What Startups Can Learn from This Year’s Super Bowl & Political Ads

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Each year as the Super Bowl nears, marketing and ad teams work tirelessly to come up with the ultimate 30 second spot that will captivate an audience of millions — Some 167 million viewers in 2016 — and hopefully activate customers and prospects to reach into their pockets. This year, that 30 second spot cost a mere $5 millions dollars. So the $5 million question: is it worth it?

In a recent interview with CBS, Allison Miazga-Bedrick, the marketing director for Snickers explained why she thinks it is. “I think because of the eyeballs and the impressions and everything that comes along with it,” Miazga-Bedrick replied. “So the fact that we’re sitting here talking about it is exactly that. It’s not just the 30 seconds that you’re paying for; you’re paying for everything that surrounds it.”

However, a recent survey by Genesis Media found that nearly 90% of respondents said that they were unlikely to buy something tied to a Super Bowl ad; and roughly 75% of respondents said they couldn’t remember ads from last year.

Depending on who you ask, the question of is it worth spending all that money is still up in the air like an Aaron Rodgers deep ball. However, if were going on pure impressions, which many people do lean on, than obviously yes it is.

Politicians Paying Big for Ad Touchdowns Too

Some estimates say that political TV ad spending will top $4.4 billion for federal races this year, up from $3.8 billion in 2012. Yes, billion.

A recent survey by eMarketer found that only 27% of respondents say that their opinion of a candidate has been influenced by an ad. However, Travis Ridout of Washington State University, who’s conducted studies on political ad campaign effectiveness, argues that while impact may be small, margins in political races can also be tiny and therefore not forking over millions of dollars on ads could be a death sentence.

“In a highly competitive race where candidates are well-known, ads aren’t going to make more than a 2-3 percentage point difference, but obviously, some races are decided by 2-3 percentage points, and so you just don’t want to give up on that,” said Ridout.

So maybe shelling all that dough when races are tight makes sense. But when you’re behind the pack by quite a bit and shelling out more than any other candidate, al a Jeb Bush who spent $14.1 million in Iowa alone only to garner 2.8% of the vote — resulting in a price tag of 2,800 per vote — well… you make the call.

Maximizing Spend

It’s likely that billions of dollars fly out of politicians and big corporate pockets each year as a result of inertia. With effectiveness increasingly hard to measure one can only surmise that decision makers are spending because they always have and because everyone around them is. And it isn’t likely to slow down any time soon.

So how then do you maximize the money you spend to make sure at the very least that your ads don’t hurt your brand? Let’s take a look at 6 of our favorite 2016 Super Bowl and Presidential Election Campaign ads and see what startups can take from them. 

Best Super Bowl Ads 

1. Jeep, Portraits:

On a night when 111.9 million viewers were watching the telecast on horizontal screens, Jeeps”Portraits” was a vertical video that used less than half of the available screen space. In an interview w/ Adweek, Sean Reynolds, the creative exec behind the ad said the reason behind the approach was strategic.

“The close crop was important to really focus the viewer on the eyes and the stories they tell,” Reynolds said. “We always had the idea that because it’s a portrait ad, it would look great on a mobile device. So we spent a lot of time talking and testing with YouTube to make sure it played full-screen on a portrait device.”

While the ad had a powerful message behind it, Jeep’s spot wins for it’s creative format and mobile centric strategy. With much of the buzz around Super Bowl ads taking place after the fact as people like us view and dissect them on mobile platforms this strategy was brilliant. Startups should always have thief mobile thinking caps on when developing any kind of marketing campaign.

2.  Avocados from New Mexico, #AvosInSpace: 

While this spot appeared to be following the Old Spice phenomenon of countless brands creating ads that are quirky and weird for no apparent reason, behind this ad’s quirk there was a very impactful feeling at play — familiarity.

The premise of the ad is that aliens in space are taking a museum tour of Earth’s bounties — familiar pop culture references to #TheDress, a Rubik’s cube, and Happy Days actor Scott Baio. While these things may not be the most powerful references, they have impacted our culture in big ways (for better or worse.)

We can all relate to these things just as we can relate to the feeling of dipping into a bowl of delicious guacamole during the big game. Simply put, familiarity feels good. And that’s what every brand want’s — you to feel good when you think about them.

3. Doritos, Ultra Sounds: 

Consistency is an attribute that too often brands overlook or completely disregard. It’s easy to fall victim to trends or commonly used tropes and end up basically regurgitating the marketing strategies of those around you. Doritos however knows who they are — a good lesson for any startup or entrepreneur.

They’re ads consistently push the envelop of weirdness and off-color humor. So when we saw the Ultra sound ad, instead of being confused by the over-the-top ad, we were left impressed with Doritos ability to continue to push the envelop closer to the edge while making us laugh.

Here is there 2015 Super Bowl ad.

Best Political Ads:

1.  Bernie Sanders, Together: 

During this ad, images of individual faces flash across the screen, are torn in half and put back together as Sander’s delivers this VO:

“If we do not allow them to divide us up by race, by sexual orientation, by gender; by not allowing them to divide us up by whether or not we were born in America, or whether we’re immigrants. When we stand together, as white and black and Hispanic and gay and straight and woman and man; when we stand together and demand that this country works for all us, rather than the few, we will transform America. And that is what this campaign is about: is bringing people together.”

‘Nuff said…

2. Ted Cruz , Trump Doll: 

Some of the best content is the simplest content. Too often, brands opt for a high concept only to have it fall flat or confuse their audience. While this ad is plenty corny, it uses a very easy message to understand. Say what you will about Cruz, but when it comes to his ad game, he seems to be resonating with his audience.

A Politico story cited  data provided by Ace Metrix, that found Republican  viewers who were surveyed in panels of 400 to 500 people consistently found Cruz’s spots more watchable, persuasive, and attention-getting, and they typically made more viewers want to seek more information about Cruz after watching the spots.

3. Bernie Sanders, America: 

This ad works because of how evocative it is. Dubbed “America,”  it features images of packed campaign rallies, Sanders meet-and-greets, American flags and the Des Moines skyline as Simon and Garfunkels’ Bookends track plays in the background.

Similar to the campaign’s Together ad, the focus is on the people and movement surrounding the Sanders campaign, not the candidate himself. There is a collective sense that something is happening out there that is bringing all of these people together.

It’s important for a startup to be aspirational. You’re desire to disrupt an industry may seem like an impossible feat to some, but so does Sander’s political revolution. However, his supporters respect him for staying to those aspirations.

BONUS: Worst Political Ad 0f 2016:

Jeb Bush, Mommy: WEAK

Brother Jeb has been beleaguered by a shared sense that while he shares the same blood of his political powerhouse family, he just isn’t cut from the same political cloth. Trump, with his constant assertions that Bush is a “loser” and “low energy”  has only added to what has been a pitiful campaign thus far.

Jeb’s plan? Have Mommy confront the bully on the playground. Not a good look, Jeb. Not a good look.

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