Super Bowl Ads: Is Story Enough?

Feb 2, 2016 | Digital

Obviously the primary function of the big game is the football itself (don’t forget the beer, chips and 7-layer taco dip!). But over the past few decades, the Sunday night program has created the ultimate platform for companies to display their best commercial ads. With the NFL being a coast-to-coast broadcasting force, Sunday Night Football has some of the highest viewer ratings in the country. Naturally, the Super Bowl is the crème de la crème for commercial viewing.

With the popularity of ad blockers, DVRs and streaming video, advertisers have had to change their game plan, investing more into live events, with un-skippable ads.

So here is a question for you: What makes the BEST game day ad?

  1. Celebrity Endorsements
  2. Clever Humor
  3. Attractive Models
  4. Puppies and Clydesdale Horses

The answer?

All of the above.

OK, that was kind of a trick question. But the point is, every answer would work if the commercial was written to achieve one extremely important goal …

Be disruptive!

According to Keith Quesenberry, a Johns Hopkins University professor, the best commercials are those with a  beginning, middle and end. In other words, a story that is easy to follow and resonates with the consumer. But that story should also push the line of what is considered “safe.” These types of ads are proven to receive the hightest viewer ratings and generate buzz to keep people talking about the product.

Based on that logic, a disruptive story seems to be a strong direction for an advertiser to take as they create a $5 million advertisement – yes, you read that right. When AdAge announced the big spenders for the big game, they also mentioned an 11.1% yearly increase in cost for a 30-second slot during the program. With this being the 50th anniversary of the game, the NFL is expecting its number of viewers to skyrocket. There is even an opportunity for consumers to vote for their favorite ad of the year through USA Today’s Ad Meter.

This popular commercial has been ranked as one of the best Super Bowl ads based on the number of views. But are people running to the store to buy beer after looking at a cute puppy? Budweiser announced it’s abandoning the “lost puppy” this year. Instead, it plans to focus on its “craft” brands. The company purchased 3 minutes of advertising (that’s a lot of money). With such an overwhelming expense, we’re anxious to see what Anheiser-Busch is brewing.

There are other companies taking their “story” to the extreme this year. Butterfingers is launching a #BolderThanBold campaign stating they will be covering up to $50,000 of fines given to a player with “excessive celebration” during the game. Butterfingers’ approach? There is no such thing as too much celebration – an unpredictable approach from a candy maker.

Taco Bell is also stepping back into the spotlight with its big game teaser it released a couple weeks ago. With a comically altered press release, Taco Bell plans to announce a new “food innovation.” This attention-grabbing idea is already creating buzz.

What brand do you expect to take a bold, disruptive approach during Super Bowl 50?

We’ll be watching Adweek’s Super Bowl Ad Tracker to keep our eye on what’s to come.