What Makes A Good Super Bowl Ad?

Four Callahan marketers weigh in on branding, humor, and wiener dogs.

 
 

There's a clear theme to the list of most-watched television broadcasts in the United States. 19 of the top 20 are Super Bowls.

For some viewers, the fun is in the game itself; for others, it's the halftime show that's worth tuning in for. What unites everyone, though, are the commercials. The Super Bowl is the one time a year we are genuinely interested in watching 30-second spots for cars or beer.

This country goes crazy for Super Bowl commercials, but what makes these advertisements so entertaining? Why are they must-watch television?

 

 

To tackle this question, three Callahan marketers offer up their professional insight into what makes a good Super Bowl ad.

Victoria Taylor, Manager, Marketing & Engagement

A good Super Bowl ad — or, really, any advertising or marketing campaign — is a balance of science and art. The ad must engage viewers, start a conversation, connect with the target audience, and convince viewers to buy a product ... all while staying true to the company's brand, mission, and values.

Nothing makes consumers ask “what was that” more than something that is so far out there that it no longer identifies with the company. For example, if Doritos aired a Super Bowl commercial that was sad and emotional, we’d all be confused. The Doritos brand is built on humor and the fact we can easily down a bag in one sitting.

Sophia Giulajan, Marketing & Engagement Associate

Despite not caring for football, I manage to “watch” the Super Bowl every year. I can't tell you who won a single game, but I can remember the Heinz commercial from the 2016 Super Bowl.

From a marketing perspective, I’d say Heinz did a pretty darn good job. I remember nothing from 22 years of watching Super Bowls aside from a bunch of wiener dogs running around in hot dog suits. I'm now an adult who makes my own purchasing decisions, and when I go to the grocery store, I almost always pick up Heinz ketchup. Rarely the off-brands. 

Companies spend millions of dollars on 30 seconds of advertising. For Heinz, I think the money was well spent. Why? Because this commercial spoke to me. It had an emotional impact. And, in my opinion, the best ads have an emotional impact.

And let’s face it, everyone loves dogs.

Salvador Lopez, Senior Demand Generation Specalist

What makes a Super Bowl ad solid is having the creativity to stand out without going over the top. I’ve stopped paying attention to the ads the past few years because, for the most part, they've been absurd just for the sake of getting people to pay attention. It's become all about the shock factor, and advertisers have continued to up the ante to the point of ridiculousness.

A general kind of humor works for the most part — nothing too dark or too niche. Betty White playing football in a Snickers ad is a good example of accessible humor. Even if you don’t know who Betty White is, it’s just funny to see the elderly woman running routes.

Even without humor, ads that touch on something everyone can relate to are effective. For example, Chrysler's "Imported from Detroit" commercial a few years ago subtly touched on something most everyone in the United States can get behind — love of country. In this case, love of country through support of the U.S. auto industry.

The Super Bowl is a patriotic event, with the superstar national anthems, giant flags on the field, and military flyovers. So it ties in. The ad also has that sort of gritty, rugged feel that goes hand in hand with football.

Seth Shibelski, Marketing & Engagement Associate

Here's what I took away from 2018's Super Bowl commercials:

The best ads of the night go to the maker of America's hottest snack product: Tide. They went the humorous route, riffing on the tired tropes of different ad genres (the old people playing tennis in what must surely be a pharmaceutical commercial; the Clydesdale galloping in a paddock that must surely be Budweiser; etc.)

The worst ad of the night goes to Ram, whose commercial was met with universal scorn by the internet. Appropriating an MLK speech (particularly one so specifically anti-consumerist) to sell trucks is one of those ideas that you hope someone in the Marketing team would have spoken out against. Alas, Ram will now be featured alongside Pepsi in the annals of most tone-deaf advertising.

At the start of the game we had two financial services commercials:

  • E-Trade, which encouraged people to invest by scaring us with images of the elderly doing menial jobs because they could never retire. Of course, we are led to assume that these old folks are in their predicament solely because of their poor retirement savings strategy and not because they fell victim to negative wage growth or, say, a pre-existing health condition that sent them spiraling into bankruptcy.
  • Then Rocket Mortgage had a comic Keegan Michael Key advertisement, with top-tier production and a mildly-funny premise done in a tasteful way. They even got Big Sean in a cameo — safe to say that this ad was targeted square at millennials but kept conservative (or rather inoffensive) to make it a safe bet for the Boomers. And perhaps Generation X as well, as an afterthought.

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Feb. 5, 2018


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