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 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 willthatbe 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.
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?
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.
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.
Super Bowl LIII achieved its lowest ratings since 2008. The game attracted 98.2 million viewers, down from 103 million viewers in 2018 and 111 million in 2017. And the NFL cannot blame a decline in general viewership from the regular season: ratings were up for the 2018-19 NFL season overall. On a positive note, digital viewership of the Super Bowl increased to a record of 2.6 million.
So what happened? Analysts blamed the appearance of two teams that failed to stir strong interest and a defensive struggle that bored viewers (the game was tied 3-3 going into the fourth quarter).
The decline in ratings has caused some to wonder whether it’s worth it for advertisers to spend $5 million on a 30-second Super Bowl ad. Well, I think that’s the wrong question. The real question is how can businesses maximize the lifespan of a Super Bowl ad beyond the big game itself?
If you’ve followed the Super Bowl year after year, you’re probably aware that businesses preview their Super Bowl ads by dropping teaser videos online weeks before the game, thus creating buzz, just like movie trailers do before a movie release. For example, in January Pringles distributed three teaser videos extolling the virtues of stacking different Pringles flavors while watching TV. These videos were accompanied by a PR blitz that resulted in coverage in publications such as Adweek.
And then after the game, companies enjoy a lift from the post-game analysis of Super Bowl ads. Even ads that get panned by critics create attention for their brands. It’s not like viewers are going to read a post-game ad critique in Advertising Age and boycott a 30-seond spot because it got panned. The criticism might pique their interest. Beyond the post-game analysis come opportunities for brands to distribute ads across multiple venues and optimize them for search. And Burger King is using already its socials to maintain public interest in its well-received spot featuring Andy Warhol eating a Whopper.
In a blog post I published February 1, I share how advertisers use digital media to extend the life of Super Bowl spots after the big game. I discuss the importance of brands exercising creative parity, or ensuring consistent messaging across digital and offline channels. As noted above, viewership of the Super Bowl online increased. Does your digital content match what people see on linear TV? Check out my post for more insight. And contact True Interactive to ensure that your digital ads maximize their value.
For the past few years, I’ve discussed on this blog how Super Bowl advertising demonstrates the power of digital video to complement traditional TV advertising. I’ve asserted that you can obtain as much reach on video as you can through a standard TV ad – or, in some cases, smaller but more targeted reach. Now comes a sensible consideration: what you should do after you launch an ad. This post focuses on the importance of creative parity, or ensuring that your creative is consistent across all your touch points.
Remember This Ad?
What happens after you buy video or TV media is just as important as buying that space itself, sometimes more important. Advertisers capitalizing on a huge event – whether becoming a Super Bowl advertiser or Olympics partner, to cite another example — need to support their sponsorship with TV ads, video ads, display/remarketing banners, emails, social media pushes, and paid search support (to name a few). Take Super Bowl LIII for example: we know that a number of big-name brands will all have commercials airing when the Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots square off. After Sunday night what will they do? You can’t just fork over the $5 million (or more) for a single 30-second TV spot and call it a day. Instead, you must continue supporting your product. Doritos did a great job of this after the 2018 Super Bowl. You may remember it:
Morgan Freeman and Peter Dinklage rapping with an ice and fire theme (also a nice allusion to a certain TV show that Dinklage stars in) caught everyone’s attention and was one of the highlights of last year. That wasn’t the end of this spot. During the weeks after it initially aired, this spot was broken out into two distinct ads, one for Doritos and second for Mountain Dew (both companies are owned by PepsiCo), and both continued to run. You could find it during the middle of a Simpsons episode, during an NBA game, and on YouTube (and the YouTube Network) as 15-second in-stream ads or six-second bumper ads. Pepsi dished out the additional marketing dollars to continue the support of both products.
The Importance of Creative Parity
Of course, advertisers have plenty of tools at their disposal besides video — everything from straight display banner support to remarketing banners, from email to social media posts (organic and paid) and all the way down to branded paid search. You can push any and all those tactics after running an ad like Doritos and Mountain Dew did. Just make sure you practice creative parity, or consistent messaging and creative look/feel across all your advertising assets. 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 offline will be wasted when your audience sees a confusing and completely different message in the content you share on your website or social media.
Starting at the Top of the Funnel
The discussion of creative parity begins at the top of the sales funnel. In the example of the Super Bowl, the top of the funnel consists of the Super Bowl TV commercial. If we look at the next step down that funnel, we get to YouTube and video placement. It’s here that we want to continue the concept of parity by cutting our TV commercial into 30-second, 15-second, and six-second videos — and create additional demand via targeting (see my 2017 post about video ad targeting, reporting, and monetization). This approach keeps a product top of mind.
However, it’s here where we can start to tweak our messaging ever so slightly. We may cut the initial commercial to include a high-level deal or promotion that occurs, for example “Free Shipping on Orders $40+.” Now you may want to complement video with display banners. Similar to YouTube, we cast a wide net and try to reach a large audience, but, at the same time, still try to narrow it down from the whole of the internet to, say, 18-34-year-olds interested in food and dining or grocery stores. Again, we use our TV commercial as the basis for our display banners so that our imagery is in parity with our top-down strategy. But we might start to add a little more generic promotion or offer, like the Fridays banner from Reddit below:
Fridays calls out a generic 2/2/2 offer for $20 and includes different variations of food and drink so that it appeals to all users.
The next big step in the top-down funnel is retargeting. Retargeting is where we begin to see direct sales, leads, phone calls, and overall conversions happen. Cookies and data have gotten a bad rap recently, from myself included. The criticism is justifiable in several cases, but from an advertiser’s top-down perspective retargeting is a fantastic tool. If we follow our line of thought on parity, we can target those users who have watched the different cuts of our TV commercial and serve them specific banners.
In our case, we want to create a banner based on the TV commercial but begin to layer specific promotions within the banner itself. If we hit a user who has watched a video and a specific brand page on an advertiser’s site or a specific product page on an advertiser’s site, we are able to start layering in specific offers and promos based on those brands/products. Put another way, we need to start dragging those users who have watched our video ads or have visited our site from display banners further down the funnel. In our branding support (video and display) we haven’t really touched on promos or offers but rather attention to the brand — so once we get to our retargeting banners, we can begin to add any promo to our TV commercial-based banner. No matter what promo is used, however, we need to always keep in mind creative parity. Our banners need to match the style, direction, and language of the creative assets that came before it (video and display). But at the at the same time, we may tweak the content slightly to entice users to convert.
Many of these same tactics can be repurposed to social support. Whether it is Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, or Twitter, these same concepts can and should be applied. The only difference is that you may place your single image banner, video creative, or carousel banner in messenger, stories, news feed, or right hand rail. The social strategy should be looked at in a similar way as display. The importance of parity remains paramount.
After video, display, and social, we begin to get to the bottom of the funnel. It’s here where promotions and call-to-actions really begin to be applied. 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. Search A may not necessarily serve the same promo as Search B, but that’s the beauty of paid search. It’s also here that email can be used effectively. Every advertiser has an email list, but how they are broken out may be different (users who haven’t bought in three+ years, users who buy weekly, users who buy product X, etc.). We can take advantage of how an advertisers email list is broken out and target users with specific emails applying creative parity from the TV commercial. Jumping back to our Doritos/Mountain Dew commercial:
Our email should include Peter Dinklage and Morgan Freeman.
Our language should make sure to reference fire and ice so that the motif continues.
But instead of being a generic message we can start to include specific promos for email list A and another offer or promo for email list B.
Parity is the state or condition of being equal. It’s an important part of advertising that isn’t practiced as well as it should. Why? Because the ability to collect and analyze data quickly often compels businesses to change creative on the fly. If an ad creative isn’t working, it can be changed quickly. Those changes can achieve temporary results but hurt creative parity in the long run, leading to your brand becoming disconnected throughout the customer journey.
Look at the Big Picture
I typically end these blog posts with a quote from some bigwig businessperson. But this time, I’m taking a line from an intellectual (specifically an astrophysicist and cosmologist). Martin Rees said, “Most practising scientists focus on ‘bite-sized’ problems that are timely and tractable. The occupational risk is then to lose sight of the big picture.” Sometimes, marketers need to stop and look at the big picture to see if it matches.
It looks like the 90th annual Academy Awards will go down as the least watched in history. Preliminary numbers show that overall viewership will dip below 30 million for the first time ever. Until now, the least watched Oscars telecast occurred in 2008, when the Academy Awards garnered 32 million viewers.
My take: the ratings decline is simply a sign of change in the way people experience televised events. In fact, the Academy is already doing what any smart brand should do: adapt.
As we’ve noted on our blog, television continues to present its share of limitations for advertisers. Viewership for major events, such as the Olympics, Super Bowl, and Academy Awards, continues to drop as people shift their viewing habits from sitting in front of their TV sets to multi-tasking with social media and catching snippets of content on their mobile phones. Interestingly, Josef Adalain of Vulture points out that the Academy Awards will continue to be profitable for ABC because it’s still one of the few opportunities for advertisers to share their message with a mass audience.
But the Academy is not simply feeding off a smaller audience. The Academy Awards meet viewers where they are with a number of digital experiences. For example:
Oscars: All Access makes it possible for fans to get a look at what happens backstage via well placed cameras that catch interesting little moments such as how stars react right after they walk backstage after receiving their Oscars. The All Access feature appeals to people on their phones and laptops who are looking for a fun second-screen experience, especially for cable cord cutters who are shut off from the actual show.
With social media, the Academy engages fans through Facebook Live broadcasts, contests, and shout-outs to fans who are tracking the show online. On platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, the Academy cranks out a mix of visual content to tell the story of what happens onstage and in the audience. The Academy has turned the Oscars into a year-round brand by using social to keep fans engaged with content. You can even watch Oscar-nominated shorts on the Academy’s YouTube channel.
Advertisers are also adapting. We’ve already seen many instances of businesses creating real-time social media content to capitalize on memorable Oscar moments, while other brands, such as AT&T, have used advertising dollars to sponsor the Academy’s digital content, such as Oscars: All Access.
The Academy Awards offer a lesson to businesses that emerged in the age of linear TV. In the age of digital, you can still have your audience. You just need to meet them where they are. To maximizing the value of our digital spend, contact us. We’re here to help.
The days leading up to Super Bowl Sunday were a nightmare for Newell Brands, maker of the iconic Crock-Pot, thanks to an unexpected crisis triggered by a TV drama that involved a make-believe death caused by a Crock-Pot. Following is a closer look at how a fictional event caused a real-life problem for a $13 billion business – and how quick thinking contained the problem.
The show, This is Us, an emotional drama that follows the generational story of the Pearson family, took television by storm in the fall of 2016. The series averages about 15 million viewers a week in the coveted 18-49 year old demographic. Spoiler alert: in one of the episodes, the family’s beloved father, Jack, suffers a heart attack as a result of a massive smoke inhalation caused by a house fire. On January 23, during the episode “That’ll Be the Day,” viewers learned what caused the fire in the first place: a Crock-Pot.
Viewers watched as an elderly neighbor delivered a used Crock-Pot to the young, newly married Pearson couple. The neighbor said that the Crock-Pot’s power switch was a little temperamental but assured them that they would still be able to enjoy some good family meals. Flash forward to years later as the couple, now with teen-aged children, celebrate the Super Bowl. The show ends with Jack turning off the Crock-Pot switch before going to bed. A spark flashes from the faulty switch, igniting a fire, and the house quickly becomes engulfed in flames.
As I watched that episode with my husband, the marketing gears in my head immediately started turning. I thought about the backlash that Crock-Pot would be facing as it was revealed the product was responsible for the beloved character’s death. I told my husband that I hoped Crock-Pot’s PR team would immediately start working on a plan to offset any damage incurred by the revelation. I suggested they flood social media with a response ASAP so as to minimize the negative impact. It was then I realized that we could very personally be affected by this unforeseen series of events: my husband is employed by the company that owns Crock-Pot, Newell Brands.
By the next day, Crock-Pot was headlining news stories:
And while it may seem silly to think the death of a fictional TV character could cause such a hardship for a long-established household brand, the facts were hard to dispute. People were tweeting about throwing away their Crock-Pots. The safety of the product was called into question. The value of Newell Brands stock fell by 24 percent, and the loss was immediately linked by many to the Crock-Pot fire disaster. In reality, the stock plunge occurred after Newell Brands announced disappointing guidance for 2018. But nonetheless the brand was under attack after a perceived safety hazard.
Newell Brands Takes Action
The Crock-Pot communication/social team immediately jumped into action. For instance, the brand worked to restore trust in its product by releasing a statement. Here is an excerpt:
For nearly 50 years with over 100 million Crock-Pots sold, we have never received any consumer complaints similar to the fictional events portrayed in last night’s episode. In fact, the safety and design of our product renders this type of event nearly impossible.
This is Us creator, Dan Fogelman, also followed up with a tweet defending the company’s product:
Crock-Pot quickly created its first ever Twitter Account “CrockPotCares,” engaging with concerned consumers as the social media storm continued to ignite. While all of these responses were appropriate and wise measures to take, Crock-Pot knocked it out of the park when the brand teamed up with NBC and Milo Ventimiglia (who portrays Jack in the TV show) to create a hilarious new promo ad for the show’s much anticipated Super Bowl episode February 4.
In what appears to be a political ad, Milo starts off in a somber tone speaking about how the country is divided and how we need to come together. As he continues to talk about forgiveness, the camera pans to him scooping up a bowl of chili from, you guessed it . . . a Crock-Pot! The brilliant ad ends with a black screen with the Crock-Pot logo and the hashtag #CrockPotIsInnocent.
On February 3, after the promo ad was shown, digital content engagement around Crock-Pot increased by 84 percent, and there were nearly 2,000 tweets using the hashtag #CrockPotIsInnocent, with sentiment around that hashtag being 57 percent positive — the most common sentiment being that it was hilarious and a brilliant promotion for Crock-Pot.
Lessons learned? If a well-established brand such as Crock-Pot can incur such negative consequences from a fictional TV storyline, it should be a warning to every company about the importance of having a solid strategy in place to combat such challenges. Reach customers quickly through social channels and look for a unique way to re-establish your brand’s positive image. Time is of the essence — so act fast! In a matter of a few days, Crock-Pot succeeded in turning a PR nightmare into a successful restoration of trust in its brand.
The past 24 hours have been full of stories rating the Super Bowl ads. The fact that the ads are even rated at all is a testament to their power. We now treat them like movies, talking about them before the big reveal, watching trailers, and then experiencing the moment, after which we discuss how we feel about them (actually, the discuss occurs in real time now, followed by more detailed analysis). In addition to judging the ads, though, it’s also interesting to watch for trends in their format or differences in how they were unveiled in years past. Here are a few we noticed:
1. The Surprise Drop
Usually ads for movies promote releases that are months on the horizon. This year, Netflix dropped a surprise: a film, The Cloverfield Paradox, that premiered immediately after the Super Bowl. The surprise release followed an approach that musicians such as Beyoncé have employed with surprise album drops. In the words of reporter William Bibbian of IGN.com, “All of a sudden, a film most people hadn’t even heard of was now a very big deal.” But the buzz turned to disappointment after critics actually saw the movie and reviewed it. Perhaps that’s what Netflix had in mind all along: drop the movie during the Super Bowl Sunday and attract viewership before word-of-mouth reactions set in.
2. Fewer Stunts
In years past, brands have used the Super Bowl to unleash amusing stunts such as fake ads. This year, advertisers unleashed fewer stunts with the notable exception of Skittles. As we discussed on our blog, Skittles release an advertisement watched by just one person, employing a tongue-in-cheek tone that made us wonder if the ad and person were real. Well, they were. Skittles did what brands struggle to do amid the Super Bowl ad blizzard: capture attention and create conversation. Otherwise, brands focused on the content of the ads themselves.
3. Longer-Form Narrative
As noted in Business Insider, Super Bowl ads were lengthier, taking a storytelling approach that required viewers to follow storylines, such as Aerosmith’s Stevie Tyler reverse aging as he drove a Kia in reverse. Tide released a series of ads starring Stranger Things actor David Harbour, who appeared in ads mocking the concept of an ad. Apparently Super Bowl advertisers wanted to create more memorable moments during the game itself by telling stories, which might help explain why fewer brands released their ads before the game this year.
4. Measurable Performance
Automobile marketplace Cars.com announced that automotive ads generally drove viewers to Cars.com to check out the cars advertised during the game. According to Cars, the Kia Red Stinger ad resulted in a 4,053-percent spike in traffic to view the car on Cars.com. Cars.com research showed that Super Bowl ads (in the automotive industry, anyway) creature measurable results. Perhaps in the future, brands will dial up their ability to measure and even adjust advertising on the fly based on audience feedback in real-time. With digital, anything is possible.
Super Bowl ads, like Black Friday, adapt to changing times and endure the most withering criticism. The Super Bowl will always be an advertising bonanza. Businesses, though, will tweak their approaches year after year as they try to capture a reward so elusive in the digital age: our attention. For more insight into how to build your brand, contact True Interactive.