If the Super Bowl is the year’s biggest advertising event, when sponsors try innovative new ways of reaching their target audience, then who was this year’s winner?
On Sunday, I think it was the advertisers who emerged victorious like the Eagles, while the publishers came off looking a little like the Patriots. Between the plays, Tide, for me, deserves the most praise for playing around with new creative stylings.
By showing a series of spots with the cliched stylings of ads for other products, Tide inverted traditional TV commercial norms by threading itself throughout the whole game experience. It made viewers question the reality of every other, less-knowing ad they saw.
Ingenuity was far less evident from others, however. In a year when brands largely eschewed the politically charged commercials from last year, most reverted to relatively one-dimensional, safe and conventional creatives.
But really it was the broadcasters who dropped the ball.
NBC unleashed native-like picture-in-picture ad spots throughout its broadcast of the game, running for around two minutes and 20 seconds of the broadcast. That would have been worth several million dollars of incremental ad revenue. But I can’t help thinking the execution could have been more impactful.
What Tide showed was that sharing creative that is aligned with the moments it accompanies is the best way to both credit viewers with some intelligence and to make an impact. In the digital advertising world that is also now eating TV, native advertising – the art of presenting commercial messaging as though more personalized and relevant content – is taking over one-dimensional banners .
But NBC barely attempted to reinvent the TV wheel. Its in-game executions included:
- Squeezing an existing 30-second creative for a YouTube TV ad into a picture-in-picture window during a break in play.
- Similarly, a 15-second ad overlay for its own NBC Sports app.
- Four, 20-second transitions featuring images of Super Bowl rings spinning, as NBC highlighted its key advertising brands.
- A 10-second Justin Timberlake shout-out with Verizon to first responders, #AllOurThanks, following his half-time performance.
But simply squeezing an existing TV creative into a picture-in-picture box hardly brought anything new to the table – and, arguably, undersold the innovation inherent in the very product it was marketing. The broadcast left many of the new tactics that native has inspired out on the field.
What could NBC have done better?
Consider that last year, Fox Sports began a new era in seamless brand-content synergy when, during a World Series game, it cut not to a commercial break but, instead, to its studio pundits . In place normal commercial advertising, the guests provided in-game analysis in front of their usual desk, now superimposed with T-Mobile branding.
It was, the network said, a “commercial- free break” – a brilliant way to provide viewers extra content while alleviating them from the annoyance of interruptive ads. But the World Series is no Super Bowl. Airtime in the latter now appears too valuable for broadcasters to give up to a content-led ad reinvention.
Nevertheless, I would have liked to see NBC go a little more native during the game. There were, I think, several opportunities missed to do something far more interesting:
- America The Beautiful: During the song, there was a prime chance for a beauty brand to step up and enhance what was nearly two minutes of an emotional musical moment.
- The coin toss: When World War II veteran Hershel Woodrow “Woody” Williams performed the flip before Sunday’s game, was that a paid spot? Call me cynical, but the NFL has never been shy about taking the US military’s ad dollars – imagine how much more engaging a story the Marine Corps could have told had the opportunity been available.
The Super Bowl remains the biggest party of the year for advertisers, but as the limelight continues to shine I would like to see them pull off some plays that go longer than 30 seconds. To seek out new horizons, they should follow the Tide.