According to Kantar Media, “The average cost of a 30-second ad in the Super Bowl rose to $5 million this year, from $4.8 million last year and $2.4 million in 2007.” And let’s not forget the additional millions brands spend producing, promoting, and feverishly marketing to get their money’s worth. So when shelling out those sky-scraping dollars, it’s telling that many brands decided to go against conventional advertising wisdom and get a wee bit political this year.
To set the stage for that kind of spend you have to take into account that there are very few places today where we experience and share things collectively for the first time together – there is a lot of power in that – power we underestimate. Think of the difference when you’re with a group of people and something compelling, salacious, exciting, scary hits your purview. Could be at the movie theatre, a parade, a sporting event, etc. The experience is augmented, taken to the next level, talked about, and shared. So a platform like the Super Bowl is a place to make a statement and leave an indelible mark.
There were a great many compelling statements floated at the Super Bowl this year. Coca-Cola, for example, brought back its 2014 Super Bowl ad highlighting diversity, with people singing a multilingual version of ‘America the Beautiful.” Airbnb spent $5.3 million, setting their message to music, with text that read: “We believe no matter who you are, where you’re from, who you love, or who you worship, we all belong. The world is more beautiful the more you accept,” culminating in the hashtag #WeAccept. Google touted their Google Home product with a commercial that brought you into people’s homes, representing a diverse, multicultural cross-section with the message of “Welcome Home.” Technical glitch – it also set off people’s Google Home devices with the “OK Google” wake command – oops. 84 Lumber (by the way who?) doled out a whopping $15 million, airing a depiction of a mother and daughter encountering the many harsh realities of immigrating (seemingly between the United States and Mexico), that FOX deemed “too controversial”, forcing them to cut the commercial in half and air the remainder on 84 Lumber’s website. Budweiser forked out $9.8 million and told the tale of the co-founder’s struggle and immigration to America from Germany in the 1800s – this spot saw some backlash with #BoycottBudweiser trending that evening. And then there was Audi, promoting women’s rights, with their ad depicting a young girl blowing away the boys in a go-kart race, as her father (narrator), ponders: “Do I tell her that despite her education, her drive, her skills, her intelligence, she will automatically be valued as less than every man she ever meets?” – this commercial went viral with over 12+ million views on YouTube.
So was it worth it? Marketers of this ilk know they are taking risks by airing Super Bowl commercials that tap into sensitive social and political issues. Some took off, and some took more heat on social media than others. Any serious fallout for brands will take some time to materialize, but for now, there is no evidence that any of these advertisers are facing serious backlash that could impact their brands long-term. According to iSpot.tv, who tracks sentiment, all the ads engendered positive sentiment: Coca-Cola 81%, Airbnb 65%, Google 93%, 84 Lumber 87%, Budweiser 61%, and Audi 71%. Perhaps their bold messaging actually did capture the zeitgeist of our topsy-turvy world, and will succeed in leaving that ever-elusive, indelible mark.
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