Most of the people attending the Super Bowl party I was at last night agreed that the ads were even worse than the game itself, but this shouldn’t be surprising. Too often the decision to blow millions on a Super Bowl commercial is driven by corporate ego rather than a legitimate concern about the company’s bottom line.
To be successful, a Super Bowl ad has to be (a) entertaining and (b) smart, which I define as “making people remember and want to buy–or at least check out–the product or service being advertised.”
Sadly, most advertisers and their agencies focus solely on being entertaining, and yet despite this focus, they usually come up short. So the odds of a Super Bowl ad–or any ad–being both entertaining and smart are about as good as the odds of Richard Sherman writing a best-selling book on etiquette.
Last night’s clear exception was this Radio Shack ad. Anyone who’s ever visited a Radio Shack could instantly understand the point of the ad when the Radio Shack clerk says, “The ’80s called. They want their store back.” The rest of the spot gave viewers the fun of identifying a plethora of ’80s icons, all the while reinforcing the message that Radio Shack stores have been dramatically updated. And I found it very refreshing that Radio Shack is able to laugh at itself and its dated decor; that kind of candor and self-awareness makes me think “They get it” and that they’ve probably fully confronted and fixed the problem.
Contrast this with an even more entertaining ad–the “Puppy Love” ad run by Budweiser. True, the puppy was extremely cute and the ad was extremely well produced. However, the ad wasn’t extremely well conceived. Why? Because it did nothing to make you crave a Budweiser–or any kind of beer. It probably made you smile and maybe made you cry, but did it make you say, “Man, I really want a Bud”? I doubt it.
The only way this ad will have any tangible effect on sales is if beer drinkers decide to reward Budweiser for the touching entertainment. But there are three reason why this, in my view, is highly unlikely. First of all, I suspect a lot of people who liked the commercial don’t even know it was for Budweiser. (I didn’t see a lot of logos, or bottles pouring tasty-looking suds.) Secondly, this morning’s polls show that the ad appeals much more to women than men, and women aren’t big beer drinkers–especially not big Budweiser drinkers. Finally, most Bud drinkers I know have a pretty macho self-image, and I don’t see many of them opting to buy more Bud because of a cute puppy commercial.
The difference between these two commercials can be summed up by the fact that today they’re typically being referred to as “The Radio Shack commercial’ and “the puppy commercial.” Which of the two do you think is more likely to move the sales needle?
Thus, I’m pretty sure Radio Shack got much more bang for its four million bucks (for a 30-second spot) than Budweiser got for its eight million smackers (for a one-minute spot).
On the other hand, I’ll bet puppy sales are through the roof today!