Feb 6th 2020

The Super Bowl ads: What makes creative ideas resonate

Only in America, where the relationship between sport and commercialism is unlike anything seen in the rest of the world, is so much focus given to one night’s adverts – the Super Bowl. With a 30-second slot during the game costing a reported $5.6 million from a media buying perspective, an audience of around 100 million, and the eyes of the world on the adverts that brands produce, much debate is had in marketing circles as to how effective the creative is.

The reality is that for all the fanfare and dissection, most of the ads will be forgotten with only a few over the years having broken through as ‘game-changers’. Oreo’s social highjack is a prime example – and that wasn’t even a paid-for slot. Indeed, none of this year’s ads were trending on Twitter half an hour after the game, and most industry experts predict that brands see the greatest impact from them two weeks after the game finishes.

So, what can we learn from the ‘hurrah’ that is Super Bowl marketing, from the perspective of a more sceptical UK market? What makes good creative great, and how can we apply this across other marketing communications disciplines? Here are my key takeaways.

  1. Resonate

Creative needs to tap into something. It needs to resonate and drive an emotional, human response. Great communication involves an instant connection with an audience, not just on the surface, but relating to their values and beliefs. It resonates as it easily fits with their way of thinking – the raw truth and simplicity of a message comes through. Google’s offering at the Super Bowl seemed to hit the spot here, with its look at a grandfather searching for ways to remember his partner, Loretta, or the New York Life Insurance company’s genuine brand positioning around love. All evoked human stories to connect.

  1. Apply insight

One would hope that any communication is bedded in some form of data insight that has created the strategy, and honed the creative. Microsoft’s Katie Sowers, ‘Be the One’ advert highlighted this. It is clearly tapping into the #MeToo trend, however, one would hope that the messages (around females as role models in athletes’ lives) had also come from insight generated during the campaign development. Although the link to the Microsoft brand is less clear, it does fit with the company’s overall stance on linking with responsible causes and enabling women in the technology sector – a perception, as a company, it is battling against.

  1. Look amazing

Regardless of the message, the way it is communicated has to fit the medium. Unless you’re going for a deliberately amateur look and feel, the design and presentation should excel. This sounds obvious, but often gets forgotten in other areas of marketing communications. Everything a brand does and communicates reflects the brand, including what employees say. Squarespace’s ‘Welcome to Winona’ advert did this well, with the style of the content reflecting the more artistic look and feel of the site’s services.

  1. Work your channels

For creative and campaigns to work, they need to be integrated through several channels of delivery, reinforcing the message at different touchpoints with an audience. All the Super Bowl ads played this card, with the ads themselves worked into news stories before the event to drive interest and released across various channels to drive exposure. In many cases, the ads laddered up to wider overarching campaigns that the brands were running. Here the spots were positioned as the next installment, so continually reinforcing the ongoing message. Amazon’s Prime Video was a classic example of this, with its regular trailer format used to promote its latest original series. Olay’s ‘Space for Women’ offering on the other hand, had social call-to-actions linked directly into the video.

Whatever the overall effects of the Super Bowl adverts, the principles about creating great ideas that connect with an audience remain consistent. For brands, it’s about working with a partner who provides a fresh perspective on these elements, combining strategy and the creative together to generate a tactically strong campaign. If you’re looking for a new injection of perspective and creative in your brand’s communication, come and have a chat with Babel.