Now that the playoffs have come and gone, fans in Arizona and Pittsburgh are gearing up for the final showdown. Wash your terrible towels folks, it’s time for the Super Bowl.
But the fans aren’t the only ones preparing for the big game. The Super Bowl is the holiest of holy days in advertising. Companies and campaigns are launched, pop, or flop in the 30 seconds that three million dollars affords them.
In recent years, marketing and advertising types have questioned the validity of shelling out large chunks of coin for the entertainment of a fickle audience–and rightly so! How do you demonstrate the ROI of these hundred thousand dollar a second productions, especially in these tough times?
And yet, we so look forward to consuming those ads, to judging the ads, and discussing those ads. We Super Bowl watchers look forward so much to the advertisements that we often take bio breaks during instant replays rather than miss the commercials.
Over the years, there have been some great ones too. The 1995 Rold Gold parachuting ad was one of my favorites for years. Clydesdales are always a hit, be it playing football or bowing in reverence to the rubble of the twin towers. Monster.com’s “When I Grow Up” ad has a following, as do many of Apple’s ads.
Leaving the issue of ROI aside, what can we learn from these memorable Super Bowl ads?
It’s almost too obvious to say out loud, however, the popular ads are the ones that entertain us. These ads make us laugh, make us think, make us feel. What is entertainment really but a form of engagement with your audience?
In traditional advertising, engagement is a one to many transaction. With the advent of social media, there are more options to engage. How can we make these traditional ads more social? I have a few ideas:
- For starters, make it multi-platform: provide an incentive or a reason for the end viewer to continue to engage. Ask them to text, visit a website, create content…
- I have yet to see a contest done well in a Super Bowl ad. However, the ultimate in crowdsourcing would be to trust the masses with 30 seconds at 3 million dollars a spot– especially considering the potential for brand engagement and loyalty. What would an avid Coke drinker do with the most expensive airtime in mass media?
But in the end, it still comes down to the idea. The best Super Bowl ads poke fun at cultural norms and engage us in meaningful ways. Is it a humorous, frank look at your industry (i.e. “When I Grow Up”)? Or is it a specific literary reference you’re trying to link to your brand and audience (per Apple)? Either way, you have to hold the audience’s attention, through the commercial, the game, and then to purchase.