Applying Marketing Principles from Super Bowl Ads – Principle 2

Principle 2: Don’t let the creative idea steal from the point of the ad.

Too often creative is done for creative’s sake. The creative angle is so sweet that it becomes the focus of the spot, rather than the actual reason the spot is being run (to promote a product, or raise awareness of a company, or communicate a value proposition. When the creative is done for creative’s sake, the message is lost.

You can taste test this one – ask someone who watched the Super Bowl about the viking ad… you know, the one with the Vikings rowing their dragon ship. Here’s the test: what product was that promoting?

Example: Quickbooks/Death Wish Coffee

In this spot, we are treated to a ride on a Viking dragon boat, as the men are exhorted to press on to Valhalla. Through this 20 seconds (2/3 of the half minute spot!), the viewer is trying to place the ad: “Is it a movie?”, “A car commercial? Beer?”, “What is this for?” Then suddenly, we’re in a kitchen as the Vikings are swallowed by a guy. That leaves 5 seconds for the point of the ad – explaining that this is an ad for Death Wish Coffee and it is proudly brought to us by Quickbooks which supports small business – #TeamSmallBiz! What? Where? What?

This creative was over caffeinated (sorry, not very punny)… I’m sure the idea was to engage the audience with the story and then surprise them with the reality that it’s coffee in a mug! WOW! What a creative idea! In reality, the creative is too long and the punchline too short. Remember the next ad is up and the viewer just moves on. It’s too much time spent on creative for creative’s sake. By the time the viewer has a chance to catch up the spot is over and we’re wondering why Helen Mirren is dining alone.

Simple Fix

A simple edit to this spot would solve this issue: start with the message “Quickbooks is proud to promote small business”, state this is a spot introducing Death Wish Coffee, put the company’s URL on the screen through the Viking bit, end with a visual repeating Quickbooks supports small business. Such a re-edit prioritizes the message to: Quickbooks supports small business (Priority 1 – our message); that we really mean it… we’re using the balance of the ad to promote our customer, a small business (Priority 2 – our proof); and THEN fun creative with Vikings (Priority 3 – engaging creative).

The only thing this edit would take away from this spot is the surprise factor…. but hey, it’s a Quickbooks ad, not a M. Night Shyamalan movie. Forget the surprise and communicate with your audience. Don’t let your brilliant creative get in the way of your purpose. Sometimes it’s best to use the old speakers adage: Tell ‘em what you’re going to say. Say it. Tell ‘em what you told ‘em.

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