There’s only one thing that can bring together people to watch grown men in tights throw what some call “the pig skin:” the Super Bowl. The only thing I like more than shouting myself hoarse at the TV in the hopes that the players will listen to my expert advice is the commercials.
According to USA Today, this year companies spent an average $3.5 million on advertising for a 30-second time slot to impress upon viewers that the product being advertised is vital to their happiness—or even their survival. Companies vary in how to approach this mission, some more effectively than others.
One way advertisers try to appeal to consumers is through the use of some sort of gimmick in an effort to take hold of people’s short attention spans. This might be pyrotechnics, special effects, celebrity appearances or humor. Personally, I think some sort of combination works best, a little of everything in one ad can be overwhelming. Putting in flames, explosions, and an A-list celebrity is a guaranteed way to ensure that no one will remember what the commercial was actually trying to sell.
One example of a commercial that got it right would be the Snicker’s commercial last year featuring Betty White and the slogan, “You’re not you when you’re hungry.” Perhaps I’m simply easily entertained, but seeing Betty White trying to play football was hands down one of the top commercial moments for that Super Bowl.
Sometimes the commercials have a more serious, thought-provoking style. The people out there who find this type of marketing effective must place Apple’s 1984 aptly titled commercial “1984” among the best of Super Bowl commercials. The ad opens with a room full of people watching a Big Brother figure on TV, drawing on George Orwell’s novel 1984. Then a young woman (presumably an Apple customer) bursts in and throws a hammer at the screen, breaking it. At the end, a voiceover announces, “On Jan. 24, Apple Computer will introduce the Macintosh, and you’ll see why 1984 won’t be like 1984.”
For those of us who prefer our football without literary allusions and historical references, plenty of other approaches abound.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is simplicity. Sometimes less is indeed more. The 1995 Budweiser commercial consistently has ranked high, including a ranking as the number five greatest Super Bowl commercial of all time by Bleacher Report. The ad consists of three frogs in a swamp croaking. One frog says “Bud,” another “Weis” and the last “Er;” together they sing the company name Budweiser. The commercial was so well-received that Budweiser ended up making several spin-offs, proving that three frogs, three syllables and one name can make one effective commercial.
Volkswagen followed Budweiser’s simplistic approach with their ad released during last year’s Super Bowl. The commercial follows a kid dressed as Darth Vader while he tries to use his Jedi powers to shift objects around the house. The kid’s reaction to the car lights flashing—thanks to his dad pressing the key from inside the house—was priceless. They kept it simple but also employed their secret weapon: the cute card.
So no matter what approach you find most effective, be it explosions, celebrities, funny punchlines or frogs, you’re sure to see a commercial using at least one of these methods this Super Bowl Sunday on Feb. 5. It’s nice to know that if your team is doing horribly, you just need to wait. In 10 minutes, there will be a commercial to make you forget throwing your can of Pepsi at the TV and instead give you the urge to grab a Coke and “Open Happiness.”