We can still enjoy fun and laugh at things as we always have
Last year’s Super Bowl reminded us of what it feels like to be normal again—giving us back three to four solid hours to relate to each other, eat snacks and drink beer. It’s no surprise brands scored well ran with ads rooted in relatable human insights. They found moments people could instantly recognize, featured product lightly and still moved the needle.
Among the ads that scored well was one for McDonald’s where people sang as they waited in the drive-through. Huggies focused on the cute messes and foibles of babies—and who doesn’t love a baby in a Super Bowl ad? Both scored high for short-term sales impact in Kantar’s analysis, including the likelihood to purchase.
This is the attribute from 2021 that will likely have the most utility in 2022. After all, did we think we would be dealing with crowd limitations and masks, again? Last year, Bud Light Seltzer pushed into a new category with creative called “Last Year’s Lemons”—and ranked in the top 15% for impact. Old Spice is known for making us laugh and delivered with an ad focused on how stuck people feel and how they are ready for change—which scored in the top 20% in impact.
Move forward with pragmatic solutions
The emotional benefits promised by advertisers are fantastic, but there is nothing like being able to solve people’s real-life problems. Brands won by getting out of the way and letting simple benefits shine. For example, Microbahn met the needs of the zeitgeist by promising to kill bacteria on surfaces—and it did it all in 15 seconds. Hellman’s acknowledged that we had all become better cooks by making do with what’s in our fridges, as Amy Schumer created cooking miracles with mayonnaise.
It’s not about “we will prevail;” it’s about me
This theme was interesting considering “we” spent a lot of time hearing from ads that “we were all in this together.” Overall, Kantar found that there was fatigue around messaging about collective sacrifice. Ads that scored big for brand impact focused on the individual. Among those ranking high in this category were ads for Sam Adams and Under Armour. Michael Phelps shared his self-doubt—and underwear preference—while Sam Adams mocked the “big brand’s” big horses and stood out because of it.
As brands prepare Super Bowl ads in such uncertain times, it’s important they lock in a solid plan for creative testing. Just as with our own lives during COVID, flexibility is the key throughout the creative process. It’s important to test changes to creative, test what competitors have been doing—and be able to do it all on the fly.
As the weather gets cooler and the football season heats up, advertisers will be asking fundamental questions about whether COVID should be a part of their creative messaging in the Super Bowl. Much has changed since Super Bowl LIV, but some of the lessons learned as to which creative had the greatest impact last year, provide a good guardrail for what the right approach is as development gets underway for the game in 2022.
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