Feb 1, 2009

Super Bowl Ads—A Different POV


Instead of reviewing the good, the bad and the ugly, I’m going to take a different tack here and review the effects on the purchase decisions of one consumer: me.

Product I’m Most Likely To Use As A Result of Seeing A Super Bowl Commercial: The History Channel’s Ax Men series about lumberjacks. The commercial itself was pretty lame, but the series looked interesting, sort of on the order of Ice Road Truckers. I’d never heard about Ax Men until I saw that commerical and I’ll likely tune in.

Products I Already Use and Like:
Coke: I drink Diet Coke on occasion and don’t feel it threatens my manhood. So the Coke Zero spots were sort of pointless: almost all my Coke purchases are in restaurants and “Diet Coke” seems to cover all manner of non-sugary Cokes. (e.g a request for "Coke Zero" would likely be met with a blank stare.") The “Heist/Insect” spot, while charming and well done, just reinforced my perception that regular Coke was sticky and syrupy and something I didn’t want to drink.
Go Daddy: The spots were ridiculous and baffling, but GoDaddy itself is easy enough to use and quite reliable. Add to that the fact that I interact with it once a year and there’s no reason to change that behavior.
Hulu: I watch things on Hulu because it’s the only place to find old SNL clips and other NBC-owned content. That said, I wish I could download the videos—I’d pay for the privilege—and I wish their library was bigger. The Alec Baldwin spot was arguably the best spot from a pure entertainment POV, but while charming, will not change my opinion of Hulu.
Heineken: I occasionally drink Heineken. The spot with John Turturro was so pretentious however, I may actually not order a Heineken so as to avoid being associated with it. Probably not—it’s not that big a deal--- but the fact that it even crossed my mind can't be a good thing.
Budweiser/Bud Lite: I’ll drink Bud if there’s nothing else around. I prefer it over Miller. And all the corny Clydesdales in the world won’t change the opinion I’ve had of Bud since I was 18.

Products I Don’t Really Like:
Doritos: The “Bus” spot was very funny, in a slapstick, BBDO kind of way, but I don’t like the taste of Doritos and, as is the case with most all familiar packaged goods, a funny spot is not going to change the way I think something tastes or induce me to try it again.
Cheetos: Ditto. Not a big Cheetos fan. Funny spot (though the cheetah at the end was creepy) but again, I know what Cheetos taste like and a clever Super Bowl ad is not going to make me like them.

3 Things That Baffled Me:
• Why Adam Sandler in a Conan ad? If you did a Venn diagram, the circles of “people who find Adam Sandler funny” and “people who find Conan O’Brien funny” would not intersect. Ever.
• Why repurpose a bad SNL skit? “Macgruber” isn’t the least bit funny as a sketch comedy piece. Why would you think handicapping it with the need to sell Pepsi would alter that?
• Why did the Clydesdale in the Bud spot still have a Scottish accent after 4 generations in America? Did no one at the agency or the client catch that?

Conclusion
I'm no focus group. But the point I'm trying to make is that I rely on ads for information. If I already like a product, a clever ad will not make me like it more unless it gives me another good reason why I'd like it. Whereas (and this is particularly true of familiar packaged goods) if I don't like something, I may find the advertising delightful, but I'm not ever going to buy it.

Take Coke and Pepsi: I already know I like one better than the other. It's a taste thing. If the Coke team produces the lesser Super Bowl ad, I might be bummed about it, but I'm not going to suddenly decide I like Pepsi better.

Finally, if a really bad ad lets me know about something I might like, I'm not going to let the awfulness of the ad stop me from enjoying it.

Super Bowl ads are great entertainment, but unless you are providing all those people with news or new information, you're likely not influencing their purchase decisions.

To that end, I suspect the Hulu ad was also the most effective, since it introduced the product to many people who probably had no idea it existed. It's a cool-sounding proposition, cool enough that people will likely try it even if they didn't particularly like the commercial or Alec Baldwin. (Plus there's the whole idea of using television to sell the notion of watching more television to people who enjoy watching television.) Whereas the Doritos spots, funny as they were, will not get a whole lot of trial or a whole lot of anything other than "hey, that commercial was funny."

Let's not forget that the fabled "1984" was introducing a new computer to America. The fact that it delivered news about a cool new product is a big part of why it was so successful.

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