The Superbowl is over, and the Packers won a great game. I couldn’t have asked for much more, except a Steelers win, but that wasn’t coming to a team that managed to cough the ball up three times. For many people, however, the game was just the setting – the event that got them huddled around the teevee with friends with a little bit of everything for everyone. That obviously includes the ads – aired at a cost of $3 million for every 30 seconds.
But do these ads – big single events on what is increasingly called “old media” – really sell anything?
I’ve talked about how ineffective many teevee ads are in the past. There remains little evidence that a big splash at the Superbowl alone is enough to sell a product. However, this year we saw a subtle but important re-alignment in the nature of man of the ads. They weren’t the big hits that seemed to be the entire pitch of a company, as they often were back when pets.com gave us the sockpuppet dog. There was a lot of image making that set the stage for the pushes that would come later.
You can watch and rate your faves at this site, also stunningly low-key. Something tells me this is how things are going to go as the Depression sinks in as a reality.
We didn’t see the only media event for these companies, we saw how they would unfold their story through multi-media. It was good – if a bit low-key.
The best example of what I’m talking about is the Chrysler 200 “Made in Detroit” spot with Eminem. It was two whole minutes long and only had the actual car in about a third of the whole shot. What they were selling wasn’t a car and it wasn’t even the company that is struggling to come back – they were selling the city that they say gives them the strength it takes to be the best. It was a “Hail Mary” worthy of the Detroit Lions at the end of … well, just about every game they play, really.
I admit, it brought tears to my eyes. Go, Detroit! But I’m not sure what, if anything, this means to Chrysler.
This kind of deep image is far from new to Superbowl ads. The Budweiser Clydesdales have been pushing an image that has nothing to do with beer for years. Coke raised the ante on their old “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” image with a series where sharing a Coke gets border guards and entire Orcan armies past their differences and into at least a peaceful respect.
Sell the product? Maybe. What they are really selling is brand loyalty and a feeling that the consumer is aligned with a product or company that gives them a reason to feel good about their choices. It’s consumerism as activism, made into a pitch.
What I was looking for in all of these ads was evidence that “new media” was somehow affecting the old. I think what we were seeing is a deep understanding of the limits of teevee for pushing products and a commitment to an integrated campaign that reaches across every interaction with customers. That’s a good thing. The most direct attempts by Bud and a few others to simply drive traffic to their new media campaigns seemed a bit clunky and almost old-fashioned to me.
The one place that the online world solidly influences ads came in the annual amateur Doritos spots, such as the pug that is teased into a flattening frenzy. Ad pros hate these spots because they don’t see how it sells the product, but many people think they are LOL funny in a YouTube way. Will this ever be a trend? No one other than Doritos has taken this path yet, so it doesn’t appear so. But they seem to be happy with their results.
Generally, there was a solid maturing of these ads away from the huge splashes that used to dominate and into the quiet foundation of a larger campaign that can cross all media. That’s got to be good for the products – even if it’s not as entertaining. But then again, I watch the big show for the football. Congrats again to the Pack and their fans, it was a great game. That’s what really matters in the end, right?