Super Bowl 49 is done and in the books but, as always, it seems as though more people want to talk about the ads than the actual game. And this year's crop was a doozy. Budweiser called out craft brewing, Liam Neeson got his revenge in Clash of Clans, and Nationwide reminded us that children die.
Yeah. Let that sink in for a second.
Understandably, social media ripped into Nationwide for the really weird, wholly depressing message during a day normally reserved for eating way too many wings and watching a football game. It was so odd, in fact, that Nationwide actually sent out a press release saying their intent was to start a 'fierce conversation' about preventable childhood deaths. And that 'fierce conversation' is probably why Nationwide, and a few other key companies, delivered a series of emotional gut punches to us while we tried to watch football.
Nearly every, single one of these commercials was given a hashtag. #MakeSafeHappen. #WithDad. And these sad commercials did hit a nerve. It isn't enough to make a great Super Bowl commercial anymore - you need to design an ad that's shareable. You want to reach the people who didn't watch the game, or who weren't paying attention to the commercials. And to do that, you have to make commercials that are worth sharing. No one is going to post the spot about toe fungus medicine. But we are all still talking about Nationwide.
Unfortunately for those companies who spent $4.5 Million per thirty second spot, and then used that time to make #DownerBowl happen, getting the Super Bowl audience feel sad isn't as effective as making them feel happy. SalesForce broke down the top 5 most mentioned brands, and though Nationwide made the cut, it was the only one that saw a widely negative response. Budweiser, Skittles, McDonalds, and Doritos were the other four, and none of those brands featured dying children, or an absentee father. Budweiser's little lost puppy certainly tugged on your heart strings, but the spot was cute and it was mostly positive, unlike Nissan's which had me spend 90% of the ad worried that the dad was going to crash and die.
At any rate, every company wants to up their ad's shareability, and creating an emotional response is one way to do that. A year ago, Unruly found that an emotionally impactful ad is more likely to be shared. But that emotional impact cannot, in most cases, be just sad. There are a variety of emotional triggers in an ad, and different combinations of those triggers do better than others - according to Unruly, warmth, nostalgia, and pride were the big three from the last Super Bowl.
There is something to be said about the old sentiment that any press is good press. Yeah, we're having that conversation about child safety Nationwide wanted. Most of us probably tried calling our dads after the Nissan spot. But I still don't believe these ads are effective, and while they'll trend on social media, they didn't really land.
So what is the lesson here? Very few of us will ever have the money needed to air a commercial during the Super Bowl. But all of us craft content and ads with social marketing in mind, and the Super Bowl showed us exactly what, and what not, to do. Yes, shoot for an emotional trigger, try to get your audience to feel something - happiness, laughter, warmth, nostalgia. But make sure it's positive. As rudimentary as it sounds, you want people to associate your brand with good feelings. McDonalds accepting a call to your mom as payment for an order of hash browns is emotional, but in a cute, endearing way. And that's the sort of heartstring you want to tug at.
football / shutterstock