(KMSP) - The NFL’s Super Bowl is often called the Super Bowl of advertising. As the league’s best teams square off for the Lombardi Trophy, the world’s biggest brands square off for relevance and sales glory in front of a global audience. It is the one place where the world’s most creative advertising minds compete for a high stakes game in creating brand value and boosting market share.
There will be many polls and surveys by the end of the game determining the favorite ads among viewers. Among them, USA Today’s Ad Meter, which gives viewers the opportunity to watch all of the released ads and vote. But at $5 million a spot to air, this is more than a popularity contest. It has to drive sales. That’s why the best of these ads come with a highly focused game day strategy aimed at a specific audience, with a specific message, asking them to take a specific action.
Of all of the pre-released ads, six of them stand out for their highly creative focused strategies.
Amazon: Alexa Loses Her Voice
Amazon’s ad called “Alexa Loses Her Voice” is one of this year’s best—and not just because it’s funny. The ad asks viewers to contemplate a whimsical “what if?” What if Amazon’s Alexa smart speaker actually lost her voice? The ad features a cameo from Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos who is assured that there are emergency back ups.
Part of the creative brilliance of this ad is the writers take the viewer on a journey of surprises—each one engaging deeper thought into the story, the product, and the conclusion that the substitutes voices are total disaster. The ad successfully puts Alexa into a human form with the help of Chef Ramsey and Rebel Wilson only to show that humans are not as smart at Alexa.
The metaphors are not just funny—they’re powerful. Amazon is strategically targeting not just its own Alexa users, but consumers who want to be smart speaker adopters. In a marketplace where Amazon is competing with Google and now Apple for smart speaker market share, its message is to avoid the imitators because there’s only one Alexa.
Kia: Feel Something Again
I’ll make the prediction now that Kia’s “Feel Something Again” ad will not be among the most popular in the post game surveys, but I’ll argue it’s among the most strategic.
In advertising terms this is called a product introduction ad. Kia believes that its new 2018 365 horsepower Stinger car is a legend in the making. And who better to establish its legendary status than a faceoff between racing legend Emerson Fittipaldi and rock legend Steven Tyler. The ad is strategically targeted toward baby boomer men wanting to feel young again. After all, no one under 50 will recognize Fittipaldi let alone know who he is—or was. And Tyler is no fountain of youth himself. But one of the creative giveaways in the message is when Tyler keeps walking past the pictures of his younger self.
Using a musical riff of Tyler’s “Dream On” this is an ad about nostalgia. It metaphorically makes the message argument about racing backwards to one’s long lost wild side. The desired response from viewers is to come test drive the Stinger for themselves. The strategic message is that if you, like Steven Tyler are longing for your own Fountain of Youth, it just so happens Kia has a new car to drive you there.
Michelob Ultra: I Like Beer
Of all of the beer ads, Michelob is the only one to come to the Super Bowl with a highly focused game plan and unique selling proposition. This ad is both nostalgic and contemporary. The ad for Michelob Ultra takes Tom T. Hall’s classic drink til you drop sing-along-song and collides it against Rocky. Unlike the fuzzy Super Bowl strategy for AB Inbev’s other brands, Budweiser and Bud Light, this one is highly focused. It targets middle-aged achievers and adventurers who count carbs along with their workout reps. The desired response is to switch brands—Ultra is the new “tastes great, less filling” beer. The message argument here is simple: the beer you like for the body you like.
Febreze: The Only Man Whose Bleep Don’t Stink
Meet Dave. His bleep don’t stink. This simple and creative assault against a favorite insult takes a new whiff on an age-old complication: bathroom odor. This is a classic problem-solution ad. The creative idea by ad agency Grey New York is to use humor. It works. Proctor and Gamble makes this a dual strategy ad. For consumers who don’t know Febreze now makes bathroom spray, this is a product introduction. For those consumers already using Febreze Air, this is a rate of use ad—encouraging them to stock up for the Super Bowl party.
Advertising researcher and retired University of Minnesota Professor John Eighmey likes to argue that the most effect advertising puts the product into human form. Amazon’s Alexa did it with Chef Ramsey and Rebel Wilson. And now M & M’s does it with Danny DeVito. By making the red M & M human, it makes a direct cognitive connection to the message argument that M & M’s are more than just candy—they’re fun! The ad is targeted not just at other candy lovers to switch brands, but also at lapsed M & M’s users who need to be reminded about the simple pleasure of portable, easy to eat candy. The targeted and strategic message to candy lovers is that M & M’s are your lucky penny, find a bag and live a little.
Coca-Cola: The Wonder of Us
I’ll admit it. I’m a sucker for Coca-Cola. But Coke has a problem. Its gloriously satisfying sugar-filled bottle is a product that long ago matured in a marketplace demanding reduced sugar beverages. Coca-Cola now has to retrain its customers to think of Coke not as a single product, but as a brand with many Coke products. That’s exactly the strategy behind this year’s Super Bowl ad.
It begins with a childhood game of spin the bottle, a metaphor for the unexpected joys in life that have long been the core or Coca-Cola’s brand image. It wastes no time in hitting the new strategic message, “There’s a Coke for all of us.” The ad implores us to understand that, “No feet have wandered where you’ve walked.” This is all about individualism. In a marketplace where consumers want customized experiences and products, Coke is reminding us that they have drinks as unique as we are. In telling us that there is a Coke “for we and us” it pays homage to the great Coca-Cola branding of the past that simply wanted to teach the world to sing. The great harmony and power of the Coke brand is that it’s always been about sharing. Coke is now reminding us that in addition to sharing a Coke, the new harmony is in sharing yourself.
Together these are six ads that take a creative, yet very business-like approach to the Super Bowl. They may not be among the most popular after the big game, but I’ll argue they are among the most strategic. There are plenty of ads that offer up Dilly, Dilly. But if they don’t achieve business goals, they’re just silly, silly.