The Way We See Super Bowl XLIX

Perspectives from Creative, Planning and Engagement

By: Amy Dawson

Here we go again – the Monday morning water cooler buzz that didn’t start today but rather a couple weeks ago when advertisers started to give us a peek into what they’d be airing on the Super Bowl. While we weren’t totally taken by surprise, like the Seahawks’ Russell Wilson was when his pass was intercepted by the Patriots’ Malcolm Butler late in the fourth quarter, there were still some spots that elicited very positive and very negative responses. And between the game, the halftime show and the ads, there was likely something for everyone. Check out the perspectives from some of our associates, each of whom gave some thumbs up, and a couple thumbs down, to Super Bowl XLIX.

The Year of Serious Topics

By: Chrystie Reep

Every year millions of Americans gather around their television sets to watch the Super Bowl. It’s the one time people of all ages, backgrounds and interests sit together to watch one event. We all know what to expect – funny ads, an over-the-top halftime show with a little football sprinkled in between. As we gathered together this year, it was pretty clear early that we were going to see something unlike we have in recent years. Yes, we were given the staples – movie trailers, beer, cars and mobile companies – but the overall tone was decidedly different. Serious topics – female empowerment, domestic violence, fatherhood and preventable injuries – took center stage and caused much discussion on social media. Some positive and some not so much.

As planners, we preach the importance of understanding your audience and ensuring messages are in the right context – something that must be considered when placing an ad in front of so many people. Audience and context made a huge difference in the response to these powerful messages. Where the Always #LikeAGirl and Dove Men+Care ode to fatherhood #RealStrength messages hit the right note, the Nationwide #MakeSafeHappen message did not. Marketers must remember that parents are gathering with their kids for a night of fun and football and, while important, a jarring message about kids dying in everyday situations may not be appropriate for the context and audience.


BMW – The Ultimate Marketing Machine

By: Aaron Brown

Twitter Data indicates that Super Bowl 49 was the most tweeted Super Bowl ever. There were more than 28.4 million tweets about topics related to the game and halftime show. There’s no question that the modern day Super Bowl experience includes a phone or tablet in your hand to comment on what you’re witnessing.

It’s good thing there are commercials so we can all take a break. Wait…what? It’s not supposed to be that way, but yet again we watched brand after brand put forgetful discussion ahead of meaningful engagement. It’s a high-price tag decision to be talked about for less than 24 hours, have no mechanism to capture engaged individuals, and then have no one remember who created the ad in the first place. Conversely, it’s a high-reward decision to leverage the Super Bowl audience as phase one of a long-term engagement strategy.

My engagement award goes to BMW North America for its BMW i3 effort. The brand devoted four seconds on its 60-second commercial to an email address on the screen. Reports indicate a commercial of this duration went for $9 million. My math, which is admittedly questionable, tells me BMW invested $630,000 for those four seconds. And they’re reaping the rewards of the investment today and tomorrow and well into the future.

BMW had an auto-reply set to all emails sent to the address. Not just a one-way email, but it’s another engagement opportunity that collected consumer information. And talk about knowing your audience and connecting it to the brand. Here was the email content:


Who would send an email to the “Internet Address” in BMW’s ad for the big game? Someone with a whole lot of smarts and curiosity, that’s who.

We value that. After all, it’s that same curiosity that led BMW to rethink the automobile from the ground up and create the BMW i3.

And now, your curiosity has uncovered something else. Click below to find out — you’ve earned it.

As I clicked through the campaign landing page, I could feel myself being pulled through the BMW sales funnel. I subsequently entered my information to win a new BMW i3.

So on a day when the marketing and communications world does an excess of Monday morning quarterbacking, I’ll simply congratulate BMW for its efforts last night. The Ultimate Marketing Machine. Its team is counting leads today. Nearly everyone else is counting mentions. Well done, BMW.


Katy Perry – Pop Star and Branding Expert?

By: Lisa Cook

The Super Bowl is one of the defining moments on our country’s annual cultural calendar. Few events capture the spirit, spectacle, and swagger as well as America’s biggest game. And not long ago, Super Bowl advertisers understood this stage. 1st, 2nd, well into 3rd quarter – every spot a production number: Go Daddy burlesque! Victoria’s Secret va-va-voom! Pepsi pop! Budweiser short films! Jurassic Park-sized teasers and trailers! And cars, cars, cars!

Nearly every advertiser fought for center stage, paying Hamptons-size dollars to do so. And with few exceptions, almost every brand earned their hard-won applause. Spontaneous applause, since most spots aired for the first time.

That was then. This year, the ads had their own marketing campaigns. Built-in, pre-game buzz. Premature launch. Fully produced spots that were publicly decried and pulled before airing. In some cases, the build-up didn’t damage the spot itself, but it sure killed the surprise.

Some advertisers during Super Bowl 2015 still know what it means to be on-brand for the Super Bowl itself. Katie Couric actually seemed cool in her 21-year-old hair cut. The image of Steve Buscemi in the Brady house was divine. And while I still don’t know what Jeff Bridges is trying to tell me, I’ll play along. The best? That Walter White is sorta like a pharmacist, which is a poor predictor used by most insurance estimators, was on point, and on-brand for the Super Bowl.

But it was Katy Perry, halftime show headline artist, who best understood her venue. Projection mapping! Bikinis! Flight in an evening gown! A massive lion as intimidating as the cornucopia in The Hunger Games! Colors as vivid as the rockets red glare! All this, and so much more – including a well-placed (cheeky, Katy!) Lenny Kravitz and an extended hip-hop sequence featuring Missy Elliott – handily filling a mere twelve minutes.

A few minutes in advertising brought us, though mercifully not all at once, a premature death, an extended arc involving maudlin fathers, a few preachy messages about bad decisions, and other spots that sucked the joy out of its silly or suspenseful adjacent moments.

Advertisers, get your acts together. We’ll expect much more from you at Super Bowl L. And if you can’t figure it out yourselves, kindly seek the counsel of Katy Perry, her agent, the genius who booked her, or any number of us who can help you get back on track.


The Risks of Hashtags

By: Sean Cowan

According to the Super Bowl commercials 2015 is all about the #hashtags. Brands went to town coming up with what they thought were own-able hashtags, but how easy were they for viewers to remember? Aside from the actual ability for viewers to recall the hashtags, from an experience standpoint, I am amazed that the commercials mostly featured the hashtags at the very end for only a few seconds. If viewer engagement was really their objective, wouldn’t it make sense to show the hashtags at the bottom of the screen for the length of the spot?

Next, on what platforms did brands want viewers to engage? Hashtags are used by many of the social platforms, so I found myself fumbling around between devices and searching for the hashtags with mixed results. A quick Facebook search for the #bestbuds hashtag promoted on Budweiser’s crowd favorite puppy spot directed me to a Facebook group that is definitely not Budweiser. Not exactly what I think they intended. Hashtags are not own-able properties and are subject to the crowd taking control of the conversation. It’s a risk vs. reward strategy that pays off big time as well as backfires if not monitored carefully.

I did notice that some of the brands actually bought Google paid search ads for their hashtags that drove to Web properties, connecting hashtags to the audience in the intended manner. Ultimately I think brands and agencies that utilized hashtags this year will learn from their mistakes and successes. I’ll be interested to see how their strategies evolve for next year.


The Alternative to the Cable Experience

By: Aaron Reiser

Being someone who cut the cable cord many years ago and who thinks soccer when someone says football, I was a little concerned as to how I would watch and report on the advertisements during the Super Bowl. So this is a tale of my streaming and “Second Screen” experience. I was able to watch the game on NBC Sports, but to my surprise, most of the commercials were not shown. Instead a message displayed letting me know that the broadcast would continue momentarily. Oddly, this did not happen all the time, so I did see the occasional ad. From a viewer/site user perspective, it creates a disconnected experience. Thank goodness that NBC had the foresight to create a unique URL just for its commercials. On this site you can watch all of the TV spots and even see live viewer commentary.

While I watched the live feed I also had my iPad (the second screen) in play. Through the NBC Sports App I was able to get much more detail with regards to the on field play action. While the TV spots tend to get all of the buzz, I have to say that online media was much more successful from a brand inclusion perspective. In my case, this included both in app and on web media. When a TV spot played there were often banners that synced with those units, meaning that if I liked a TV spot, I could continue to engage with the brand.

From an overarching strategic perspective, I have to vote for “Dreaming with Jeff” from Squarespace. The campaign hit on all media channels: a unique website, a TV spot, downloadable audio tracks, banners and a Jeff Bridges video case study. Jeff even made celebrity appearances on morning shows. The really nice thing is how Squarespace takes a back seat to Jeff Bridges’ message, which is supporting No Kid Hungry. The whole campaign is built around the idea that Squarespace exists to help empower you.


Leveraging Social Media Integration

By: Cari Wildasinn and Melissa Koski Carney

As members of the communications and advertising industry, we were all wondering what would happen during this year’s Super Bowl. Would someone be tweeting with mittens on or eating Oreos in the dark? #Notsomuch. While this year was all about #Dadvertising and pulling at the heart strings of viewers (we are all still trying to get over that Nationwide ad), the fact remains to be seen if there was one a big winner when it came to social media.

With winning ads, there was one overarching trend: each campaign had payoff outside the ad and onto social media. It’s no surprise – according to surveys, 61 percent of consumers planned to watch the Super Bowl with their smartphone and 25 percent with a tablet. Not only were fans mobile, they’re social too – 68 percent of men planned to use Twitter during the game and 78 percent of women planned to use Facebook.

This year’s ads included much more than just a hashtag or website. Take Coca-Cola’s “Make it Happy” campaign to take bullying out of the Internet. Social media users were asked to comment with #MakeItHappy at a negative post, and Coke would reply with a piece of art, making the post positive.

Campaigns from other major brands also leveraged social media – including Budweiser’s #BestBuds, Dove Men’s Care father-son “Call for Dads” using #RealStrength, Bud Light’s #UpforWhatever campaign, SquareSpace’s Dreaming with Jeff campaign, and Always’ #LikeAGirl campaign.

But was there one brand that surprised viewers in terms of leveraging social media during the game without an ad? Again, #notsomuch. Perhaps it’s because those creating the Super Bowl campaigns this year understood that today’s consumer doesn’t see the separation between social media and advertising; we live in an integrated world. The companies that are able to fully utilize this will win and leave a lasting impression.

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