The Science and Fiction of Super Bowl 2016

When it’s costing you $160,000 (USD) per second for your Super Bowl ad spot, you need to make sure your advertising is effective.

Sure, the mass market reach it gives you makes it worth every cent, but with 63 other spots to compete against (not to mention ingame sponsorship, halftime entertainment and the game itself) there’s no guarantee your brand will firstly, get attention and secondly, be remembered. In a high pressure media environment like this it’s more important than ever that you get the basics of effective advertising right. And for brands in a much smaller market such as Australia, there’s a lot that we can take out of this approach.

We looked at all 63 spots from this year’s Super Bowl and picked our top 3, based on 3 important elements in the DNA of effective advertising; Attention, Memory Structures and Distinctive Brand Assets.

Whilst there wasn’t a single spot that stood out above the rest, at least half were entertaining enough to hold attention and most were well branded.

1: Heinz - Wiener Stampede

Okay, so dogs are undoubtedly a well worn advertising device but they’ve been used in this spot in a way that is both fresh and distinctive for the Heinz brand. 

The branding and product do come in a little late but once they’re introduced, (people dressed in the giant Heinz bottles no less) they fill the entire second half of the ad. The fact that the brand’s distinctive assets can be shown this long and still be entertaining is due largely to the quality of the creative. It highlights one of the primary roles of creativity in advertising - ensuring that viewers attention is held long enough to deliver relevant brand messages.

The entire spot hits one simple, yet broad CEP (category entry point); Heinz ketchup is ‘something I have with food’. Using a memory structure that is relevant to as many potential category buyers is something all marketers should be aiming for.

Overall it’s a great example of how simple, entertaining creative can be highly effective.

2: Marmot - Love the Outside

If you’re unfamiliar with Marmot, they’re a US brand that specialises in clothing and equipment for the outdoors. They also happen to be a type of large squirrel, which the brand uses as the star of this campaign. Again, animals work well for many brands.

Cleverly, the brand is shown from the very first frame in the form of the logo on one of the products (a tent). We are then exposed to more products and branding consistently throughout the entire spot. And the brand’s range of clothing and equipment is shown in many of the various activities they have use for, ticking our CEP box.

Importantly, this is all done in an entertaining way that ensures attention should be kept all the way through. One of the other major purposes of creativity in advertising is to make it easier to process the brand so that more attention can be paid to the message. The lovable story, of a marmot and his friend’s outdoor adventures, allows the brand to feature prominently without ever taking away from the brand’s message.

3: Audi - Commander

Finally, a spot without animals and in spite of this it works just fine. As with the Heinz spot this ad takes a while to introduce the brand. One of the reasons it helps to introduce the brand early is to cover off the chance a viewer may stop paying attention to your ad halfway through. Audi make up for this though, by turning the entire second half of the ad into what is essentially just an entertaining product demonstration.

Comparing space travel to a drive in an Audi isn’t a particularly new technique but there’s enough nostalgia and emotion used in this piece to get us locked in for the ride. Most importantly though it enables the brand to hit a broader memory structure (CEP), in this case that driving a car should be fun, perhaps even (almost) as fun as a trip to the moon.

Interestingly 6 of the top 10 Super Bowl ads as voted by USA Today readers were made by car brands. Whilst the Audi spot wasn’t revolutionary it should be effective enough to give the brand a nudge in buyers' minds.

So what do you think? We’d love to hear your thoughts and if there were any other favourites you had that didn’t make our list. Or drop us a line if you’d like to know more about distinctive assets, memory structures or getting consumers attention.

Matt Arbon