The uncontested ad infatuation and gravitas of Super Bowl

MD M&C Saatchi Sports & Entertainment, Jamie Gilbert Smith
By MD M&C Saatchi Sports & Entertainment, Jamie Gilbert Smith | 6 February 2017
Jamie Gilbert Smith

The Super Bowl half time ad break has become one of the most highly anticipated entertainment performances across the globe. At $5 million a spot, it’s a rare occasion that a brand has the opportunity to reach an audience of over 100-110 million people.

But it’s more than the reach. In a world of on-demand content and consumers actively avoiding advertising, live sport is one of the few appointment-viewing occasions left to marketers. What makes the Super Bowl ad breaks unique is the uncontested infatuation from audiences. The half-time break has become an institution for showcasing the most anticipated ads in the world.

Of the 100 million plus audience, a large percentage will be actively watching the ad break, liking and sharing the more successful ads across their social channels. If executed well, these ads transcend the NFL/sports arena to reach broader audiences through their creativity and appeal. Even before the rise of social media, iconic Super Bowl ads became part of our vernacular - none more so than Budweiser’s “Wassup”. More recently there’s been Snickers’ “Betty White” and VW’s “Darth Vader”.

Apple’s business defining ad “1984” set the benchmark for Super Bowl ads. Directed by Ridley Scott, this spot was the first Super Bowl ad showcased as a short film rather than a 30” jingle. Broadcast during the Cold War, the ad played on people’s fears by likening its rival, IBM, to an Orwellian Big Brother, set on dominating the personal computer industry. It featured a female heroine, appealing to younger consumers with more liberal views on gender roles. It ran just once, but set the expectation that future Super Bowl ads would be a combination of entertainment and agenda, coupled with exceptional story telling.

Successful brands are baked in culture. They stand for something that consumers can empathise with and resonates with their own worldview. Brands have realised that big brand platforms can be built at the Super Bowl, most notably the Always “Like a girl” campaign. Recasting the phrase “Like a girl” in a contest that is dominated by hyper masculinity cut through with its emotional appeal and empowering message. This year, we’re also seeing brands like Ford try to redefine their purpose from auto manufacturer to mobility company.

Generally, Super Bowl ads have one or more of the following ingredients; entertainment, celebrity endorsement, cultural or societal relevance and epic product shots told through extremely high-end production.

So what does 2017 offer? It’s a fairly underwhelming collection with some extremely naff product dominated spots lacking in entertainment value. KFC, Wendy’s and Mr. Clean won’t be getting too many viewers excited, and few Aussies will resonate with the sleazy and patronising “Aussie” in the yellow tail commercial. Some commercials however, do emerge as superior, even if none are as iconic as the one’s mentioned above.

Budweiser’s “Immigrant” lacks entertainment but makes up for it with a strong political stand against the anti immigrant sentiment in the US.

Audi produces another relevant statement, this time on gender equality. There is no denying it’s a nice film, however it is a bit expected in its execution.

Kia’s ad will engage a lot of Americans largely due to casting Melissa McCarthy. It’s funny, but after all the CGU and high-end production you can’t help feeling let down by the car revealed at the ads conclusion.

Mercedes does the best job of tapping into the national sentiment around the Super Bowl. They revisit the American classic, Easy Rider. The ad does well to contextually align the German manufacturer with America, whilst also giving themselves a lot more edge than you’d normally associate with the brand.

Ford’s ad is an interesting shift for a car manufacturer. They’ve steered away from showcasing the product, instead focusing on the consumer’s experience. It does a good job of shifting perception of the business from being a car manufacturer to a future focused mobility provider.

By leveraging the anticipation of the Super Bowl and Super Bowl ads, Snickers has the smartest and most innovative strategy. They’ll be the first brand to live stream an advertisement in the Super Bowl, immediately setting them apart. The spot will feature actor Adam Driver, and will be preceded by a live stream of the set 36 hours before the official broadcast. Being live within the live sport is a great example of thinking outside the box in sports advertising.

The smartest strategy for Super Bowl brands is to ensure their broadcast, digital and social strategy is aligned to generate longevity and shareability. By live streaming their set for 36 hours, Snickers is ensuring they maximise anticipation as well as post event shares.

Overall, it’s a solid but not spectacular collection of ads. Snickers have the greatest opportunity to be the brightest and boldest commercial, it will be interesting to see if they can deliver.

By MD M&C Saatchi Sports & Entertainment, Jamie Gilbert Smith

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