Monday, February 9, 2015
LEARNINGS FROM “SUPER” SUPER BOWL XLIX – Part I
Super Bowl XLIX was super from start to end. Before kick-off John Legend performed a silky smooth solo rendition of America the Beautiful from a grand piano. Idina Menzel, of Frozen Fame, launched the start of the game with her moving adaptation of The Star Spangled Banner, lifting the spirits of Americans within the stadium above the open dome and all those watching the spectacle from their not so small screens. The Patriot’s Malcolm Butler’s interception at the 1-yard line, with the Seahawks’ down by 4-points with 3-plays and 26-seconds of regulation play remaining, provided the final punctuation mark to end the game.
The stats were super too. Tom Brady surpassed Joe Montana for most touchdowns thrown in Super Bowl contests while his team, the New England Patriots, picked-up their third victory in the NFL’s premier event. The off the field stats were also super, kind of like the Fiat ad that used the little blue pill (Viagra) entering the gas tank of a Fiat to transform it into the new, hefty body Fiat 550X SUV, garnering admiring acknowledgement of women. According to Nielsen, a record 114.4-million people viewed Super Bowl XLIX, making it the seventh straight Super Bowl to go over 100-million television viewers. Another 1.3-million people viewed the game on computers and tablets. TV viewership climbed to 120-million in the last 10-minutes of the game. Given the staggering viewership, Jimmy Fallon, the late night host of the Tonight Show, quipped that NBC plans to run the Super Bowl every Thursday night.
A 30-second spot aired on the game cost advertisers up to 4.5-million dollars. Remember, that’s just airtime! There was advertising from eighteen distinct industries from automobiles to travel, including the host network, NBC, and movie promotions. There were 96-ads in total that ran during the game racking-up big, big bucks for the network.
For those of us marketers the commercials commanded our attention not due to any entertainment value (although there was plenty of that) but, instead, professional interest. For us, it was less about novelty, humor, commercial production values, emotional content, etc., but more about perceived effectiveness and what we could learn about creating more productive advertising. And for those of us who kept our eyes, ears, minds and hearts open there was a lot of learning to be gleaned. This is part 1 of a 2- part series or if you prefer the First-Half of our game.
BOATS & HELICOPTERS:
Here are our observations and learning, which we offer for your consideration.
1. Television affords broad reach and should not be ignored – We can all agree that 114.4-million viewers represents a huge reach in the absolute and relative to other venues. While many marketing companies have been eschewing television in favor of social media and the internet there’s still much that TV can do, providing one knows how to use it effectively. A client proudly recounted that a spokesperson for his brand had tweeted about the subject brand in the middle of the night and generated some 14,000 responses within a mere few hours. When we inquired into the number of customers for the brand we were told it was some 32-million. Now consider this: 14,000 responses is four-one hundreds of a percent and, as such, nothing more than a pimple on a gnat’s ass when you look at it in the context of 32,000,000 customers. However, it is important to know how to advertise effectively to capitalize on television’s broad reach. By the way, for those marketers who do not believe television is an effective medium based upon their lack of success with it, the fact of the matter is that it is highly unlikely you will be successful in any other medium, such as the internet, that delivers video. Video is video and text is text regardless of the medium. By the way, there are brands, such as MasterCard with its “Priceless” campaign, that have demonstrated they can make effective use of television.
2. Effectiveness is a better way to seek efficiency – Companies are seeking greater efficiency with their brands. They want to do more with less, significantly less in order to enhance shareholder value in the “now.” While sales requirements are being inflated each year concomitant marketing support funding is being deflated (we’re not talking about footballs here but budgets). Some managers at the top of the hierarchy are cheering the resultant improvement in efficiency and rising stock prices but they should be lamenting the demonstrated inefficiency of their past use of marketing dollars and potential long-term deterioration of brand health from cuts in support. Rather than cutting to improve efficiency we should be seeking ways to bolster productivity to get it. Continuous, deep budget cuts are de rigor in many corporations. In order to avoid them and preserve the long-term health of our brands we marketers must work to demonstrate a favorable ROI. It’s a simple as that!
3. Strategy is a difference maker – Patriots’ coach Bill Belichick employed a counter-intuitive strategy to defeat the Seattle Seahawks. In the previous Super Bowl the Seahawks limited star quarterback Peyton Manning of the Denver Broncos to short yardage. The Seahawks’ big cornerbacks took the long game away from the Broncos and routed them 43 – 8. Belichick learned from this and didn’t fight it. He went with it. And, he used it to his team’s advantage. The Patriots prepared to chip-away for short yardage and took advantage of their ability to get it to win the game. Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady averaged just 8.86-yards per completed pass. Using the same strategy against a bigger competitor is a losing proposition. Pitting yourself against a competitor’s superior strength is destined to failure. Instead, it is essential to find meaningful differentiation. It is also smart to take what you can get and use it to grow. Snickers has maintained their very successful hunger satisfaction strategy going back more than 30-years. It is a strategy that fits their product, which is made with milk chocolate, nougat, caramel and nuts, to perfection.
4. Coaching is more than commenting – Coaching is about making a sound assessment of the (creative) work and commenting in a way that will enhance it. Last week we wrote about the commenting part. But as professionals we need to be able to provide a sound assessment since commenting is about providing direction. Coach Pete Carroll made a fateful decision to have Seahawk quarterback Russell Wilson throw a pass from the 1-yard line despite having Marshawn Lynch in the backfield who had been unstoppable in chewing-up short yardage. We all know what happened. Rookie Malcolm Butler of the Patriots intercepted the ball and the Seahawks bid for a second straight Super Bowl championship was lost. It seems Coach Pete Carroll was expecting the Patriots to mount a defense against the run, which they didn’t do. It is important for marketers to know how to assess creative work, what’s there and what is not, and know what they think before they begin commenting. Direction is only as good as the assessment of where we stand and what’s needed to make something productive. While we appreciated the creativity of the Doritos’ “Middle Seat” spot, it is off-strategy from our perspective. The commercial message suggests “irresistibility,” which has been their sister brand Lay’s communication strategy. Instead, Doritos strategy has been about its delivering an intense experience. Intensity of crunch and flavors. However, those that assessed the work looked at creativity or some other dimension rather than whether it was on-strategy and, therefore, appropriate for the brand.
5. The purpose of advertising is to stimulate customer behavior – Unless you have money to burn your advertising must be directed at stimulating a behavior. You don’t ring the cash register without a behavior such as switching, adoption, increased transaction size, etc. $4.5-million for a 30-second spot translates to $150,000 per second of airtime. So your advertising needs to stimulate a lot of behavior to generate a favorable return. No behavior then no ROI. No ROI then the ad budget gets cut which starts a vicious negative cycle that eventually could lead to a death spiral for the brand. But then some advertisers have money to burn or so it seems. Let’s take Budweiser and their Puppy trilogy. We really don’t think they expect a return from those ads directly influencing behaviors. We reported last year that while “Puppy Love” generated a lot of buzz it did not bolster purchase consideration. Nor do we believe this year’s “Lost Dog (Puppy)” built business (despite a claimed 42.8-million “earned views” – views Budweiser did not pay for). If we know that it is not building business by directly influencing behaviors then you can safely bet Budweiser knows it too. They’re not stupid! Their return comes from being part of the Super Bowl, generating broadscale, aggressive merchandising support at retail, entertaining customers, etc. That’s what helps build their business during the Super Bowl period. So, they use the spot to gift their customers and viewers. Sort of like sending someone a greeting card. A nice touch that makes everyone feel good. Instead, if you’re not a Budweiser or Coca-Cola, choose to make customers feel the benefit to stimulate behaviors that translate to sales.
We’ll be back next week to share more learning to help make your advertising more productive. And you won’t need to pay $4.5-million for it.
Richard Czerniawski and Mike Maloney
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