The Super Bowl is a crowded field.
This year in the U.S., advertisers are paying a reported $4-million just for 30-seconds of airtime in Fox's broadcast. (As usual, many of those big-budget ads will not be visible on TV here, but can be seen online.) Once that blockbuster investment is made, an advertiser and its agency have to figure out how to get noticed amid a pack of marketers spending big to get laughs or hire celebrities.
A growing number of advertisers have recognized the power of emotion to get their stories across. Here are some of the marketers spending big in this year's Super Bowl that are hoping that the way to our wallets is through our hearts.
Scenes of what look like impending destruction – a tank driving down a street, a leader pushing a big red button, a military rally – take a turn when each scenario is revealed to be a romantic gesture. The slogan “Make love, not war” is a departure for the Axe brand, which has specialized over the years in silly commercials that depict women as sexual objects who are overwhelmed by lust at the whiff of body spray. That history means the punchline of the Super Bowl ad, promoting Axe Peace, is a bit of a strange fit. Skeptical viewers may call foul on Axe’s sudden preoccupation with world peace.
Bank of America
Companies know that consumers will get behind them when they show a commitment to important causes. Bank of America’s ad will launch a new single from the band U2. The partnership with singer Bono’s non-profit organization, (Red), will make the song free to download for one day, and the company will donate $1 to the fight against AIDS for every download. In a video released early, Bono makes an impassioned case for the “game-changing influence” of the financial institution’s involvement. Bank of America is also betting that its brand will see a boost by showing its heart.
Ow, our hearts. Budweiser has managed to pack in its emblematic Clydesdales, a love story, and a gaggle of wrinkly Labrador Retriever puppies into one commercial. Fact: Labrador puppies are ridiculous. How is a shot of one running somehow a soaring emotional moment?
Budweiser also has a second commercial that has not been released yet. According to its teaser video, however, it will show a “hero’s welcome” that the company arranged for a U.S. soldier returning from Afghanistan. Expect an emotional story.
This is a more lighthearted ad than the others, but adorable puppies, those darlings of the Internet, are a play for the heartstrings even when they are used for humour. Auto retailer CarMax has replicated the Super Bowl ad that will air on television, shot for shot, starring puppies in place of the actors.
Advertisers have long known that social media – online distractions such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter that viewers often have one eye on while they watch TV – are an important battleground to get their messages across. CarMax’s online bonus puppy commercial should help with that.
In 2013, the cereal brand released a relatively benign ad that should not have attracted much attention. The catch: It featured a multiracial family, and General Mills found itself standing up for the ad after some racist commentors online objected to their choice. Now the company has decided to double down on a message of tolerance, all while promoting itself – not an easy feat for many advertisers. Sometimes Internet nastiness can be a gift. In an earlier statement announcing its decision to buy its first-ever Super Bowl ad spot, Cheerios said the company is “quite proud of its message.”
What do you do when your product is associated with something that people universally loathe – taxes? TurboTax’s ads for the Super Bowl show how people can look at taxes as a sort of recap of the story of their lives over the past year. After all, taxes touch on a number of important parts of our lives – our careers, and milestones such as having a baby, moving, and getting married. Making taxes seem almost sentimental? Now that’s a neat trick.