doing, at least I think I do. With different emotional ties in mind (i.e. laughter, sympathy, love) they are drawing us into their brand.
- Audi wants us to see them in a new light as not only a company that makes a luxury car, but also a fun edgy brand with an exciting driving experience.
- Budweiser tugged on our heartstrings when the Clydesdales befriends a little yellow lab on the farm
- And finally Microsoft wanted to open up the worlds eyes to what is possible with technology.
In a world littered with native advertising making it hard for the average consumer to know when they are reading an ad versus when they are reading an article, have brands gone the way of simply not selling at all anymore?
I understand the need to educate and build trust with content, but most of these brands are highly established.
At some point, are these brands missing the mark by not helping the average consumer understand how to take action with their brand?
Here is why I ask:
No matter how heartwarming, comical or thought provoking these commercials were, did they in any way move buyer sentiment. Remember, these brands spent millions of dollars for these spots, and that only reflects the air time. That has nothing to do with production and promotion costs.
For instance, I won’t drink Budweiser ever. I don’t care for the way it tastes. So what does a great commercial do for me as the consumer? Nothing, right? Now for the average person who regularly consumes Budweiser; had they not rolled out that commercial would they be looking to move to Miller Genuine Draft? I’m thinking probably not.
Now, let’s look at Audi. Does the “Doberhuahua” move buyer sentiment? I get the idea of “No Compromise,” but will the BMW or Mercedes Benz owner run to their local Audi dealership and make the switch? And if that isn’t who they were targeting, then who were they targeting because that has been their long standing brand message? So their commercial was funny but I have no idea if it will help them sell even one more vehicle.
Finally Microsoft’s ad which was really quite inspiring. I watched it a few times and was just amazed at not only the message, but the production value. Their message was quite clear that technology is really powerful and brings hope to so many. However, Microsoft is one fish in a huge pond of companies doing tremendous things with Technology. Furthermore Microsoft is missing some of the biggest technology movements with their failed attempts at cloud and mobile devices. So even though the commercial was great, I’m not sure what they accomplished.
So Are Brands Going To Far
In a recent Forbes article, columnist Steve Olenski does the analysis and gives some tremendous data points on which commercials worked and which didn’t according to a much more formal set of means than what I provided above.
One thing in the article that really stood out to me was the reference to a Comunicus study where they looked at the fact that commercials are designed to move buyer sentiment toward purchase yet only 1 in 5 Superbowl commercials actually did so. In short, meaning that brands have become so enamored with trying to make a splash that they may have lost touch with making an impact.
My feeling is that brands have partially lost sight of what drives consumers. I personally love all of the feel good, funny and creative spots that are shared on Superbowl Sunday. Let’s just say they beat the heck out of the football game in 2014. However, brands need to remember that there is a purpose behind their advertisements and that is to move buyers closer to their brand with the ultimate intention of getting them to take action (most often in the form of a purchase).
Perhaps the real question is should brands be doing more of this creative, sentiment building advertising year around, and maybe use the Superbowl as a vehicle to drive more short term consumption? I’ll tackle this later and trust me when I say it will be better tackling than Denver’s defense on this past Superbowl Sunday.