Qualitative evaluation of the SB48 and SB49 commercials
Tahzoo may be based in Washington D.C. but our Insights hub is in Seattle. So we are hurting after Super Bowl Sunday’s dramatic loss.
While sad about the game’s outcome, we had committed to an in-depth study on the business impact of Brand’s Super Bowl campaigns. The first step in the study was the qualitative assessment of the attributes of the commercials, which entailed watching every commercial several times to detail its semiotic codes – i.e. reliving the Super Bowl over and over and over and over…like pouring salt on a wound…
Colin Rogers, one of our CX Analysts, drew the short straw (sorry Colin), and reviewed the Super Bowl commercials for:
- Approach – i.e. announcing, educating, cultivating
- Brand Alignment – i.e. what values (Community, Innovation etc.) that brands are aligning themselves with.
- Target Audience – i.e. identifiable demographic targets
- Tone – i.e. comedic, somber, uplifting
- Intent – i.e. what are the audience meant to think, feel, or do.
Comparing the results to last year’s study, Colin found;
This year’s ads featured the perennial staples of Super Bowl marketing: the bizzare, the cute and the sexy. On the surface perhaps they are a little different from years past, however just below that is a world of difference.
To find those key differences we look to semiotics to explore the key relationships and trends amongst the assembled symbols, narratives and themes we call advertisements.
Here are the key trends from this year’s marketing extravaganza:
- Less Americana: This year’s campaigns focused far less than in previous years on themes of war, patriotism and rural life. Instead marketers focused their campaigns on concepts around progress, innovation and happiness.
- Values vs. Promotion: this focused on aligning brands with appealing values instead of promoting or selling a product. Brands such as Coke trying to associate itself with happiness, Kia redefining itself in terms of luxury or Doritos with youth and absurdity. Nearly a quarter of this years campaigns sought to encourage viewers to feel, think or act to make the world a better place.
- Rise of the Modern Man: While ads focused more than last year on men many focused on redefining masculinity with traditionally feminine labels, particularly around fatherhoold, as being affectionate, caring and kind.
- While most brands focused on announcing or educating about their product, this year 24% of campaigns choose to cultivate brand relationships around a cause or social injustice.
- Building on a trend from last year, brands are increasingly focusing on the theme of empowering people with technology. Conversely we have also seen a rising trend of companies highlighting the pitfalls of technology. Roughly 13% of ads this year included some theme around the downfall of society/humanity being driven by technology (the most obvious example being the Mophie ad).
- Only 34% of brands included a specific call to action (CTA) in their marketing campaigns (and, no, a hashtag at the end of the bottom of the ad does not count as a specific CTA!).
- Celebrities are still in vogue, this year roughly 40% of the ads featured celebrities – a 4% increase on last year.
- This year marketers focused heavily on aligning themselves with positive concepts such as
- Kinship: 45%
- Community: 40%
- Empowerment: 38%
- Innovation: 26%
- As everyone knows, Super Bowl marketing isn’t about football. Only 29% of Super Bowl campaigns discuss the game specifically or fandom in general.
- Age of Electronica: by far the most popular genre of music this year was electronica with 19% of ads featuring some sort of electronic music.
- Super Bowl marketing typically tends towards a male focus however in the past couple years with the rise of football’s popularity amongst women we’ve seen a shift towards more gender neutral marketing. This year 72% of ads featured either a male narrator, protagonist ads.
- This being said many of these ads were focused on either making fun of the traditional “dude” (think Pizza Hut and Doritos) or were serious pieces on redefining masculinity (think Toyota and Nissan).
- Empowerment looks to the future, empowerment was associated with future forward themes of progress and innovation as well as those of social justice and feminism but is less likely to be used alongside themes like fun and happiness.
- Many people noted the darker ads (GoDaddy’s pulled commercial and Nationwide’s child safety ad in particular) while most stayed positive many featured darker aspects:
- 21% of ads featured sad, scary or angry tones
- 29% had themes around struggle/adversity (though many of these took an uplifting tone)
- 15% explored themes around mortality (i.e. health, frailty, old age etc.)
- 13% had violence of one form or another
- That being said most brands adopted uplifting (41%), heartwarming (29%) or comedic (66%) tones
- A big difference with last year was the number of the commercials this focused on aligning brands with appealing values instead of promoting or selling a product. Brands such as Coke trying to associate itself with happiness, Kia redefining itself in terms of luxury or Doritos with late adolescence.
- This naturally lends itself to causes and as such nearly a quarter of this years campaigns sought to encourage viewers to feel, think or act to make the world a better place.
Preview of Insights Journey from the Super Bowl: Part 2
The journey to a business outcome requires encouraging target customers to transition from thinking and feeling to doing, so the Part 2 of our Insight Journey from the Super Bowl (to business value) will evaluate how successful brands were at encouraging audiences to take the logical next step in the campaign via digital and social channels.
SPOILER ALERT: Several of the brands did not even extend their campaigns to include a CTA on digital or social properties!