How to judge if brands are #winning the Super Bowl

Calling all pizza lovers, beer drinkers, ad gurus, and football fanatics! It’s that time of year again—the Super Bowl has returned. In its 51st installment, expect all the showmanship, excitement, and athletic prowess of years past, coupled with the most expensive advertising in the event’s history at a cool $5+ million. Given the price tag, brands need to make sure that they’re getting the most out of their spots. So how can brands—and all the fans out there—determine if their ad is worth the money?

Here are three tips to help you and your football-crazed friends decide which brands scored a touchdown with their #SB51 commercials.

1. Know thyself: Be true to the brand

Let’s face it, when it comes to Super Bowl ads, it can be hard to dismiss the temptation to go for broke with the most hilarious, shocking, or heartwarming spot. This is all well and good as long as brands stay true to their core identity and principles. But ads that veer off course will fail to make an impact.

In 2016, Honda went all out with a pack of singing sheep and a talking dog. It topped off its spot with a tribute to Queen, as the sheep spontaneously broke into a sing-along version of “Somebody to Love.” Many people thought it was funny, many people thought it was juvenile. But did the ad make people better understand the Honda brand? The ad’s connection to the truck’s flatbed audio system was dubious at best (and let’s be honest, for $5 million, consumers need to take away more than just one product feature). The pack of singing sheep simply did not convey Honda’s brand promise or its offer to consumers.

Honda sheep Super Bowl 2016

2. What’s your name again? Be memorable for the right reasons

Once the clock winds down and the big game has come to an end, what advertisers really want is for consumers to remember their brand—and buy it. Being on-brand is just part of the equation. Ads must also highlight their offer in a clear, succinct way that leaves consumers wanting more. Successful ads will stay in consumers’ minds and have an element of “stickiness,” making them endure in the ensuing weeks and months after the Super Bowl.

When it comes to being memorable, perhaps no one did it better last year than Mountain Dew. The ad we all loved to hate, #puppymonkeybaby became a trending hashtag just moments following its airing. Mountain Dew stuck to the quirky, playful, and comedic side of its brand—to such a degree that many viewers were actually disgusted or irritated by the spot. But love or hate it, we all remember it, even a year later. And we don’t just remember the weird puppymonkeybaby creature, we actually remember Mountain Dew.

3. Read the room: Be attuned to the times

In a politically and socially fraught year, advertisers need to consider the messages and stories they want to convey. If they don’t, ads can easily be misinterpreted, overanalyzed, or dismissed as being out of touch. During this year’s Super Bowl, watch out for puns, references, and reactions to events and conversations from the past year, especially when it comes to hot-button issues like immigration, women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, and racial tensions.

Budweiser has already made waves with its 2017 spot, which tells the story of its immigrant founder coming to St. Louis. Ending with the message, “When nothing stops your dream, this is the beer we drink,” the ad appears to convey a pro-immigration stance that is highly contentious given the current political climate in the United States. Though Budweiser claims these overtones were unintentional, the controversy makes clear the importance of having a purposeful stance on political and social issues. Staying neutral isn’t an option for brands. Even if they try to, their ads will be viewed and interpreted in the context of current culture.

Budweiser 2017 Super Bowl Commercial | “Born The Hard Way”

Let the games begin

As you settle onto your sofa, bar stool, or stadium seat on Super Bowl Sunday, remember to keep your eyes on the ads. Three key factors will help you determine if they live up to their price tag: being on-brand, memorable, and attuned to current culture. With these points in mind you’re ready to be an ad-judging MVP.


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