This Year’s Lasting Super Bowl Advertising Lesson

Now that the game is over and all the teasers and tie-ins have played out, that great arbiter of Super Bowl commercial rankings — USA Today’s Admeter — has declared a winner: Jeep’s charming and hysterical “Groundhog Day.”

Bill Murray killed it. So Jeep killed it. But Highdive? The agency that created this spot? They totally killed it.

Just not for the obvious reason.

Sure, their new spot is a note-perfect comedy gem, a meticulous recreation that adds wonderful new gags. It’s a spot we all wish we had done.

But just one year ago, Highdive was a relatively young startup agency with a handful of employees that somehow produced a :60 for the Super Bowl.

And their spot got savaged on social media.

Their ad featured a Dr. Martin Luther King sermon, artfully edited to highlight Ram Truck’s tagline “Built to Serve.” Critics cried foul, pointing out that MLK’s full remarks specifically argued against aggrandizing yourself by buying fancy cars. With Black Lives Matter very much in the headlines, their debut spot was roundly panned for being tone deaf.

So Highdive had their moment in the sun. And failed. Very publicly.

Many have written about the lessons of failure, about how much adversity can teach you for the next time. And all too many creative people lose heart when critics pounce, believing their chance is over, they missed, there will be no next time.

Happily, Highdive didn’t. And now here they are, just one year later, occupying the highest perch in the advertising landscape. They took the hit, learned from it, and bounced back with a vengeance.

And a groundhog.

Kudos to them. May many more good things lie ahead.

PS: One other lesson from this year’s ads? If you want a quick primer on how music shapes viewer emotion, pay attention to how the score and SFX of this one and this one generate inspiration and the start and stop of this one drives the comedy. Wonderful craftsmanship.

On Blackhawks and Bandwagons

With the Blackhawks within one win of bringing the Stanley Cup back to Chicago for the first time in almost half a century, all sorts of fans have come out of the woodwork to embrace the team.  In every neighborhood of the city this weekend, despite the June temperatures, people walked around wearing authentic long sleeved jerseys or crisp new t-shirts.  This is a classic case of bandwagon-jumping.

Element 79 Chicago Advertising Dennis RyanAnd it’s a good, good thing.

Getting people to jump on a bandwagon requires exceptional persuasive skills, and the phenomenon is not limited to sports teams.  The best advertising does that too–it makes you want to join something, jump into a movement, grab your seat on the bandwagon…

“Sure they look like antifreeze, but everyone’s drinking Appletinis…”

“Actually, I do care which manufactured popstar wins on Idol so I’m gonna spend my change and vote!”

“Yes, they’re expensive to buy and costly to repair, but all the best kitchens have Sub Zero refrigerators.”

Creating the perception that any brand is part of something larger gives them staying power in our highly-distracted world.  The same emotion that makes a Hawks fan high five strangers as they leave the Stadium leads Jeep drivers to toss a salute when they pass other Jeeps.

And this behavior, more than anything else, argues for the convergence and strategic integration of social PR with mass advertising.  When you can promote an idea and then offer people ways to actively participate in that idea, you’re on your way to creating a bandwagon.

Hopefully the Chicago Blackhawks bandwagon will be jumping Wednesday night.  Come on…

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79