If the commercial breaks from last year’s big game were all about celebrity endorsements, then this year’s ads were all about “the message.” The event began with Hamilton cast-members singing “America the Beautiful,” and changing the lyric “brotherhood” to “sisterhood” before the song concluded. Other advertisers continued on this path of diversity and inclusion as the event continued and other brands used light humor to highlight “real life” scenarios that many of us can relate to.
So what stood out during Super Bowl 51 from a marketing perspective and what can fresh produce marketers learn from it all? Here’s our thoughts and hopefully a FRESH perspective on advertising’s biggest night of the year.
Brand Activism Dominates
Typically, brands have shied away from making bold political statements during the Super Bowl in an effort to avoid ostracizing a portion of their audience. Yet in 2017, we saw brands step out of their comfort zone to favor “brand activism” messaging that proved to be a risky (but perhaps the right) move for many of these big names.
From Audi's stance on gender equality in their "Daughter" commercial to 84 Lumber's extremely bold immigration-themed ad, social media was completely a buzz with both positive and negative reactions to these spots. For example, Audi opened itself up to scrutiny as social media users quickly pointed out the auto company has only 2 women on its 14-person American Executive Team, and no women on its Board of Directors. On a different note, 84 Lumber invited viewers to watch the conclusion of their controversial ad on their website following the 30-second spot, but their website promptly crashed due to the traffic volume. Could their marketing team have had the foresight to expand their server’s capacity prior to the game? We may never know!
Budweiser also joined in on the diversity themed ads, and this brand uniquely benefitted from their “immigration story” spot. The ad, which focused on telling the company’s story originating with Adolphus Busch’s journey from Germany to the United States, might have been overlooked had the timing not aligned perfectly with President Trump’s recent controversial Executive Order – a lucky coincidence that the brand couldn’t have planned better themselves!
AirBnB, Coca-Cola and the NFL all aired spots that echoed the messaging that diversity, equality and inclusion is top of mind for American audiences this year. It’s safe to say that these ads will be the most buzzed about and remembered from this year’s Super Bowl. For these companies, taking a stance on their beliefs and the guarantee of being talked about outweighed the chance of negative feedback.
So what can fresh produce marketers learn from these ads? We believe that brand activism works when companies take a stance for what they believe in a way that directly aligns back to their products. But, brands should use caution and care so as not to come across as too politically-charged. Finally, brands should stand by on social media prepared for the potential ramifications of a controversial message. AirBnB’s social media team did a great job at responding to all of the questions and concerns voiced across their social channels following the ad.
Advertisements Go Live
We were excited to see a new and validating theme take shape during this year’s event: people love watching things that are “live.”
Snickers announced prior to the game that they would be the first brand to air a live Super Bowl commercial, but as it turns out, they weren’t the only brand planning a “live” aspect for the event.
While Snickers teased us about Adam Driver’s live appearance in their ad, we were particularly impressed with Tide’s clever combination of using sports newscaster Terry Bradshaw on live TV combined with a pre-recorded commercial. Terry’s stain on his shirt caught everyone’s attention as he appeared on live TV, which was quickly followed up by an ad of him using Tide to clean his shirt. #BradshawStain began trending on social media as people fell for the setup, garnering even more impressions. Finally, an emotional ad by Hyundai reunited deployed soldiers with their families as they sat watching the Super Bowl with a live 360 view of the event. The spot was filmed throughout the actual event and aired just after the final play of the game. So many feels.
Purchasing a $4mil+ Super Bowl spot isn’t the only way brands took advantage of the “live” trend. Budweiser featured their beloved Clydesdales on a live Facebook feed, and Buzzfeed’s live “Left Shark Super Bowl Party” made us smile! Fresh produce marketers should note that live isn’t going away anytime soon, and is only going to get bigger in-terms of how we market our brands and reach the people who eat our products.
Cleaning Products Get Feisty
We were intriguied to see more cleaning and household product brands on advertising’s biggest stage than in year’s past. But it’s not just the light-hearted humorous ads from these brands that really made us laugh – it’s their feisty inter-brand conversations that happened on social media after!
Not only did Clorox take a swipe at Mr. Clean’s commercial, but Mr. Clean and Tide joined in the banter in a true display of “humanized” branding.
We don’t just imagine cleaning. pic.twitter.com/TPL1VnwlmQ— Clorox (@Clorox) February 6, 2017
Beer Brands Make Retro-Appeals
Michelob Ultra, Busch and Bud Light all took “retro” cues to create their advertising spots for Super Bowl 51. The Michelob Ultra ad appealing to fitness enthusiasts used the “Cheers” theme song from 1982-1993. Then Busch throws it back to a 1978 ad campaign that surely went over most millennials heads with a mountain man saying “buschhhh.” Finally, Bud Light reintroduces a former controversial mascot, Spuds MacKenzie, the bull terrier from the 1980s, as a ghost! What was most interesting to us about this ad was that this ghost-dog was the only dog-focused ad we saw this year, a major departure from previous years where animals were the star of the show.
Avocados from Mexico Takes Ad-Extensions to a New Level
It’s safe to say that the quirky campaigns from Avocados from Mexico are highly anticipated by fresh produce marketers like us year after year. But it’s not only the ads themselves that impress us: The microsite launched a few weeks before the big game engaged consumers before, during, and after the game with consistent on-brand content, funny tweets, and opportunities to win prizes and engage with the brand on other channels like Twitter and YouTube. The microsite extended the ad’s secret society storyline by featuring a phone screen from someone in the society, with “live” texts coming in from the “Supreme Leader” and secrets to unlock.
Avocados from Mexico flawlessly stuck to their brand, and it paid off with buzz on social media (the hashtag #AvoSecrets received over 9 million impressions yesterday).
Social Media and Advertising are Becoming Symbiotic
Go Daddy and Tide used a social media strategy focused on trends and viral content in their advertising as a way to connect with viewers. Both ads brought the everyday experience with social media to the forefront of the commercial, which we expect to see more of in the future. Several commercials like T-Mobile’s #UnlimitedMoves campaign encouraged viewers to take to their social media platforms and share their own dance moves using the official hashtag.
“Junk” Food Brands and Other Big Advertisers Opt-Out in 2017
Powerhouse brands like Frito-Lay’s Doritos typically dominate both Super Bowl party spreads and the commercial breaks during the game, but these brands were noticeable absent in 2017. Other major brands like Toyota also opted-out of this year’s advertising lineup, which leaves us wondering why. It seems that for Frito-Lay, the game “did not fit with their marketing plans” and Toyota noted that the timing didn’t align with the new Camry’s debut. Considering the budgets these marketers have to work with, we can’t help but think there’s more to the story than these simple explanations. Is it possible that Super Bowl ads aren’t yielding the results that the used to? Or is it possible that more and more brands are discovering that there are other ways to engage with their audiences for less? Which brings us to…
WordPress Reminds Us That We Don’t Need $4Mil to Make an Impact
This tweet from WordPress resonated deeply with us as fresh produce marketers. The web building and hosting powerhouse bluntly points out that they spent less than $5,000 to create an advertisement for social media during the Super Bowl which will still generate BIG results and speak directly to their target audience of small business owners. We have to agree and fresh produce brands can learn from this message: while big brands spend millions on celebrity endorsements and dancing monkeys, fresh produce brands can focus their budgets to reaching consumers in a meaningful way that truly counts!
Some web builders make super expensive ads.— WordPress.com (@wordpressdotcom) February 5, 2017
WordPress powers more of the internet than any of them. pic.twitter.com/BFvq6Pw79c
Never-Before-Seen Content is Less Important
Super Bowl 51 brought us the first overtime game in Super Bowl history. What we didn’t see for the first time? Most of the commercials that aired. We were introduced to many ads earlier this year, either online or on air. Intel’s “Tom Brady Everyday” ad premiered in January, before the brand could’ve predicted the Patriots’ marvelous comeback of a lifetime. Wix’s Super Bowl ad featuring Jason Statham was released on Facebook Live earlier this year, promising a sequel to the story come Game Day. Turbo Tax’s “Humpty Dumpty in the Hospital” has run many times since the start of tax season, with a sequel to the funny short airing on Sunday. These brands have realized that the buzz behind this creative lasts longer than a one-time 30 second spot. People are more likely to recall the message behind the ad when they are given the opportunity to experience more than one impression.
Memes Go Viral Faster Than Ever
Within minutes of Gaga’s epic jump through the stadium to begin her performance, GIFs spread across Instagram and twitter with various funny captions. This instantaneous reaction demonstrates the power of viral marketing and creating “in-the-moment” messages that are relatable. A funny moment taken out of context and put into a format or with a caption that either applies to your brand, or that someone can relate to, can be a powerful formula for a viral tweet or Instagram post.
This year’s Super Bowl provided marketers with a great deal to talk about and consider for their own marketing plans in 2017. It’s clear that Brand Activism and live marketing were the most talked about and impactful strategies seen during the event. We can expect to see more brands take on these approaches in the next few years – the question is, how can fresh produce brands become one of them?
Social Stats from the game:
Finally, we wanted to share a few telling social media stats with you from this year’s event.
- Lady Gaga was mentioned on Twitter 1 MILLION times between 7:50 and 8:40pm EST alone – a record breaking half time show!
- An average of 41,000 Tweets mentioning Lady Gaga were posted per minute during the game.
- Avocados from Mexico earned 2 BILLION social media impressions before the game even began.
- Of the top controversial ads of the night, each commercial received an average of 70,000 tweets between 6 and 10 p.m. EST.
- Top trends on Twitter during the game were:
- #PepsiHalftime – sponsored hashtag
- Luke Bryan
- Tom Brady