This weekend I heard a comedian quip, "the Superbowl ads are as big as the game". Was she right? A search of "Superbowl commercials 2011" gives "515,000,000 results" while plugging "Superbowl 2011" into the search site gives "46,600,000 results." That's more than a 10 to 1 margin for the ads...
The thing about ads is that everybody has got an armchair expert opinion. It makes sense too, because everyone is a consumer. Some in the media even have a formula. So who are the "winners"?
Christian Science Monitor says that the Chrysler video is a big winner. They cited a metric created by bunch of experts (Mullen, Radian6, and Boston.com). "The two-minute Chrysler spot featuring rapper Eminem received both the highest volume and the most positive content in a stream of 250,000 tweets on Twitter."
CBS News gives their nod to VW's Darth Vader commercial. Hey, 15 million YouTube downloads can't be wrong. If it goes viral, it must be good.
Yet, something is off here. The best ads are not necessarily the ads that have the most Tweets or YouTube downloads. They aren't usually the ads with the funniest storyline. The best ads are ones that drive sales and build brand in accordance with company goals. Sales are the short term metric. Brand power is the most powerful long term meter. To look at the best ads of Superbowl 2011, we don't have sales data to analyze - but we can draw some conclusions on brand.
At its brand-building core, ads are designed to created awareness and link relevant, favorable, unique associations (values) to the brand. With an audience of about 100,000,000 Americans, a Super bowl is nice vehicle to develop awareness. But what is a lot tougher to do is to create an ad with a message that sticks. One of my old advertising mentors used to say "Bobby, the target has got to sum up the message in one word." That may be pushing the limit, but linking the brand to one central idea (or a couple of values) is where its at.
Chrysler’s comeback 2 minute ad has a $12 million air time price tag. The ad's images are gritty. The tone rebellious. The script: "What does this city know about luxury? huh? What does a town that has been to hell and back know about the finer things in life?... We're from America... We're certainly no one's Emerald City..." It concludes with Eminem defiantly stating, "This is the Motor City and this is what we do."
There is a lot of brand value communication in this ad- and these relate to grassroots American values: Honesty. Hard-work. Tradition. (note the flag at 20 seconds and the American monuments). A lot of these values were presumed absent only 2 years ago when Big 3 CEOs flew their private jets to Washington for taxpayer bailouts. Chrysler clearly wants them back. By the way, Eminem was an excellent celebrity endorser for this – given his Detroit roots and gritty, honest, hard-core persona. But there is still something about this ad that doesn't work. The ad emphasizes luxury and I am bewildered how anyone can link luxury to the Chrysler brand given this gritty gritty execution.
The VW Darth Vader ad has an adorable storyline. It's got a lot of the ingredients to make it go viral (click here for previous blog). But what is the key point of this ad? Is it to communicate the remote car start? If it is, the execution is great BUT that is a poor feature advertise on. Why? The best brand building conveys something unique about the brand - especially intangible associations. Almost every car in that class has an optional remote starter.
One of the best ads for communicating a brand value is one that is not getting as much online chatter. That's the Bridgestone Beaver. The message here is extremely clear. Bridgestone gives you control. It gives you traction. It increases your driving performance. The tag line at the end reinforces the message too: "For drivers who want to get the most out of their cars, its Bridgestone or nothing." This ad is not the most Tweeted or downloaded on YouTube - but it conveys the proposition (performance) of Bridgestone extremely clearly. That getting the value out of the values!