The Tide is High at the Bouncy Ball Bowl
I’ll confess the Super Bowl isn’t something that’s ever interested me, but over the years I have often wondered two things – why is it called Super and wouldn’t the word Bowl be better suited to Baseball?
Inspired by writing this piece I went in search of the answers and I’ll be honest, I wasted my time wondering. The answers, much like the game itself, are remarkably dull. What’s not dull is the advertising.
American Football League (AFL) founder and Kansas City Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt jokingly referred to the proposed game, a merger between two leagues - the AFL and the National Football League (NFL) - as the Super Bowl after seeing a group of kids playing with the most popular toy of its time, a Super Ball. The word Bowl was already consistent with College ‘Bowl’ games, played in bowl shaped arenas, and the name stuck.
So the branding of a kids toy, the Super Ball, gave its name to the biggest TV event of the year, and without branding, this game could easily have been called the Bouncy Ball Bowl; because that’s what the Super Ball was, a bouncy ball.
Strong branding is a very important factor in sustaining a larger market share than your competitor, and the birth and necessity of this created the advertising industry we know today.
With such a captive audience it’s unsurprising that the Super Bowl, with a viewership of over 100 million in the US alone, could command the highest price for airtime and offer the best platform to speak to over a third of American citizens at the same time.
I’m told that the price for one second of this airtime is $17,000. Given the cost, it’s fair to imagine that any client spending that kind of money would want a campaign that’s really going to be memorable.
In my view one brand not only succeeded this year, but discovered the holy grail of advertising – to make people recall your product rather than any other. That brand was Tide. What they achieved was to hijack every second of every other brands’ airtime.
So how did they do it? They placed spots in every quarter of the Bouncy Ball Bowl and each of their ads pastiched other brands' styles of advert in a way that we’d identify immediately; a car ad, an insurance ad, a perfume ad, etc., before announcing “No, it’s a Tide ad”, making it difficult to know if every ad you were watching wasn’t going to be an ad for Tide.
The idea is cleverly executed and it works, for the most part, because of globalisation. Ads have, to a certain degree, become formulaic and generic; we know a car ad is going to do this and a perfume ad is going to do that. As an aside, I remember reading that if you’re not sure what the ad is for then it’s probably a perfume ad.
The pastiches used in the Tide ads didn’t all rely on visual themes. Music, voiceover delivery and sound design all collaborate to conjure up the belief that we’re watching something other than a washing powder commercial. What Tide deliberately does well is follow these clichéd styles before pulling the rug out from under us and announcing that, “No it’s a Tide ad”.
In one spot we believe we’re about to see the latest instalment of the award winning Old Spice campaign but once again, no, they’ve stolen the Old Spice guy and his white horse before revealing the Tide guy on the back of the horse with him. Pure genius!
This brilliant campaign was realised because what’s common to all ads is that the people in them always wear clean clothes and, if they’re wearing clean clothes, then all ads must be an advert for Tide. To follow the logic of this great insight, all ads have sound, so all ads must be ads for Jungle.
Chris Turner is Associate Director and Senior Sound Designer at Jungle Studios