As a growth strategy consulting firm, Denneen & Company is fascinated by Super Bowl advertising, including the strategic decision to advertise during the big game and the potential business impact that communicating your message to over 100M engaged viewers can deliver. Rather than rank the exhaustive list of 63 ads, we focused on identifying the top few ads that we feel not only got their money’s worth (a marketing ROI that exceeded the purportedly $5M per :30 ad cost), but also succeeded in strategically growing the advertised brand and business. Consideration was given to stopping power, ability to drive engagement and evoke emotions, benefit communication, effective brand positioning, whether or not it built brand equity, brand/product recall, and purchase intent.
Winner: Budweiser’s Not Backing Down. Building on last year’s anti-craft beer campaign, we appreciated this spot for its clear, distinct, stake-in-the-ground positioning, and tone and vibe that not only made us keep watching, but also made us want to drink beer. There may also have been a subtle nod to the pro-America theme that has been permeating some political campaigns too. And extra credit to the ABInBev marketers who approved an ad that stated that Budweiser is “NOT FOR EVERYONE”, something we feel must have been a hard choice for the macro-brewer. Fortunately, they’re right, and this ad was perfectly made for those who it IS for.
Second: Amazon Echo’s #BaldwinBowl Party. Combining funny and quirky star power with seamless product integration garnered this ad a second place finish. The spot effectively demonstrates the Echo’s capabilities and drives recall of “Alexa” utilizing great banter between Alec Baldwin and Dan Marino, along with entertaining turns from Jason Schwartzman and Missy Elliott (who even sneaks in a track release). While we did think that there may have been an opportunity to further showcase the Echo’s capabilities, this ad succeeded in piquing consumer interest and will drive Amazon.com traffic, and ultimately Echo sales.
Third: Toyota Prius’ The Longest Chase. Deftly weaving in key benefit and purchase-barrier breaking messages, this ad held our attention for the full 1:30 that it ran. Subtly well-casted (with former bumbling-ish criminals from The Wire), the spot took viewers on a cleverly entertaining journey that effectively showcased the new Prius 4 and some of its key features, while attempting to address some of the previous models’ shortcomings. And the overall length of the ad clearly drove Pruis’ fuel economy equity. However, with gas falling below $2 per gallon, the value of this equity may not be as compelling as it once was. Just another reason Toyota may have dialed up some of the other benefits.
Somewhat Honorable Mention: Mountain Dew Kickstart’s Puppymonkeybaby. We’d also be remiss if we didn’t mention this awkwardly engaging spot. In a clear demonstration of a polarizing commercial, it succeeded in resonating with a specific target audience, while completely turning off others. The ad garnered the widest range of Denneen & Company scores, but was consistently given high marks by our resident millennials, the target for this ad. And going beyond just the spectacle of it all, Mountain Dew even utilized the three elements of the puppymonkeybaby to aptly communicate the three key aspects of Kickstart: Dew, juice, and caffeine. Although this benefit communication gets arguably lost as viewers get caught up in the puppymonkeybaby itself, or completely check out when the puppy part licks the guy’s face. Regardless, this spot drove a significant amount of buzz (#1 in social share of voice per iSpot.tv’s social media tracking tool) and in our opinion, delivered what Mountain Dew was after.
Given the high stakes of Super Bowl advertising, and high expectations of viewers, there are many ads that fail to break through, deliver a compelling message, and ultimately pay out. Fortunately, there are some which get us to engage, think differently, and entertain, all while strategically building the brand and business. So congrats to the winners, and to the others, which as Boston-based Patriots fans is how we’ve been feeling since the AFC Championship game, better luck next year.