Super Bowl Ads 2012: Strategic Catches & Drops

By now, the Super Bowl ads have been discussed, dissected and graded by friends and experts alike. This week, I have covered my views on Trends & Observations, as well as how Social Media was (or was not) used. Today, I’ll cover where it all starts. As Bugs Bunny said when getting beaten in the wrestling ring, “It’s time for a little strategy!

Who had the best Super Bowl strategy? Who dropped the ball? Here’s what Your Guerrilla Marketer has to say…

The basics in marketing strategy are simple:

  • Have a Goal (while “increase sales” is always good, the more specific the goal – like get 10,000 to sign up for the Acura NSX wait list – the better your odds of succeeding)
  • Target your Demographic (who would drive an NSX? where do you reach them?)
  • Craft your Message (who/what would appeal to your target audience?)
  • Deliver the Message (choose when and how the message gets delivered. Like real estate, location and timing is everything!)

There is a lot more involved, but you didn’t come here to get a crash course in Marketing 101. Since I don’t have closed-door knowledge of the advertisers’ goals, I will take a look at various strategies I noticed and present my take for your reading pleasure.

Great in Theory, Poor in Execution

Did you see all those Hyundai ads? Seems like they had a bunch, doesn’t it? During game time, they actually only had two spots: one in the first quarter and another in the fourth. That in itself would be a good idea. However, Hyundai also ran a couple commercials in the pre-game right before kickoff and another during the post game show. Result? They seem like they dominated the night with a handful of well-placed ads and spent less than Chevy or Chrysler.

While that was very good, the execution (creative) was lacking. The Cheetah spot? Maybe it got a few laughs, but showing how fast their car is versus a Cheetah who looked more disinterested than beaten, didn’t work with people I interviewed.

Their “Think Fast” ad, where the driver had to stop and start to revive his boss, was cute. However, I think they missed a golden opportunity. While the audience was waiting to hear what the boss was going to say regarding his “Success in business comes down to one word…” and are left hanging, Why not direct the viewers to find out the answer at Hyundai.com? Extra points to all my Guerrilla Marketers who were already ahead of me on that one!

Another smart strategy has been to turn ads that normally unveiled on Super Sunday to a weeklong campaign. Many ads were “leaked” or “previewed” during the week leading up to the game, creating interest, hoping to go viral.

Kudos goes to Honda, as they allowed word to get out that Matthew Broderick was going to reprise his Ferris Bueller character but didn’t say which company he would be pitching. The buzz ensued. Then, the week before the big game, Honda released an extended 2 ½ minute version and teased there were over two dozen references to the classic John Hughes movie – providing enough challenge for fans to go see.

While we are on the Honda CRV ad, this brings me to my next subject…

Know Your Audience

If Honda’s goal was to increase interest and sales with the Gen X demographic – you know, the ones who are at the age where they are starting families or have kids and need a sporty SUV – then they hit a bullseye. Who do you think was watching Ferris Bueller’s Day Off back in 1986?

One Gen Xer I interviewed said she loved the ad. However, when she turned around to see the reaction from her 20-something friends, she saw blank stares. Honda wasn’t targeting them.

On the other hand, who was Audi targeting with their Vampire ad? The parents who are tired of their tween’s love of Twilight? This creative made no sense, considering the product being pitched.

If I were tasked with handling their creative, and was told to emphasize their “Daylight, now in headlight” theme, I think I’d focus more on the demographic of the buyer. Perhaps the camera follows the same man in two different scenes at night: in one role he’s a father with his kids safely secured in the back seat, and another he’s a husband out on the town with his beautiful wife. In the first scene, it emphasizes the sleek, sophisticated look and in the second scene the safety as the headlights allow the father to navigate out of road perils – both scenes cutting back and forth until he arrives home, in the same driveway. Want to use some of that CGI budget used on vampires? Have the two men merge in to one as he walks away happily and satisfied from the car, demonstrating the guy can still have the sexy, sophisticated car, while not sacrificing the safety his family needs.

But I digress… the point is, if you are spending $3-5M for a 30 second spot – go after your audience! Sorry, Audi, you were one of my biggest losers.

In the interest of time, other winners and losers:

  • Bud owned the night. The only, let me repeat that – the only beer to advertise was Bud and Bud Light. High grades for branding, branding, branding in a solid rotation of air time. Low grades for poor creative with launching Bud Light Platinum and was anyone really nostalgic for Prohibition?
  • Getting two high profile, well known car enthusiasts to fight over the opportunity to be the first one to own your car: brilliant! Not having your site ready to handle the traffic: amateurish. Plus, the Acura NSX needed to be mentioned a heckuva lot more throughout the ad – most people I interviewed couldn’t recall the product afterward.
  • NBC gets high marks for timing/creative in pitching their new series, especially Smash and The Voice (3 each). Betty White stepping out of the shower was the funniest, laugh out loud commercial of the whole night.
  • Chrysler’s “Half Time for America” spot was well thought out. They took a risk placing the ad where they did (many viewers are up getting food, talking to guests or hitting the bathroom), but they nailed it with the creative. The slow reveal of Clint Eastwood, the appealing to the viewer’s sense of American pride, made for good TV. I wasn’t a fan of a few choice of images but, overall, very good. Smartest move? They were able to combine four makes in to one impactful spot, rather than four individual spots. Smart.
  • Sex sells. Did anyone else notice how quiet the room got for Go Daddy, Teleflora and H&M?
  • Doritos proves you don’t need fancy spokespeople or big budgets to produce the most popular commercials. Plus, they got plenty of buzz leading up to the game with voting on which amateur spot would get aired. Great strategy and execution.
  • A nod to Century 21 for using the pre-game show to tease viewers about game-time ad. Only problem: creative was too over the top.
  • Samsung… do you really think you are going to win over Apple fans by mocking them? Or, was the idea to go after all the anti-Apple consumers? Either way, everyone I interviewed felt a stylus was worthless in today’s technology. Not a good use of 90 seconds of Super Bowl airtime.
  • Did anyone else wonder if Hostess had to pay Chevrolet for Twinkie product placement?

While I could go on (there was so much material), I leave you with this…

Over the years, there have been many companies who put all their eggs in Super Bowl basket. It is a risky prospect. It has worked for some and failed for many. As a Guerrilla Marketer, I can think of numerous different ways I’d rather spend the budget. But… on the biggest stage of the year, it is all about the sizzle, not the steak.

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Your Guerrilla Marketer,
Rick Verbanas

One thought on “Super Bowl Ads 2012: Strategic Catches & Drops

  1. I really thought the spot for tax preparation went to ridiculous lengths to leverage the freedom a young boy experiences urinating in a pool.

    So, let me see if i get this straight, the tax prep software company wants to associate its brand with urine? Beyond absurd.

    Maybe it was a funny spot . . . for 9 year olds – and those with that mentality. And anyway, the purpose of an ad is not necessarily to make someone laugh.

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