As is our annual tradition at Denneen & Company, following the Big Game, the team gathered to review and evaluate a select number of advertisements. Using a proprietary methodology that factors in, among other elements, the viewer’s general gut reaction, the ad’s stopping power, overall persuasiveness, brand building, and ultimately, its ability to drive purchase, the team crowned Google Pixel 7 as the 2023 winner. To read more about the methodology and Google’s 2022 win, go to: Google Pixel 6 and Planters Mixed Nuts Win Denneen’s 2022 Big Game Advertising Review • Denneen & Company
The Top Four
Following closely behind Google were, in order, PopCorners, Disney, and The Farmer’s Dog. In discussing these top four advertisements, the team pointed to the successful use of humor, music, celebrity talent, and inside jokes and references for both Google and PopCorners as key drivers of engagement overall likeability. It was also noted these top two ads succeeded at weaving in compelling benefit language and visualization, while keeping the spots entertaining (we refer to this as “the drama supporting the benefit”). Google’s entire spot focused on the unique benefits of the Pixel 7 camera that were brought to life through insightful storytelling, smart celebrity talent choices, and compelling music. Meanwhile, PopCorners, in a remake of sorts of Breaking Bad, effectively communicated the (dare I say) addictive taste of the chips, while cleverly noting that they come in a variety of flavors too. That said, some were turned off by the fact that the brand used drug manufacturing as the basis of the story, likely a calculated risk taken by the brand given the popularity of Breaking Bad.
In contrast to Google and PopCorners, Disney and The Farmer’s Dog won over the reviewers by stirring deep emotions through nostalgia and compelling storytelling. These heart-opening ads even resulted in a few misty eyes and sniffles, a true indication of how the drama connected with the audience. The team also noted Disney’s clear effort to communicate diversity in its properties. And while The Farmer’s Dog ranked fourth in this year’s review, many hypothesized that consumers would have a difficult time remembering the advertised brand, as it was only shown at the end. Even after seeing the ad, one viewer was still unclear as to the product advertised. Others thought that consumers might even confuse it with the Amazon ad, which was also focused on dogs and pets. Regardless, the top four ads in this year’s review took two markedly different approaches, both of which, at least for these brands, were effective.
The Most Polarizing
While we only reviewed a limited number of ads, T-Mobile, Miller Lite/Coors Light/Blue Moon, and Squarespace received the most mixed reviews, but not without some debate. The team largely agreed that T-Mobile’s intended endearing interactions between Bradley Cooper and his mom did not resonate. However, while some praised Miller Coors for creating an ad that effectively wove in three of their major brands, it was the Blue Moon plug at the end that threw off the reviewers. Similarly, Squarespace left some of the team confused (Is this a reference to The Matrix even though it’s Adam Driver? A Kylo Ren reference?), while others gave credit to Squarespace for clearly communicating what the brand is – a website that makes websites, likely an identified purchase barrier that they were trying to overcome (and we always like insight-driven communications). In summary, we agreed that these spots, even though they ranked towards the bottom of the ads we reviewed, were decidedly more polarizing than anything.
Seriously, what was Remy Martin thinking? Serena Williams giving a pep talk, chefs in kitchens, galloping horses, dance troupes, and burning yard lines on a football field did not develop the kind of drama and communication (e.g. “fight our way back to the light, one inch at a time”) that would lead to…drinking cognac, or even thinking about cognac. Our review of this ad can be summed up in Serena’s opening line, “I don’t know what to say, really.”
Reviewing ads can be thought of from two different perspectives. One, does the ad resonate with you? And two, does the ad resonate with the intended target? A key challenge for marketers is to ensure that they take the second approach while not falling into the trap of the first. Too many times we think of ourselves as the consumer when we need to remind ourselves to step back, think about who the ad is targeting, and whether the drama and communication works for that segment of consumers, not us. Personally, I didn’t like the Bud Light ad with Miles Teller and his wife dancing to hold music. But I’m not the target. Others on our team (who arguably better fit the target consumer) really enjoyed the spot and pointed out how smart it was of Bud Light to produce a light-hearted ad that also created another beer drinking occasion. Others still gave poor ratings to ads because they personally didn’t like the celebrity talent. But does the chosen celebrity resonate with the intended target? It was a good reminder to think like a marketer and not a consumer.
In summary, congratulations to Google! Two years in a row they’ve taken the Big Game advertising crown. And while we praise the work done by the marketers and creative agencies in developing these winning spots, as a growth strategy consultants, we’re most interested in the actual business impact they have on their respective brands.
Denneen & Company is a growth strategy consulting firm that has been helping companies find and follow their unique paths to growth for over 29 years. With experience across 20+ industries, 40+ consumer categories, and 40+ countries, Denneen & Company consultants leverage their former backgrounds as industry practitioners and past engagements to develop practical and achievable strategies based on rigorous analysis, breakthrough insights, and a collaborative approach. To learn more, please visit denneen.com.
Phil Ryan is a Vice President at Denneen & Company where he has led numerous client engagements over the past eight years. Prior to consulting, Phil was a brand and business leader at Proctor & Gamble. He lives with his wife and three children in Arlington, MA.