Opinion

Why can't brands make every ad a 'Super Bowl ad'?

It is time that brands channelled the effort they put into creating Super Bowl ads into great marketing all year round, says Gaby Bell, chief strategy officer, M&C Saatchi.

Super Bowl season is here and brand owners across the States will be reaching for their chequebooks to secure a coveted spot in the world’s most watched ad break.

That act might appear ill-judged when ‘appointment to view’ advertising seems to be part of a bygone era and indeed the very idea that advertising will act as a draw for the game is almost alien to some, particularly if you are seasoned Generation Y - whose TV consumption is conducted mainly through YouTube. In our box-set, Netflix-ed, You-Tube-d world, we have to face the uncomfortable truth that so much of the advertising generated by our industry is skippable and – well – skipped. And yet the Super Bowl is a glaring exception.

Eyes on the ads

Year in year out, it continues to draw the eyeballs – some 100m this year apparently – and as a

Around 50 million people make an occasion of the Super Bowl commercial break

consequence an ability to charge a serious premium to any brand that wants to have a piece of the action. What’s even more impressive is that around 50% of those eyeballs are only tuning in to watch the commercials. That’s around 50 milion people making an occasion of the commercial break. Advertising as genuine entertainment? Who’d have thought it! And for the most part, entertain is exactly what the advertising does.

The Doritos’ ‘Crash the Super Bowl’ campaign has produced some of the most memorable ads in the history of the Super Bowl and a good deal of surrounding content and PR. Last year alone the co-creation competition which kicked off the Doritos campaign generated 30,000 submissions and saw the brand winning the USA Today Super Bowl ad poll for a third time in 10 years.

Dove’s 'Care makes a man stronger' was another Super Bowl hit last year and a brave move by Unilever to take a personal care product into the limelight. And who would have imagined that a beer commercial could tug at the heart strings with a story about a cuddly lost dog and a handsome cowboy? So the great news is that advertisers do know how to make content that people actually choose to watch.

If that’s the case, why is it that some of the time the creative work the industry puts out is passed-over, fast-forwarded - skipped? If advertisers can create the magic for the Super Bowl, they should be able to do it for any ad break.

Taken to new heights

Every communications brief starts with the ambition of creating an end product that really engages, drives conversations and from time to time, even changes a brand’s fortunes, but it seems that quality gets taken to new heights when it comes to the occasion of the Super Bowl. The promise of fame and the reality of the investment dictates that advertisers feel compelled to try harder.

Brilliance will come if we tell a story

Now, I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t seem to be right to me. Just because a piece of creative isn’t running in the hallowed Super Bowl break, that shouldn’t mean that as the creative industry we settle for average. So what can we learn from the Super Bowl to ensure that more of our advertising is less skippable? A quick scan of marketing theory on the subject offers up a fail-safe ‘formula’, a Super Bowl ‘recipe for success’.

The advice doesn’t surprise, of course – they insist brilliance will come if we tell a story; make an emotional connection; ensure the product is at the heart of the narrative; create a buzz pre-campaign; integrate your idea across channels – all of which are true and entirely generic! The reality is that the secret to a great Super Bowl ad is simply the secret to making any good ad, but it is the cost and exposure that drives brands to set the bar that much higher.

The UK Christmas ad season typifies this too and as such is oft compared to the Super Bowl. Once a year UK advertisers pull out all the stops to make something truly brilliant that punters are happy to take the time to watch. When you stop and think about it – it seems a little crazy.

Creating famous advertising that people want to watch, share and talk about is what gets most of us out of bed in the morning, so maybe it's time to think of every ad break we are writing for as our own private Super Bowl.