Cole Hammack, a student on the Strategy Track at VCU Brandcenter, proves that Super Bowl campaigns don't have appeal to the lowest common denominator
One of the first things we learn in ad school is ‘you can’t make an ad without a target.’
‘The target’ informs every step; from the strategic insight to the media buy.
And every planner worth their weight in whiteboard markers knows that the more specific the target, the better.
Selling hair dryers to man-bun-gym-rat-white-collar-professionals is way more interesting and inspiring for a creative team than selling to ‘guys with long hair.’
However, when it comes to the Super Bowl, the idea of a ‘unique target’, flies out the window.
And for good reason, because around 160 million people are watching the Super Bowl, and brands are foaming at the mouth to speak to each and every one of them.
So what ends up happening is that big brands sink to the lowest common denominator of go-to ad tropes. Sex and absurdity triumph over true strategic creativity.
Over the last few years, I’ve struggled to identify the target, objective, and strategy (or point) of almost every ad I watch that Sunday night.
However, there is still hope.
Although few and far between, Super Bowl Sunday does produce some pretty awesome work. When you look at the best, highest rated, most talked about and impactful ads of the game you’ll find one thing in common – a relentless dedication to the values and beliefs of their target, and a willingness to ignore (or even alienate) everyone else.
In 2017, AirBnb pushed back against rising American nationalism with their ‘I accept’
ad. What sounds like a terrible ad to run during an NFL game, landed both on-air and online with their more left-leaning target audience and media outlets.
Always debuted their #LikeAGirl
campaign in 2015 to massive praise for their commitment to the feminine-forward consumer.
Coca-Cola, one of the most beloved brands in the country still managed to focus their 2017 Super Bowl spot
by celebrating Latin American culture, food and people.
What’s incredible about all of this is that these focused ads all grew beyond their intended target to become some of the most talked about work in the game.
So if you want everyone to talk about you, speak to the people that will champion the message for you.