What Marketers (All Sizes) Can Learn from Super Bowl Ads

Feb 08, 2011 — Allan Pulga

The Super Bowl is the most-watched single telecast in the U.S. every year. This year’s event on Fox set a record Sunday by attracting an average of 111 million viewers, passing the previous record of 106.5 million, set during last year’s Super Bowl on CBS.

“And while small businesses may not have enough marketing dollars to compete on a Super-Bowl caliber advertising scale,” wrote Susan Gunelius of Entrepreneur.com (Feb. 1), “there are lessons to learn and mistakes to avoid when examining these commercials.”

Gunelius lists five classic Super Bowl ads and identifies what made them work:

1. Apple Macintosh “1984” (1984)
Why it works: “It stirs emotions, makes an exciting and positive promise of the future, and uses a well-known and well-placed literary reference,” writes Gunelius. “It’s genius.”
Takeaway: “The right message, at the right time, in the right place, to the right audience can’t fail. If you know your product is great, go big – or go home.”

2. Wendy’s “Where’s the Beef?” (1984)
Why it works: “Tasteful humor coupled with a bit of the unexpected almost always equals advertising gold.”
Takeaway: “Comparison advertising can be dangerous territory, but a clever approach can position your brand effectively against market leaders.”

3. Monster.com “When I Grow Up” (1999)
Why it works: “This ad makes people think there are other, better options just a few mouse clicks away. Change is possible thanks to Monster.com, and hope is reborn,” Gunelius writes.
Takeaway: “Combine emotional involvement with a message that clearly communicates ‘What’s in it for me?’”

4. E*TRADE “Trading Baby” (2008)
Why it works: “First, the ad uses the old standby of delivering shock value when the baby spits up. Stock trading can be a confusing and overwhelming activity, but this ad communicated the message that anyone can do it.”
Takeaway: “People respond positively to babies. The ad used a tried-and-true advertising trick (the baby) and paired it with a clear, concise and effective message. Wrap it up with a bit of shock value and it will get people talking.”

5. McDonald’s “Big Mac Song” (1975)
Why it works: “It’s a catchy tongue-twister with a description of the ingredients in what was McDonald’s biggest hamburger. It also showed customers from an array of demographic profiles to demonstrate everyone loves McDonald’s, and the Big Mac.”
Takeaway: “A catchy song can build recognition though the word-of-mouth marketing value it delivers. Although, in today’s environment, consumers typically want to know more about how a business can solve their problems before they make a purchase.”

5 Things You Can Learn from Super Bowl Marketing

James Thompson of Australia’s SmartCompany.com (Feb. 7) also listed five keys to Super Bowl marketing, which can apply to business of all sizes:

1. Think big. Sometimes you need to spend a little more than you planned in order to make a big impact. Thompson alludes to Groupon, which launched its first Super Bowl ad after less than two years of existence. He also refers to Apple’s “1984” ad, “which is said to have changed the personal computer market forever,” cost over $900,000 getting Ridley Scott to direct it. And that was 27 years ago.

2. Get social. “Social media have provided a great way for marketers to extend the reach and impact of their advertisement well beyond the broadcast of the game by posting the ad on YouTube, running competitions and additional promotions on Facebook and creating a buzz on Twitter,” he writes.

3. Get mobile. “The proliferation of smartphones means any big event is typically mirrored with a rise in phone research.” Lightspeed Research reports that 59 percent of Super Bowl viewers said they would be online sending e-mails or SMS messages about the game and 18 percent said they would looking at online ads from their phones, as well as visiting advertiser websites.

4. Partner with other media for maximum impact. “If your product doesn’t work well in a mobile or social environment, find someone’s that does and partner with them,” Thompson suggests. 20th Century Fox partnered with Rovio Mobile – makers of the über-popular smartphone game Angry Birds – to promote its new movie, Rio. The ad featured an embed code, which allows viewers to unlock a special level in the Angry Birds game.

5. If all else fails, be funny. “The best Super Bowl ads are almost always the funny ones.”

Topics: Mobile Industry, Retail Marketing

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