Tag Archives: super bowl

super bowl™ ads, with student perspectives.

One great thing about teaching an advertising/media copywriting class is every spring brings the gift of discussing Super Bowl™ ads with a sought-after demographic focus group … the 23 students in #brc328. Before class, I asked them all to tweet what they thought were effective ads, and why, then we watched and talked about many commercials.

Five trends/topics worth noting:

1. NFL = Nostalgia For Life? Advertisers frequently want to use nostalgia to reach a specific demographic, but the NFL managed to score a bullseye on a whole host of generations. The students recognized how the ad included everything from current shows like The Office and Modern Family to ’90s favorites like Seinfeld and Friends to “oldies” like Happy Days and The Brady Bunch. Of course, the NFL has the unique advantage of television contracts with all the major players and thus can more easily negotiate the rights to use the shows, which would otherwise represent the biggest challenge.

2. Bridgestone: Difference Between Concept and Execution. Two popular spots with the students for Bridgestone, “Carma” (with the beaver) and “Reply All,” were both very entertaining. But they noticed a difference. With “Reply All,” viewers more paid attention to the frenetic actor destroying various electronic devices and barely noticed the product. But they preferred “Carma” — which gets my vote for best ad this year because it tied directly to the product, in terms of handling and braking ability (and, as one student pointed out, “six months later” showed it lasts). Playing off a timeless Aesop’s fable, employing a cute beaver with human tendencies and providing a feel-good ending, it’s hard to envision creating a better ad.

3. VW Uses The Force. The class favorite, overall, involved the kid in the Darth Vader mask trying to use the Force repeatedly with the payoff of the VW starting remotely. While students didn’t see that as any great product benefit — they’ve grown up in the era of the remote car-starter — the simple storytelling, cute concept and timeless tie-in with Star Wars all clicked. Nota bene: The Star Wars appeal spans generations.

4. Doritos: Finger-Lickin’ Good? While they found it funny and memorable, students had mixed feelings on the ad where the office worker licks the Doritos-crumbed finger of a co-worker. Some thought it successfully communcated the idea that Doritos are irresistibly good. Others found the idea of someone sucking someone else’s finger appropriately creepy. Or both.

5. Chrysler + Detroit + Eminem = Discussion. Much like the Twitterverse, the class split on the Chrysler “Detroit” ad featuring Eminem. They generally thought it had beautiful production values. Consensus found it showcased the Motor City fabulously — I like its underdog tone and one student said it resembled an engaging tourism spot. While many folks of, ahem, a certain age lamented in the blogosphere Em “selling out,” many students already consider him yesterday’s news (one even used the term “old”). As for the connection to the product, one student said “Lose Yourself” made him think of 8 Mile, which brought to mind trailer parks … a world away from a luxury car. For what it’s worth, on production and general branding merit for its three products, I really liked it.

I’m always impressed with students’ variety of opinions, which are well-articulated, thoughtful and multi-layered. What was unanimous? All thought the Groupon/Tibet ad was a really bad idea, but you don’t need to take an advertising course to recognize poor taste when you see it.



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content + connectivity: analyzing the brand of @tsand.

For perhaps the first time in a college classroom, my #brc328 class Wednesday evening involved a lesson in branding using the most beloved higher-ed social media figure, the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay’s Todd Sanders, aka @tsand. If you work in social media or would like to, you simply must follow @tsand on Twitter. He’s entertaining, authentic, engaging and sneaky brilliant.

I asked my class to tweet (with #brc328 hashtag) what they thought was a good brand, and why, the results running the gamut from Apple to Bose to Converse to (interestingly) author James Patterson. Then I introduced them to the brand of @tsand, via his successful video submission to participate in the Mercedes-Benz Tweet Race to the Super Bowl™.

I looked at @tsand in the context of the definition of a brand which, according to Luke Sullivan’s book Hey Whipple! Squeeze This!, is “the sum total of all the emotions, thoughts, images, history, possibilities and gossip that exist in the marketplace about a certain company.” As an innovative web communicator now involved in a high-profile social-media contest that could win his #MBTeamS a Mercedes-Benz and raise a lot of money for St. Jude’s Hospital, @tsand presents three traits I think successful brands share:

1. Established identity. Those who know @tsand would describe him with words like funny, creative, crazy, unpredictable and genius. His secret to success, as noted in the video, is to create great content that wins friends and influences people. That content, coupled with his larger-than-life personality, has established broad and supportive connections across the social-media community.

2. Positive association. In the video, he notes being followed back by selective accounts like the Today Show and Ellen DeGeneres, plus more than 100,000 hits to his Flickr account and 200,000 to his YouTube channel. He’s a nice guy to boot, never above responding to those who tweet him. But the biggest indication of his popularity? The loudest ovation at #heweb10 went to keynote speaker and Don’t Make Me Think author Steve Krug, but the second-loudest may have come when the absent @tsand made a surprise appearance in the video introducing Krug.

3. Ability to create action. Many of us aren’t big supporters of social-media contests, requested retweets or hashtag bombing. But we’re doing all that — apologies for all the #MBTeamS tweets that give he and co-driver @ijohnpederson “fuel” and points — for Todd, and for his ability to win this contest and support St. Jude’s. I can’t think of another person in the higher-ed Twitterverse who could rally so many people … and it’s all because of what I would term brand loyalty to @tsand.

Win or lose, the contest is proving quite the social-media promotional experience. And, unexpectedly, showing us how a person who creates great content and makes authentic connections can represent a powerful brand.


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super bowl™ ads, through the eyes of students.

The Super Bowl™ presents an excellent opportunity for people, like me, who teach advertising to tie it to key lessons. And, as often happens in classes, I learned almost as much from what students thought were effective ads.

For Broadcasting 328: Media Advertising, I’ve asked all my students to sign up for Twitter (the subject of a future blog post) and each session includes a less-than-140-character homework assignment. This one: Tweet about an ad you thought was effective and mark it with a #brc328 tag.

So while USA Today had its ever-popular AdMeter ratings, the Web was all a-twitter over various commercials and every pundit had their take, the students provided a different view (in a much-sought-after demographic, no less). I learned the three most important things to them were 1) humor, 2) great visuals, 3) a memorable idea. Most popular campaigns with them were:

1. Bud Light/Budweiser. Biggest buzz surrounded the Bud Light House. Clearly, it represents fantasy fulfillment, but it made people laugh, provided a concrete visual and was a clever execution. Moreover, the product was not only the hero, but dominated the screen. They also liked the Lost parody and the T-Pain/autotune spot — both using humor and playing on popular culture. What all ads had in common: They equated Bud Light with partying and fun. The Budweiser bridge spot also proved popular because of its visual impact. I continue to maintain that it’s unclear whether Budweiser gains market share for the outlay, but if college students are impressed and remember the product, that says something.

2. Doritos. One student explained the simple brilliance of the Playing Nice ad: When the child tells his mother’s suitor: Keep your hands off my momma. Keep your hands off my Doritos, it pretty clearly sets the priorities in his world. Hyperbole? Sure. But it makes its point succinctly. The snappy execution of Dog Collar and the (weird, imho) Tim’s Locker/Samurai spots also scored.

3. Denny’s. When’s the last time anyone even talked about Denny’s? Yet the screaming chicken ads, while potentially annoying, sure captured attention. One student shrewdly noted it highlighted special offers for Free Grand Slam Day and free Grand Slam on your birthday. Simple idea — everyone will want Denny’s breakfasts, so chickens have to work harder — that came across loud and clear.

Other thoughts:

Surprising revelation: Many pundits wrote off the Boost Mobile ad because they assumed using the 1985 Chicago Bears couldn’t sell to young adults. Big disconnect, right? Wrong. Every student in my class claims to know the Super Bowl™ Shuffle, perhaps because of how we recycle pop culture. Thus we know what happens when we assume …

Betty White scores: The Snickers ad earned the most positive buzz among people I follow on Twitter (and topped AdMeter ratings), plus the students loved it too. They may not have known who Abe Vigoda was, but they all knew Betty White from Golden Girls. And once you got past the shock of White being creamed in a backyard football game, you got the concept: Snickers picks you up.

Where’s the outrage?: The young women weren’t terribly offended by the Dodge Charger ad, even though it seemed the most excoriated spot on Twitter. Some saw the overstatement and shrugged it off; others didn’t find it any more offensive than the other messages that regularly bombard us.

My personal favorite?: The Google ad. Why Google would need to advertise (imho: to counter Bing) is a fair question, but in terms of simple storytelling and demonstrating the product’s effectiveness, I loved it. A tale of boy meets girl, with some cool music, the brand as hero and a bit of humor. It won’t affect my use of Google, but as standalone branding, I found it just about pitch-perfect.

So you have the opinions of a couple dozen college students and an older dude who works in communication. What did you think? And will you think of any of these observations next time you try to market to students?


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super bowl ads? the timmy goes to …

When I taught advertising in spring semesters, I would assign the class to watch at least part of the Super Bowl™ and come prepared with a commercial to discuss. Since I’m writing a book instead of teaching that class right now, I wasn’t quite as into it as previously. But then I wasn’t alone. NBC managed to find almost no takers at the $3 million per spot it wanted and struggled to fill the slots even at lower prices. And the resulting ads were more satisfactory than sizzling.

The closest thing to An Event, adwise, was a 3D break just after the first half. And while the promo for Aliens vs. Monsters was just decent, the 3D ad for Sobe was chaotic, unfocused and did nothing for the product. After that FAIL, I muttered: There’s several million dollars they’ll never get back.

The economy generally kept the lid on anything too crazy, the opposite of the year in the Go-Go ’90s that Web domains piled money on elaborate commercials that told us nothing about their soon-to-go-bust products. So I’m left to try to make some sense of the ads, which brings us to the first-ever Timmy Awards.

Best Impact Ad: The Pedigree adoption program. Very funny setup by showing us how bad a rhinoceros, ostrich or warthog would make as pets, then pulling at our heartstrings with the adoption angle. This is what advertising should be.
Best Advertising Two-Fer: Bridgestone Tires scored twice with first Mr. and Mr. Potatohead then the Moon Lander spot. Funny and remembered to sell a product. (Is this too much to ask?)
Most Stylish Ad: Audi’s Progress is Beautiful spot with action star Jason Statham grabbing a succession of vehicles, finally an Audi A6, for a series of getaways. Over the top and excessive, yet breathtaking and driving home a branding point.
Funniest Moment in a Creepy Ad: The new baby singing Mr. Mister’s “Broken Wings” in the eTrade spot. It will get old the second time, but at least it drew fleeting attention.
Most Compelling Movie Promo: The new Star Trek, though I have a bias knowing the excellent Simon Pegg is playing Scotty.
Career in the Toilet Movie Promo: Vin Diesel’s back for Fast and Furious 4? Maybe he had to do something until Babysitter 2 got the green light.
Best of NBC’s 3972 Self-Promos: The Office. No contest. Almost every other spot told us some really very extra special episode of some NBC show was airing soon, a technique that got old back in the 1980s.
Most Inside Joke Ad: The Pepsi commercial using SNL’s MacGruder likely hit home with fans of the MacGuyver spoof. Since most viewers had no idea what was going on, the poor execution left many people saying huh?
Too Much of a Good Thing Award: Budweiser showed us that one Clydesdale ad during a Super Bowl™ is usually memorable, but three are probably too much. Know when to say when!
Best Setup for Least Payoff: In presenting the story of a exceptionally confident man since birth who nonetheless fears buying vehicles, cars.com built up to a mediocre conclusion.
What are You Selling? Ignoble Award: So GoDaddy is sending viewers to its site for softcore porn now? That seems to be the takeaway, certainly not their product.

There may have been more ads worth noting, but to be honest, it was all quite unmemorable. Thoughts?


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tackling dummies.

On the eve of the Super Bowl™, the annual showcase where advertisers pay just under $3 million per 30-second spot, some group called Common Sense Media announced it somehow logged more than 5,000 ads during 50 NFL games this season and came to a shocking conclusion. I hope you’re sitting down for it.

Here goes: Ads during football games feature lots of sex, violence and alcohol. Should I get the smelling salts?

Are you shocked *SHOCKED*? Not so much? As an advertising professor, I know there are a lot of bad commercials — in strategy and execution, as well as content. But since football games are the most likely programs holding the attention of the young male viewers advertisers covet, why shouldn’t we expect ad agencies chase the lowest common denominator?

The study found erectile dysfunction ads appeared on 40 percent of games and that 46.5 percent of what the group deemed sexual or violent spots — although we don’t know their judging criteria — were network promos for their own shows (CSI: Jacksonville, Law & Order Titillating Crime Unit, etc.). Again, not surprising.

But wait, let’s check those statistics again. The CSM screams that at least one ad during half the commercial breaks contain the above content. OK, most stopsets are four ads, so that’s 1,250 breaks. Half the breaks are 625. Estimating high, let’s say 1.25 ads per break have this kind of content, and round it up to 800. That’s about 16 percent of all commercials which is … not headline-grabbing. And if 46.5 of those are network promos, that means about 8.6 percent [428] would be buyer content CSM finds offensive.

Let’s be serious though: Have you seen the TV programs themselves? Do you think more than 16 percent of prime-time network shows feature violence, sex or alcohol/drugs? Sure. More than 16 percent, I’d say. Just like the football games themselves feature violent collisions, scantily clad cheerleaders and huge beer banners and/or shots of fans consuming alcohol.

What really offends me is this quote from CSM founder and CEO James Steyer (a Stanford law professor), who says he’s talked to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, then adds: We’re starting with the NFL but trust me, we’ll ask our friends at the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission and in Congress to look at the other leagues if they don’t clean up their act.

Um … what? The use of my tax dollars to enforce someone’s standards of decency notwithstanding, Steyer misses the phallic-shaped boat on this one: Who sells advertising? Whose promos represented 46.5 of their naughty content? The TV networks. So why the CSM is pilloring sports leagues — who have less control over advertising content than the networks who sell commercial time — seems fishy.

Or maybe they just know how to find a lazy media horde looking for any football-related news peg. Waving a sports-seeming story about sex and violence in front of reporters on Super Bowl™ week is as sure to get a Pavlovian response as flashing images of half-naked women in front of an amped-up football fan.


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super bowling: models of risk-taking vs. yielding to self-interest.

It’s the last Sunday in the National Football League regular season, and eight of the 16 games have implications on who will make the playoffs and compete for the Super Bowl. By contrast, NCAA DI football will stage 34 post-season bowl games this year, only one of which means anything for the national championship.

Quick: Which system do you think is more popular? Which do you think was built on risk-taking and which is steeped in self-interest?

Just as it’s clear that many more people will watch Denver and San Diego compete for the final NFL playoff spot this evening than will switch over to see Northern Illinois play Louisiana Tech in tonight’s Independence Bowl, it’s easy to see the NFL is the king of all sports in America. But it took a lot of gambles to get there.

In the 1960s, the established NFL assented to play a championship game vs. the upstart American Football League. The title game became known as the Super Bowl, almost as a joke, and the first two years the NFL winner crushed its AFL foe. But before Super Bowl III in 1969, a brash QB named Joe Namath guaranteed his New York Jets, heavy underdogs in everyone’s mind, would beat the powerful Baltimore Colts. Namath and the Jets won 16-7 and, the stigma of inferiority gone, the NFL and AFL merged in 1970. In also embracing other risky ventures like Monday Night Football, the NFL has become a model league whose 2008 Super Bowl attracted more than 148 million viewers in the U.S. (making it the second most-watched program of all time).

If the race to the Super Bowl is the Eiffel Tower, the NCAA’s bowl season is a series of small erector sets. While every other NCAA sport has some kind of open championship (including Division IA, II and III football), DI football works with the Bowl Championship Series using computer formulas to select who plays in the national championship game. This is good news for this year’s title teams, Florida and Oklahoma (who have each lost once), but bad news for other teams who lost once (including Texas, Texas Tech, USC, Alabama and Penn State).

While fans, coaches and supporters of teams who miss out on the championship game complain, college presidents, bowl organizers and sponsors keep this unpopular non-playoff format in place, giving us things like the St. Petersburg Bowl (South Florida vs. Memphis), the Motor City Bowl (Florida Atlantic vs. Central Michigan) and Papajohns.com Bowl (North Carolina State vs. Rutgers). Sure, 34 teams get to win their last games, but 33 of them are just earning consolation prizes. Compare this to the DI basketball tournament — known as March Madness — where 65 teams chase the championship on the court.

To my point: How many of us have worked places where we were allowed to take risks in pursuit of excellence? How many of us have worked in places where self-interest stands in the way of greater success for customers and internal stakeholders? Where would you rather work?

For the new year, I urge workplaces everywhere to take more chances, when those chances can support better customer service, happier employees and improved solutions. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m gearing up for a big day of important NFL games.

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