Posts Tagged ‘advertising’

The Day We All Watch for the Commercials

February 10, 2016

For several decades, people have watched Super Bowl commercials almost as eagerly as they have watched the game itself. With the money now involved, $5 million for a 30-second spot, brands are even more committed to raise their creative efforts and capture the attention of both consumers and all the journalists covering this phenomenon.

It’s certainly a lot easier in the age of the Internet to spend time watching and dissecting the 60 or so ads that aired during the game. If you want to take a look at one ‘score’ of the ads to compare against your own impressions, check out the USA Today Ad Meter results that rank viewer submissions on each and every ad.

In the meantime, here are a few thoughts on how the 2016 crop of commercials reflects lessons on how to utilize advertising to create a real brand impact.

To Really Resonate, Combine Emotion and Function

Advertisers have become more and more focused on hitting emotional triggers with their campaigns, and rightly so. There is a danger, however, in creating an emotional message without connecting that impact to the brand.

It’s discouraging when people say, “Oh that ad was great, but, uh, I can’t remember what it was for.” Not surprisingly, ads that scored well in the Ad Meter – which lacks scientific rigor, of course – did a great job utilizing an emotional appeal, usually humor, along with a tie-in to some functional element of the brand.

In pre-watching the ads, the trio of Hyundai ads struck me as hitting this sweet spot perfectly. All three ended up in the top six on the Ad Meter. Granted, some of the stars in the ads prodded their social followers to go to USA Today and vote, but such a push is reflective of the pride these celebrities had in the quality of the ad.

Celebrities Need Quality

Speaking of celebrities, it’s no surprise that lots of them popped up in Super Bowl 50 ads – a famous face reflexively drives mental attention to the screen. But, using such talent can easily be wasted if the messaging and quality of the ad isn’t stellar as well.

Most of the ads did well in delivering on this mix, but one of the worst rated ads was Squarespace’s effort with Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key. While these gents are often hilarious, the characters in the ad weren’t that humorous, likeable, or understandable, so the effort fell flat. In the case of LG’s “The Man From the Future,” the content was just too vague to make much of an impact, and the product, a 4K TV, isn’t ready for prime time as almost no 4K content exists.

Another fascinating celebrity choice was Budweiser’s use of Helen Mirren. There is not a natural brand fit between the two, but for a public service announcement this disconnect was a smart move, helping strengthen attention to its “don’t drink and drive” message. Measuring the true impact of such an effort is difficult, but people seem to have paid attention as a Google Trends search indicates a 500% increase over any peak search for the word pillock over the past decade. (H/t to Frank and Ridley for driving me to research this.)

Beyond Machismo Targeting

In general, Super Bowl commercials are more expansive in their targeting than those running during regular season games. But two ads in particular broke the mold more than others this year.

Hyundai’s “Ryanville” ad was one of the most interesting ads of the batch (to me, anyway) because it specifically targeted women. Even with that target, however, the humor and sense of desire in the ad still maintained a broad appeal, with a relatively similar supportive rating from both men and women in the Ad Meter.

Despite estimates over the past couple of decades that roughly 40-45% of NFL fans are women, it wasn’t until a few years ago that the NFL, and its sponsors and supporters, recognized that they need to expand their messaging beyond just a male target.  Still, ads during NFL games have tended to just downplay gender differences, rather than recognizing that an ad can be more appealing to one gender without simultaneously being annoying to the other.

Going even wider in its demographic appeal, Mini Cooper pushed people to defy all labels. Such messages inevitably bring up these labels while also critiquing the use of them, making Mini the brand that would provide a nod to gay culture by featuring Abby Wambach stating, “This is a gay car.”

On a side note, I found it even more interesting that the celebrities in this ad – from Serena Williams to T-Pain to Tony Hawk – are all actual Mini owners who have behind the scenes videos where they talk about their relationship with the brand.

Hits and Misses

Some final fun notes:

  • The Heinz Weiner Stampede is currently second in the Ad Meter, but I thought this ad was horrible. Something about image of a “hotdog” liking a face did not sit well with me. What do I know?
  • Will pharmaceutical companies ever find a way to make appealing ads?
  • I think the Pokemon ad was almost a little ahead of its time. It didn’t score well, and was confusing unless you know about Pokemon, but I loved how it tried to tie traditional sports intensity into the massively growing competitive e-sports category.
  • There is always an ad that isn’t well liked, but gets so much attention it has to be called it a success. That title clearly goes to Puppymonkeybaby.
  • Don’t try to get across too much or be too obtuse in an ad. Paypal, Quicken Loans, and SoFi,all had confusing messages and lost any appeal.

On a final note, I had fun discovering The Late Late Show’s “update” of Cindy Crawford’s famous 1992 Pepsi commercial that helped stoke the fire behind the desire to write articles like this one.


Executing a Global Strategy, Locally: Lessons from The World’s Local Bank

November 23, 2010

HSBC French ad campaignIf you are an international traveler, you’ve probably noticed HSBC’s advertising in jet bridges, baggage claim areas, and pretty much everywhere else in over 45 airports around the world. What makes this global campaign truly distinctive is the brilliant implementation of a “glocalized” strategy–keeping a consistent execution across multiple countries, while maintaining a local flavor in its message at each airport.

Images of Macchu Picchu in Peru, soccer in Spain, renaissance sculptures in Italy, beauty queens in Venezuela,  French delicacies in Paris, chili peppers in Mexico, and Mehndi art in India welcome travelers from around the world, with an colorful take on local culture and values.

HSBC’s campaign exemplifies how marketing in the financial services sector has come a long way: from assuming that banks are beyond branding to a phase where banks are using branding strategically (think Bank of America, TD Bank, Chase, and most recently the Bank of New Zealand). The economic climate in recent years has taught financial institutions that strong brand equity is becoming more important than ever before.

Although the company is headquartered in the UK, it has a strong Asian heritage, and in the past several years it has taken up a strategy of global retail and wealth management. Branding plays an important role here: HSBC continues to unify how it presents its brand across markets, while maintaining a message of local specialization and specific cultural understanding. This is likely to continue as part of the bank’s strategy to reinforce its business in emerging markets.

In the words of Maitri Kumar, Head of Marketing, HSBC India:

HSBC showed immense strength when other brands in the banking arena, across the globe, faced a real hard time to keep up their image during the global meltdown in 2008. And we believe our slogan, ‘The world’s local bank,’ played a very critical role in the same. HSBC’s global expertise coupled with local relevance finds expression in that tagline.

The driving focus of HSBC’s communications is backed by the strong consumer insight that a large, global bank is intimidating for most consumers, who associate the footprint and size of the bank with a negative experience and condescending treatment.

The bank’s conceptual response to this insight is a classic example of “glocalizing” — a concept that even many consumer goods companies struggle to grasp. Through its “The World’s Local Bank” advertising campaign, HSBC  strives to set itself apart as a bank that, while having many global connections, is still flexible enough to care for the needs of local customers in the ways they prefer.

HSBC’s executes its strategy not only through marketing and advertising, but also by offering a customer experience that lives up to the brand expectation. An example of the brand in action is a recently launched product, HSBC Premier, that allows customers to open accounts in 37 countries and get assistance regardless of location.

Global brands that find value in appealing to local customers can learn a lesson from this glocalized execution. HSBC starts with a strong brand positioning that cascades into local markets through tweaks in communication. It then backs up the promise of the “World’s Local Bank” with products and features that leverage its international footprint matched with a familiar and approachable customer experience. Sounds like a winning formula.


Photo by Ewan McIntosh

The More Ads Change, The More They Stay the Same

February 8, 2010

In the first few years of the internet revolution, I kept waiting for Super Bowl ads to adapt to the new world of networked customers, using their high visibility moment to lure TV viewers into a more interactive experience via their PCs or mobile phones.

Instead, the art form known as the Super Bowl ad keeps sticking stubbornly to the identical forms that served it in its first four decades: beer parties, talking animals, and uplifting stories of soda-inspired happiness.

Watching the annual parade of gazillion dollar ads on Hulu last night, I found myself paraphrasing Wooderson in Dazed and Confused, “Every Super Bowl, I get a year older… but these ads keep staying the same age.”

If there was a recurring theme to this year’s ads, I would link it to the Economic Mood Which Must Not Be Named. Just as television programs last year reflected the Great Recession obliquely (with grimmer themes, but not unemployed characters), the subtext of this year’s Super Bowl ads seemed to be: “Your life (job, girlfriend, family) really sucks, but our brand will make one small corner of it a little more tolerable.” How uninspiring.

The ad I actually enjoyed the most was for Google, an ironic twist, as the search ad behemoth turned to mass market broadcast advertising and brand building – the exact opposite of the model it offers its own advertising clients (hyper-targeted, permission-based, and transactional).

In Google’s “Parisian Love,” the brand is front and center (unlike the car ads, where you can easily miss it). The ad shows Google’s product features, ties them to emotional benefits for the customer, and wraps it all up in a love story. This is all conveyed via nothing but screenshots, as the ad shows how search has transformed our lives in a way that nacho chips, SUVs, and light beer never will.

So maybe doing a Super Bowl ad the old fashioned way doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

See the Google Ad on YouTube:

Watch all the ads on Hulu’s AdZone


This post originally posted by David on the blog at:

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