Super Bowl XLIX Touchdowns
If you were one of the record 120.8 million viewers that tuned in for Super Bowl XLIX’s 4th quarter, you witnessed the New England Patriots edge out the Seattle Seahawks in an epic and dramatic last-second interception, with the final score: 28-24. But that wasn’t the score most of us really cared about, was it?
Sure, the final few minutes gave us a killer of a show – Seahawk Jermaine Kearse’s unreal catch, Patriot Malcolm Butler’s last-minute interception, an all-out brawl. But many of the Big Game’s average 114.4 viewers were there for an entirely different showdown: the Super Bowl of Advertising, where advertisers go head to head on a $4.5 million dollar stage to win the hearts (and wallets) of consumers (and, of course, be crowned as the year’s creative best).
So, who were this year’s victors? The unofficial results are in and, once again, the top acclaimed ads are those that are highly emotional. As we see in all championships, it all comes down to who plays with the most heart and takes the right risks to win the game.
And, really, that should always be the game plan when it comes to advertising. The latest advances in psychology show that the alternative – a heavy-fisted persuasion ad (the industry fan favorite) – is wrong, and experts Les Binet and Peter Field have demonstrated in their analysis of IPA effectiveness data - not once, but twice - that rational advertising woefully underperforms compared to emotional advertising. Yet, the industry tends to stick with what they know – an engrained game plan, predefined ploys.
The Super Bowl, however, is the one occasion where advertisers get off the bench, so to speak, and do something creative. In this forum, they’re given the ‘permission’ to do famous, emotional and, therefore, effective advertising. Other such forums emerging include the UK Holiday Ad Wars and the World Cup.
But why do advertisers need permission to do their best? If emotional advertising is proven to lead to long-term business results, why wouldn’t it be the norm – not a special weapon? Would the Patriots or the Seahawks relegate their best player – let’s say the Patriots’ QB and Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady - to the sidelines for most of the season? Never.
At BrainJuicer, we’d like to see every day be a ‘Super Bowl’ of advertising – to see brands strive to achieve the best possible 5-Star emotional advertising, and to resonate strongly with their viewers and build a long-lasting relationship. Like anything else, there will inevitably be some fumbles, but with emotion at the centre of the advertising research model, that 5-Star catch will never be missed.
So, back to Super Bowl XLIX – in addition to the Patriots, which advertisers scored a major win (or two), and why? The winners were those that followed the 5 things we know about famous 5-Star emotional advertising:
- FAME – Budweiser’s “Lost Dog”, a direct sequel to last year’s “Puppy Love”, tugged at the heartstrings and went for fame. It had all the elements to move us – using well-known music to facilitate the emotional journey (the most common feature in 5-Star advertising) and forgoing voiceover (the Achilles heel of much of the advertising we tested for FeelMore50™ – the world’s top ads of 2014 - and this year’s Super Bowl spots). Successive emotional wins are critical for Budweiser, especially, as the brand faces pervasive behavioural change as younger consumers eschew mass-market beers for craft beer. 5-Star emotional advertising gives them their best chance of stemming the tide while they deal with this challenge.
- UNIVERSAL HUMAN TRUTH – Going straight for the UHT – quick, direct, designed for a powerful emotional response. This year, undeniably, went to the Dad, who went from a bumbling caricature to joining Mom on the saintly ‘proud supporter of my kids’ pedestal. Car giants Toyota (“To Be a Dad”) and Nissan (“With Dad”) revved up the Dadvertising theme big time, with Dove, the figurehead of the Moms campaign, driving it home with “Real Strength”.
- DISTINCTION – Trampling that urge to overtly demonstrate their point of difference, and instead, using subtle System 1 cues to forge distinction. Who noticed the McDonald’s golden arches, the Coke bottle, or even the sneaky shots of different car logos? And who ignored Bud’s other ad with rather mean-spirited claims to product superiority over micro beer companies?
- EXECUTION – Abandoning big strategic ideas for the right execution. Consider, for example, Doritos or Snickers with their tried-and-tested funny formula versus Newcastle Ale with their famous and funny one-time creative idea.
- SURPRISE – Urging its viewers to think again, most classically demonstrated with #LikeAGirl from Always. It’s necessary to note, however, that surprise must be to a positive end, unlike Nationwide, which surprised many of us with “Boy”, but sucked the air out of many a Super Bowl party!
While the unofficial Super Bowl ad rankings reveal a lot – especially highlighting the fame-generating themes above – the best indicator of long-term success is through emotional ad testing. Each year, BrainJuicer tests the most noteworthy Super Bowl ads, and ranks them according to their emotional effectiveness score on BrainJuicer’s FeelMore50 microsite. This year’s Super Bowl ad winners will be revealed on Feb. 11, accompanied by our Feb. 17 webinar: FeelMore50™ Super Bowl: Revealing the Big Game's Advertising Touchdowns and Fumbles.
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