Spread the Buzz, Spoil the Game

By Chris Ilcin, Account Superintendent, Sonnhalter

Another Super Bowl, er, I mean Big Game is in the books, and like last year, we want to take a look at the ads through the lens of B2T. Are there any lessons? Probably, let’s go to the tape!

You Can Protect Your Brand Too Much

The NFL is notorious for protecting the brand name “Super Bowl.” In fact, I should probably trademark that last sentence, add a disclaimer about how it’s the property of the NFL and let you know that any rebroadcast without the express written consent of the NFL will have lawyers flying at you like DB’s at the QB.

But how many times over the last few weeks did you hear about getting a TV in time for the “Big Game?” The careful protection of the brand has made the skirting of the trademark as well-known and popular as the name itself, something Heinz used to funny effect with an ad campaign that involved everything (including a congressional petition and a paid day off for every employee) EXCEPT a Super Bowl ad.

The Lesson: Don’t be so shortsighted in your brand that you can’t see what your customers and competition are doing.

We’re Living In A Digital World

The event itself has become almost an afterthought. Almost all the ads were available long before the broadcast. And many used their ads as a footnote to months-long planning and strategy.

And how many of the ads were showing up way early in your feed? The ad itself is a stake in the ground, a way to get mention in a best or worst list. Because let’s face it, both get equal coverage. Best and worst are subjective and serve only to give people like me a reason to pontificate. This morning, I even found a viral post for an “Ad Nobody Noticed.” Because it’s not an actual ad, just a creative way to bring attention to a fantastic cause.

The Lesson: Your message can’t be just on one channel. It has to be a statement you’re willing and ready to use everywhere.

The Law Of Unintended Consequences

The typical ad campaign that involves a Super Bowl ad combines months of research, planning, market testing and millions of dollars. Other than trying to be the funniest or most outrageous, clients rarely want to make waves. But not this year.

Budweiser, which has been losing market share not to other large competitors, but to small, craft brewers, wanted to create an ad that played up their roots. They tried to tell the story of their founding in a way that showed how they weren’t always a huge monolithic “brand” but a result of one man’s vision, planning and success despite the odds.

And it all got hijacked by current political debates. You can argue the relative value of “free press” all you want, but the take away is that no matter what your intended message is, you need to be ready to have a different conversation if the customer wants to.

The Lesson: “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower

Where Has All The Buzz Gone?

More than anything, the overall feel of the 2017 ad round-up seems to be “meh,” there’s not a standout, either good or bad, and the over-analyzing of why that is in full gear.

Has the Super Bowl “jumped the shark?” Has the buzz outpaced reality? Is it the end of modern advertising as we know it?!?!?

All and none of the above. More than this being a failure of advertising, I think it speaks to the over achievement of our current instant-analysis culture (which I type fully acknowledging my small part in adding to). The game wasn’t even over and people were writing flowery praise or obituaries. No one can wait for anything to develop or play out before they’re ready to pass judgement. So play off those expectations, and play the long game for best results and success (just like Adolphus Busch).

The Lesson: Well, the best example is the game itself (remember they played football too). How many memes or posts were there before halftime about “Sad Brady” or deflategate? But with a clear plan, perfect execution and just the right amount of luck, the long view won out.

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