Not That You Asked…

My favorite part of the Super Bowl is not the commercials; it’s talking about the commercials on Monday with WGN’s Bill and Wendy. They’re not in advertising; they’re simply students of culture with curious, interesting minds, which means I’m never fully prepared for what they might want to discuss. They are also amazingly supportive and helpful, particularly if your voice sounds like you spent the morning gargling molasses and working on your Harrison Ford mumble…

 

And because it’s not really kosher to comment without sharing your own perspective for critique, here are my four top ads from Super Bowl LIII. Sure I loved Amazon’s over-the-top, super Super Bowl-y ad about Alexa’s mythical failures. I was also heartened by Google’s showcasing of data on the three most translated phrases worldwide (spoiler alert: “I love you” is #1). And who didn’t choke up at the emotional resonance of Verizon’s “The Coach Who Wouldn’t Be Here” ad honoring first responders? Still, you can only pick four in this totally arbitrary exercise I just dreamed up, so here goes:

1. BUD LIGHT: GAME OF THRONES

I hate everything about Bud Light trying to conjure an issue out of corn syrup. As the category leader, these types of mean-spirited attack ads should be beneath them (did they learn nothing from the sweet Google Translate ad?). That said, the mash up ad with Game of Thrones was stupendous. It delivered what you rarely get in Super Bowl ads: genuine surprise. After an expectedly breezy dilly-dilly opening, the story makes a head snapping turn to the dark side that stopped me cold and was entirely brand appropriate for HBO.
And despite his gruesome death, I’m also certain the Bud Knight will be back in future ads with no explanation, kinda like Kenny in South Park.

2. NFL: THE 100 YEAR GAME

This was pure fun; a playful, winning nod to the amazing personalities that have played the game over the years. How can anyone not love this? It sidestepped mountains of controversy surrounding the brand without appearing to be sidestepping controversy. Nicely done. And great to see Singletary again.

3. HULU: THE HANDMAIDEN’S TALE

I haven’t read or watched “The Handmaiden’s Tale” but as an ad fan, recycling the Hal Riney-esque VO from the ad that got Ronald Reagan elected in 1980 was an inspired move. An amazingly simple, graceful idea…though admittedly, it probably spoke more to ad nerds than the general public.

4. THE WASHINGTON POST

Call me old fashioned, but I don’t believe the relentless attacks on the free press come from a place of selfless concern for the republic. Yes, both sides of the media aisle are complicit in exaggerating and framing facts to fit their frameworks; chasing clicks in a social media powered world does little to encourage centrist reporting. But the fact remains that Jamal Khashoggi was an American resident and father of three citizens yet we did nothing to hold the foreign powers who murdered him accountable. That’s weak. And wrong. And this spot does a tremendous job of speaking to a social issue in a manner relevant to the brand.

All in all, the general consensus seems to be that the crop of spots were disappointing, but I didn’t really find that anymore true this year than others. It’s nearly impossible to please all the people all the time, and this is the one few advertising platform where that’s still the job. It’s an unforgiving spotlight, and yet everyone in the ad game still wants to be there. That says something…

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Moving From IntegratED to IntegratING Marketing

It may seem like so much facile wordplay, but the fundamental need for advertisers to move from the dated notion of ‘integrated marketing’ to the more contemporary concept of ‘integrating marketing’ makes sense for a number of reasons.  First, it’s active.  ‘Advertising’ must be thought of a verb: an active pursuit that demands ongoing care and engagement.  Given the constant stream of opinion that fills and influences the content streaming over social media, brands and their agency protectors can ill afford to fall into the old habit of ‘set it and forget it.’  Today, brand advocacy demands a deeper commitment to insure their ongoing health; we always have to be doing something.  Because brands are opinions.

Picture 1Another upside of re-imagining our job as ‘Integrating Marketing’ is that it encourages a broader view that incorporates both paid, earned and even ‘drive-by’ media like Twitter and brand review sites.  The messages we produce and introduce to the marketplace create movement and impact, but they are hardly the last word.  With purchase intent so driven by recommendation and word of mouth, agencies need to monitor and ideally, impact, every available platform for widespread opinion sharing.

Ultimately, the real reason to reorient ourselves toward ‘integrating’ marketing is that our market is continually disintegrating.  Through technology like DVR’s, Hulu and YouTube, the market continually expands away from one common location.  To reach these far flung micro audiences requires a constant process of ‘integrating’ them back into a larger group around a common bond.

So, are you integrated?  Or are you integrating?

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

Dangerous, Dated Conceit #3: Assuming An Advertising Audience

We now work amidst a cavalcade of technological and social changes that actively assail the long-reliable notion of an aggregated audience for advertising messages.  Instead of simply worrying that some portion of the audience may leave to use the bathroom during their commercials, advertisers now face DVR’s, DVD’s, Hulu, hundreds of niche channels, and the ugly reality that in poll after poll, the number of respondents claiming to actively dislike or avoid advertising never dips below the mid sixties and frequently soars far higher.   TV viewers recognize advertising as the tax demanded for their free entertainment, but new technologies make it easier than ever to avoid them. Besides, who likes taxes?

Today's Audience Is Far From Captive

Today's Audience Is Far From Captive

Online advertising fares no better. Last year, the online pollsters at VIZU conducted a survey of 2000 internet users where 72% said they found advertising ‘annoying’ or ‘extremely annoying.’  Wow. Given the amount of free tools available to help people avoid our messages–RSS feeds, online aggregators–merely placing an ad means far less than it once did. And remember, this environment is a huge Brandfill: last year, advertisers threw up 3.6 trillion banner messages online. Written out, that’s 3,600,000,000,000.  In layman’s term, that’s a lot.

And as for print, well, we’ve been reading print’s obituary for the past five years now, although the stubborn cuss refuses to outright die.

As Howard Gossage, advertising’s own H.L. Mencken and a man who never once wrote a TV ad, was fond of saying “The real fact of the matter is that nobody reads ads.  People read what interests them, and sometimes it’s an ad.”

When you can’t assume an audience, it forces you to adapt your strategy from informing first to engaging first.  Engagement must be the primary mission of advertising messages these days because now, more than ever before, the audience has options.

Be interesting first.  Being engaging is step one.  Without it, there is no step two.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79