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Why Super Bowl ads are becoming more obscure

Content Marketing

You won’t be surprised to hear that in order to sell products, brands need to first build an identity; a story that they tell others about themselves. But what consumers might not be aware of is that in recent years, building your brand’s identity has somewhat taken precedence over actually describing the product or service on offer. According to The Drum, 80% of consumers want their brands to tell them a story of some sort – whether it’s emotional, funny, scary or just plain peculiar. During the Super Bowl, 114.4 million pairs of eyes will be glued to their sets ready to absorb the advertising content presented by household-name brands such as Mercedes-Benz, Procter and Gamble, and Mountain Dew. The following commercials certainly ooze brand personality – but have they blurred the line between memorability, attractiveness, and insanity? Let’s take a look…

Starting with the most famous names in the automobile industry, Mercedes-Benz. They’ve traded their image as sophisticated, engine-building maestros in for a much more rough n’ready persona. The advert, an homage to the classic film Easy Rider and directed by the Cohen Brothers, is set in a roadside biker bar in America. A burly man enters shouting that everyone’s bikes have been blocked in (something these bikers don’t take kindly to). Everyone’s anger is quickly stifled by the growling Mercedes AMG as Peter Fonda (of Easy Rider) wheel spins off in clouds of dust. Mercedes USA’s Vice President of Marketing states they, “consider the Super Bowl to be the single most important communication channel a marketer can exploit.” That partly explains why they pay $5.5 million to have FOX air their ad. Choosing an all-American biker bar as their advertisement’s setting demonstrates that this German can manufacturer demands America’s respect.

Mr. Clean’s Super Bowl advert achieves the impossible; it makes household chores sexy. The commercial begins with a woman sighing at the chores she has to do when Mr. Clean, a muscley, white eyebrowed, cleaning machine enters to help her. They have a romantic moment until Mr. Clean morphs back into her husband. This advert describes nothing about the effectiveness of the cleaning product, nor its price, because, by their very nature, cleaning products are boring to talk about. Instead, Mr. Clean has found something that you might talk to a friend or colleague about. It appeals to human interests, specifically whirlwind romances, attraction, and putting a shine on mundane tasks.

Last year saw one of the most peculiar Super Bowl commercials of all time.  Mountain Dew’s target audience is pretty specific. They market their advertising campaigns to 18-year-old males who embrace excitement, adventure, and fun. Their super bowl commercial is a difficult one to explain. It starts with three ‘normal’ young men sitting on a sofa when an extraordinary looking puppy-monkey-baby character enters handing out mountain Dew. Eerie music follows the character as it licks the faces of the young lads sitting on a sofa. As unappealing as this sounds, we’ve seen success in this type of non-product related ad before. The iconic chocolate manufacturer Cadbury released an unusual ad of Guerrilla playing the drums to music by Phil Collins. This doesn’t exactly scream ‘eat this delicious chocolate bar’ but it does tell us a story about the brands. Millenials seemingly respond best to brands that can offer them ‘deep, personal, long term relationships’. In the case of Mountain Dew, they show themselves as light heated, random and fun. If not a little insane!

Product description has faded into the past. Consumers want something that will appeal to them as people. Getty Images predictions for 2017’s visual trends suggest that consumers may continue to respond best to “spontaneous, playful, and at times uncomfortable” content. Their predictions are based on image search trends within their database.

It is evident that consumers have good associations with a brand they can build an emotional relationship with, find funny, or explore.  Producing extraordinary and emotive adverts is certainly an effective way of capturing the consumer’s attention in a noisy marketplace. These Super Bowl commercials demonstrate that it’s not about those who shout the loudest about their product, it’s about those whose brand appeals best to their target audience’s interests.