It’s a discussion that marketing professionals have every year following what has become one of the top, most celebrated events of the year. Super Bowl Sunday now commands as much celebration and attention from fans and families as Easter, Thanksgiving Day, or Christmas. For advertisers and marketers, the national gridiron championship commands a premium price for advertisers in an attempt to elevate a brand’s image in a very crowded arena of competitors. This year’s game is over and now it is time to determine the ad game winners and losers.
The typical post-event discussion almost always centers around the effectiveness of game-time ads and the seemingly outrageous costs associated with producing and airing an effort in the ultimate orgy of pitches and slogans. Super Bowl LVII was expected to deliver some commercials whose content deviated from past performances in part due to the effects of social media and consumers’ favor for brands that are socially responsible. The one nearly universal comment about this year’s Super Bowl advertising content is that it was, most certainly, creatively different. Now differentiation can be a good thing when it is promoting one brand’s unique proposition from another, but creative messaging will always fall flat when it fails miserably to achieve an audience’s understanding of the topic or its proposition.
Another fundamental first step of marketing is to establish clearly defined goals and objectives and set forth a strategy to accomplish those goals and objectives. “I noticed a stark contrast this year between brands that had a great strategy and those that had none,” said Mark Ray, co-founder and chief creative officer at North. “Maybe because the world seems to have both shrunk and divided more in the last five years than the decades before, what it means to be a relevant, meaningful brand is evolving just as rapidly.”
At a time when consumers are indicating they find non-celebrity influences more convincing, the plethora of celebrities pitching products, services, and ideas in this year’s commercials seemed out of place with the direction influencer marketing is trending. While television is not a digital medium, in today’s marketing environment, all content messaging ultimately flows into the digital realm. Brand after brand ushered in one celebrity after another to make one indistinguishable point after another. In one performance, an A-list actor asked listeners if they really thought he enjoyed the taste of Coke or if he was just acting. Now there’s a question the brand may not want to leave open in the minds of prospective customers at the end of a seven-plus million dollar advertisement.
Tubi’s “Rabbit Holes” spot was selected as the winner of the 2023 Super Clio. The effort found significant praise for clearly establishing Tubi as a brand different from a host of similarly named streaming services.
The Google commercial was loyal to a brand strategy that was successful in delivering on differentiating the new Google 7 smart phone. The 90-second product demonstration of its latest Pixel phone remained focused on its photo-fixing capabilities. The commercial, while a little heavy on touting features and benefits, succeeded in being entertaining and genuinely funny. One could envision viewers running to the Google brand when it came time to trade in an iPhone.
Perhaps the most obvious and confusing “fail” at this year’s game was a 30-second spot anchored by M&M candies diverse cast of new spokes-characters. The colorful cast of candy mascots have been long-standing and popular messengers for the iconic brand of hard-shell chocolate treats. “I’m still not 100% sure what M&Ms was trying to do,” said Aloysius Butler & Clark’s Merino. “First, they caused a fake controversy by saying they were getting rid of their candy characters. Then, they made a joke about making the candy clam flavored. But in the end, they never revealed why they did any of the things they did.” The commercial resulted in viewers scratching parts of their anatomy as to the intended mission.
In a post-campaign press release, M&M announced that the spokes-candies have returned, and are glad to be back. Get it?
What can a brand do after its wagon master drives the wagon train off a cliff after a century of iconic success? Disney’s commercial effort at Super Bowl LVII was a masterful attempt to divert attention away from what can only be described as a year of colossal marketing and public relations failures that resulted in unprecedented damage to its brand value. The commercial featured exclusive content from a past century’s worth of box office successes and even resurrected the voice of its founder, Walt Disney. Disappointed loyal consumers of the brand can only hope that the effort signaled a first step forward to reinstalling the magic of the Disney experience.
While it is true that the Super Bowl ad game often produces as many proponents as opponents, the Super Bowl LVII advertising game nay-sayers appear to be louder and more numerous when apprising winners and losers in the big ad game. Many of the observers described this year’s efforts as both the best and worst of what advertisers had to offer. “I found the majority of the ads to be particularly bad this year. Safe, lazy, boring.” said Douglas Brundage, founder of Kingsland. “It seems as if brands are still figuring out what the national mood is and chose the most conservative routes possible instead of doing the deep strategy work to unlock an opportunity. I hate to see brands waste money like this.”
Despite the critics, many marketers believe that paying nearly $7 million for a 30-second slot is worthwhile when promoting brand value and remain convinced of the star-making power of Super Bowl commercials. Samba TV reveals that “37 million households tuned into Super Bowel LVII, up slightly from the 36 million who tuned into last year’s game” and digital app engagements during and after the game increased between 10% and 15% across the United States on Super Bowl Sunday compared with a typical Sunday.
It is imperative to remember the importance of measuring and evaluating the effectiveness of a marketing campaign and the super bowl event is no exception. While digital channels offer many methods to easily analyze and critique a performance, the television medium can be more subjective and difficult to quantify in terms of return on investment, the accepted method for marketers to measure success or failure. It just may be that the popularity of the NFL Super Bowl is one of those unique marketing opportunities whose worth cannot be determined solely by the numbers on a page.