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Lessons from the Super Bowl

By now we’ve all suffered the deflating surprise ending of the Nationwide Super Bowl commercial or heard about it online. We’ve watched #leftshark hit himself in the face under the guise of “dancing” and explained to our children why Missy Elliott’s appearance was way cooler, really, than Katy Perry’s. Many of us have even giggled at the variety of celebrity appearance’s: Liam Neeson for Clash of Clans; Mindy Kalig for Nationwide (different ad than the aforementioned deflating one); and Steve Buscemi for Snickers.

But what’s the takeaway from this year’s hits and misses, from a marketing standpoint?

I’d say it is, above all else, to know your target audience.

Football

The Super Bowl, of course, is an extreme example. This year, the average cost of a 30 second ad was around $4.5 million — and keep in mind that plenty of advertisers purchased 60 second spots, and a few ran 90 second ads. Viewership of this year’s game didn’t disappoint; the Super Bowl saw another record-setting year with 114.4 million viewers, as reported February 2nd by NBC (up from 112.2 million in 2014).

Many of us, as marketers or entrepreneurs, might not be working with stakes this high. Regardless of your budget, though, if you miss your target audience, you’ve wasted your time and money.

There were lots of winners in this year’s lineup of ads who hit their target audience right on the nail. We largely agree with Adweek’s Tim Nudd, who named the “5 Best Ads of Super Bowl XLIX” based on the ads that “hit that sweet spot where brilliant idea meets flawless execution.” as follows:
5) Clash of Clans “Revenge” feat. Liam Neeson (by Barton F. Graf 9000)
4) Kia “The Perfect Getaway” feat. Pierce Brosnan (by David & Goliath)
3) Loctite “Positive Feelings” (by Fallon)
2) Snickers “The Brady Bunch” (by BBDO New York)
1) Always “Like a Girl” (by Leo Burnett)

Other crowd favourites included Dove Men+Care’s spot honouring fatherhood; BudLight’s life-sized PacMan spot; Mophie’s impressive 60-second apocalyptic nail-biter; and Budweiser’s heartwarming standby of puppies and horses.

According to a 2015 Nielsen survey, consumers want to laugh during Super Bowl ads — 65% of respondents said they “really enjoy funny ads,” while an additional 30% expressed appreciation for sentimental game-day commercials.

The reason for the popularity of this year’s top ads is readily apparent when we look at social media’s reaction to this year’s notable flop. Nationwide’s “Make Safe Happen” spot (which, if you haven’t watched it yet, throws viewers the curveball that the child narrator is actually dead, the victim of a household accident) hit a sour note pretty much across the board, with Twitter erupting immediately. Twitter users called Nationwide out as a “Debbie Downer” and the ad inspiring the hashtag #sadbowl (a spin on the gameday marketing hashtag, #adbowl).

Once again, the Superbowl ads did not disappoint. Predictably, the bulk of this year’s favourites made us giggle, chuckle, maybe even laugh out loud. And if they didn’t do that, they were heartwarming and left us feeling better about the world overall. So the main message here is if you are going to spend any amount of time, energy or money on marketing, know your target audience and ensure your messaging matches.

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Amanda Schewaga
About the Author - Amanda Schewaga
Over the past eight years, Amanda has used her powers in social media strategy and content development to help small and big businesses triumph in the online world. BAM! There she goes launching a social media campaign with a reach of over 3 million impressions. KABOOM! There she goes getting her clients to the forefront of their industry and building a dedicated online community.

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