Why Super Bowl 2020 Ads Humanized Voice Assistants

Why Super Bowl 2020 Ads Humanized Voice Assistants

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Last month on this blog I predicted that in 2020 we’d see companies such as Amazon and Google inject more personality in the way people interact with voice assistants. During the Super Bowl LIV advertising derby, I definitely saw some personality shining through with ads for Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Google Assistant. As businesses embrace voice-first approaches in their advertising and organic content, they can learn lessons from Amazon and Google. People crave a human touch with voice technology.

Amazon: “Before Alexa” 

Amazon relied on humor to make Alexa seem funnier and cuddlier, a tactic that Amazon has been using in recent Super Bowl ads. During Amazon’s Super Bowl 2020 ad, Ellen DeGeneres asked, ““What do you think people did before Alexa?” which triggered a bunch of vignettes of people throughout history asking other people to answer everyday questions, resulting in hilarious outcomes. We saw the Queen of England demand that a hapless jester named Alexi tell her a joke. A man in Dickinsonian England asked a newsboy named Alex, “What’s today’s news?” to which the kid replied, “Doesn’t matter. It’s all fake.” The ad circled back with Ellen DeGeneres asking Alexa to play her favorite song.

With this ad, Amazon wanted to remind us that talking with a machine is as natural as, well, two washerwomen in Medieval days passing the time. We’re just having a conversation, as natural as can be.

Google: “Loretta”

 

Google won over the internet with a touching ad in which an elderly widower asked Google Assistant to call up photos and memories of his late wife, Loretta. Through the man’s gentle instructions, we learned of his life with Loretta, including the favorite movie they shared (Casablanca) and a memorable trip they took to Alaska. At the end of the ad, the man said, “I’m the luckiest man in the world.”

This ad was emotionally powerful without being sentimental, and it turns out that it was based on the experiences of the grandfather of a Google employee; and the grandfather actually narrated the ad. I don’t know about you, but I think it’s going to be hard to find an ad in 2020 that tops this one for making voice assistants approachable and human. Here, Google Assistant acted as a friendly utility, helping a man remember a loved one.

Voice Assistants Get Personality

As I wrote last month, although voice assistants are growing in popularity, we’re not quite at a place where people are willingly using voice to manage the really important tasks such as making purchases and getting directions to the hospital. We need to trust voice assistants completely in order for voice to make that kind of breakthrough. Journalist Judith Shulevitz wrote in a recent Atlantic article, “Is Alexa Dangerous?”:

Within our lifetimes, these devices will likely become much more adroit conversationalists. By the time they do, they will have fully insinuated themselves into our lives. With their perfect cloud-based memories, they will be omniscient; with their occupation of our most intimate spaces, they’ll be omnipresent. And with their eerie ability to elicit confessions, they could acquire a remarkable power over our emotional lives. What will that be like?

But during Super Bowl LIV, Amazon and Google showed us that we have nothing to fear from voice assistants. They are as natural and human as we are.

The takeaway for businesses: as voice-based advertising and customer experiences take hold, showing personality and humanity in your content (paid and organic) will resonate.

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What Comes After the Super Bowl LIV Ads?

What Comes After the Super Bowl LIV Ads?

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Are you ready for some Super Bowl ads? At this point, Super Bowl advertising has become something like Black Friday: not a single day of activity like it used to be, but a phenomenon that stretches over a period of days. As of this writing, we’re seeing a number of high-profile brands rely on digital to extend the Super Bowl ad experience days and weeks prior to the big game. For example:

  • Porsche has returned to the Super Bowl ad derby for the first time since 1997 with a spot that introduces its new Taycan electric car. Through a 2-minute+ movie, “The Heist,” Porsche depicts the Taycan in an exciting chase shot in Germany, with Porsches flying through Heidelberg and the Black Forest in scenes worthy of James Bond.

  • Budweiser goes for a purpose-driven approach, with an emotional vignette of Americans performing acts of kindness. The spot, “Typical American,” urges, “America, look beyond the labels. You might be surprised by what you find.” Here we see another brand going for a powerful narrative, but without overtly promoting the product in this case.

  • Little Caesars uses storytelling to show that you can do a direct-response Super Bowl ad. Little Caesars’s First-Ever Super Bowl ad promotes delivery with savings of $5 or more versus the competition. But this being the Super Bowl, Little Caesars goes high profile by featuring actor Rainn Wilson in a spot available now.

 

You can see many more Super Bowl ads exploding across the digital world here.

Now here’s the most important question: what comes next after these brands actually run their Super Bowl ads?

Creative Parity

Super Bowl advertisers face the challenge of achieving creative parity, or ensuring that your branding is consistent across all the touch points where consumers encounter an ad.

As I wrote in a Super Bowl related blog post in 2019, what happens after you buy digital or offline media is just as important as buying that space itself — sometimes more important. A 30-second TV ad for Super Bowl LIV costs $5.6 million. That’s why businesses want to maximize the value of Super Bowl ads by sharing them, often through inventive storytelling, well beyond the big game. So, advertisers complement TV ads with video ads, display/remarketing banners, emails, social media pushes, and paid search support (to name a few).

Creative parity is harder to achieve as a brand distributes creative assets online and offline. But it’s essential to embrace creative parity or else all the hard work you put into a Super Bowl ad will be wasted when your audience sees a confusing and completely different message in the content you share on your website or social media.

Creative parity is also about customizing advertising assets across the entire purchase funnel, from top, to middle, to low. For instance, at the top of the funnel, a brand might launch a high-concept Super Bowl ad that raises awareness for a campaign or new product. At the middle of the funnel, a business may share, via retargeting, shorter bursts of content with clear calls to action in order to encourage consumers to take an action such as clicking on a banner ad. At the bottom of the funnel, promotions and call-to-actions really begin to be applied in earnest. In some cases the banners themselves disappear, as in branded paid search, but we are able to use similar language mixed in with specific promos based on the search term a user enters.

You can read a lot more about creative parity in my post, “Why You Should Strive for Creative Parity with Advertising.”

What’s Next for Super Bowl Advertisers?

So, how will Super Bowl LIV advertisers achieve creative parity? Right now, the Super Bowl derby is at the awareness stage, largely through earned, paid, and social media. (Let’s face it: journalists are always looking for content to discuss leading up to the big game. These ads meet that need nicely.) The notable exceptions are Little Caesars, which is using digital to not only raise awareness but also consideration and purchase as it seeks to take a bite out of pizza delivery sales on a huge day for pizza delivery; and Budweiser, which also banks on awareness pre-game to increase sales of its product as people shop for snacks and beverages to enjoy during the game.

In addition, the consumer packaged goods and alcohol brands generally have the strongest opportunities to lead consumers down the purchase funnel after the game, which is why so many flock to the big game with ads. Beverage SodaStream will debut its first Super Bowl ad under its PepsiCo ownership, also creating a hopeful cause-effect. Meanwhile, Planters faces an unexpected disruption of its own Super Bowl plans. The company unveiled a wildly popular “Death of Mr. Peanut” ad days ago, a humorous depiction of the iconic mascot sacrificing his life to save the lives of actors Wesley Snipes and Matt Walsh. Planters had choreographed a narrative about Mr. Peanut that would include a funeral held during the big game itself. But the tragic death of basketball legend Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and seven others in a January 26 helicopter crash compelled Planters to put the ad on pause. Whether Planters decides to re-instate the campaign remains to be seen.

I’ll be watching the days and weeks following Super Bowl LIV to see how well some of these notable brands achieve creative parity.

Contact True Interactive

To achieve creative parity with your online advertising, contact True Interactive. We’re an independent agency that optimizes branded interactions to drive traffic and increase sales.