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Last year Soda Stream ran its first Super Bowl ad ever. The spot was mediocre; the Kellogg Super Bowl Advertising Review panel gave it a C.

Here it is:

 

Soda Stream was smart to advertise on the Super Bowl. The brand was growing quickly and needed to accelerate adoption. A Super Bowl ad is a great way to build broad awareness and spark adoption.

The issue: Soda Stream had a strategy problem.

Soda Stream’s 2013 spot featured exploding bottles. As people carbonated water, plastic soda bottles blew up. The key line was this: “With Soda Stream you can save 2,000 bottles a year.”

The basic issue is that saving bottles isn’t a compelling benefit for most people. I’m certain it scored well in consumer tests because people like to think they care about the environment. The benefit probably did even better in focus group studies. But it isn’t a strong enough benefit to drive a behavior change.

Saving bottles is not why most people will use Soda Stream. If someone really wanted to save bottles they would be drinking regular tap water from a reusable jug.

As a result, the 2013 Super Bowl ad fell a bit flat. You can only do so much with a flawed strategy.

Soda Stream is advertising on the Super Bowl again in 2014. This year the brand needs to do better. This is particularly the case in light of its weak earnings announcement this week.

The first task: find a benefit. Soda Stream has to put forth a more compelling reason for people to use the product. It could be the experience, convenience or value. The brand has to find something.

Soda Stream announced over the weekend that it signed Scarlett Johansson as a spokesperson and she will appear in the brand’s Super Bowl spot.

This is a good first step; a celebrity endorser is a great way to spark interest.

Now Soda Stream has to find a benefit and make a compelling case.

Heinz Steps Up

Yesterday Heinz announced that it would be running an ad on the 2014 Super Bowl. This is a big surprise; Heinz hasn’t advertised on the Super Bowl in more than a decade.

The brand isn’t an obvious candidate. It is a mature, stable business with little competition. In addition, this is off-season. People aren’t buying ketchup for picnics in early February.

But this is not a normal time at Heinz.

In June, an investment group including Warren Buffet and Brazilian private equity group 3G Capital purchased Heinz.

Since then, the company has been in disarray. The new management team fired almost 2,000 people from staff roles and announced the closure of three plants in North America.

McDonald’s dropped Heinz in October.

Fortune Magazine ran a long story the same month attacking the new management team.

Sales have been slumping, with revenue down about 6% in North America in the latest period, a notable figure for a company with big, mature brands.

The Super Bowl buy is clearly a move to stabilize the company. It is a symbolic gesture. The unspoken goal is to let employees, customers, suppliers and partners know that the new executives at Heinz aren’t just determined to slash costs and fire people. They also want to invest and build the business.

It has been a rough few months for Heinz. The Super Bowl ad is a bid to shift the focus and generate some positive news.

E-Trade Drops Out

E-Trade announced last month that the brand is skipping the 2014 Super Bowl. E-Trade Senior VP Rich Muhlstock explained the decision, noting: “Over the years, E-Trade has built phenomenal brand recognition…. Now we are sharpening our focus on key prospects and existing customers.”

This is not a surprising move. E-Trade is going after a fairly narrow group of investors and there are cheaper ways to reach them than advertising on the Super Bowl.

E-Trade ran ads during the last seven Super Bowls and the Kellogg Super Bowl Advertising Review panel evaluated E-Trade each year. The brand did very well. It received 3 As, 2 Bs and 2 Cs. This is a huge accomplishment. It is not easy to create advertising year after year that works so well.

E-Trade did what successful Super Bowl advertisers need to do: break through the clutter and deliver a message. By sticking with the baby, E-Trade quickly established brand recognition. A talking baby means the ad is from E-Trade.

E-Trade shifted the message over time. One ad promoted its high interest rate on savings accounts, another discussed low fees and another focused on simplicity. The strategy changed while the creative idea remained. This approach worked well.

I’ll miss seeing the E-Trade talking baby during the Super Bowl this year but I would not be surprised to see it back in 2015.

Here are two of E-Trade’s best Super Bowl spots:

 

The 2014 Super Bowl is less than two months away. This is the time when marketers all around the world are putting finishing touches on their Super Bowl marketing campaigns. Some are shooting commercials this week; others are meeting with senior management to secure approvals and almost are plotting social media strategy.

The stakes are high: on Super Bowl Sunday millions of people will gather to watch and evaluate the ads. There will also be a football game that day, but for most folks the advertising matters more.

It is shaping up to be a record Super Bowl in terms of advertising.

-Prices are at a new peak, selling for $4 million for each thirty-second spot. This is serious money even for big advertisers.

– Demand is high. The Wall Street Journal reported this week that the Super Bowl is sold out.

– Pregame buzz will be intense and early. Advertisers are already putting out press releases about Super Bowl advertising. This is different; a few years ago few advertisers released much before Super Bowl. Then marketers started capitalizing on the buzz by putting out information the week before the event. Now companies are active months ahead of time.

The Kellogg Super Bowl Advertising Review will be back again in 2014. This is our tenth year of reviewing the spots. Our focus, as always, will be on business impact: which of these advertisers built the brand and the business. This makes our ratings unique; our panel focuses on what really matters. Creativity is nice but is of no use on its own. The advertising has to work.

In the weeks leading up to the game, Professor Derek Rucker and I will be blogging. You can read the posts on the Kellogg Super Bowl Advertising Review blog or on my blog. Sign up to see all the posts.

Kellogg Super Bowl Ad Review blog:  www.kelloggsuperbowlreview.wordpress.com

My blog: www.strongbrands.wordpress.com

We will also be on Twitter. We will look at who is advertising and why, the business challenges they face and what they have to do to succeed. And after the game, of course, we will be out with our rankings.

This year we will also take a look back at 10 years of the Kellogg Super Bowl Advertising Review.

It is a fun time of the year and there is a lot to learn about marketing, strategy and our society.

–Tim Calkins

It is clear that advertisers know everyone is watching the Super Bowl. Super Bowl XLVII featured ads that were broadly appealing, safe, and focused on delivering a brand message. The tradeoff, of course, is that it is hard to be distinctive and safe at the same time. This year we saw a lot of ads that worked well but won’t be remembered years from now.

There were two notable trends this year. First, advertisers ran long spots. Many developed sixty-second spots and Jeep, Dodge and Samsung ran spots lasting two minutes. Marketers are recognizing the power of stories to engage people and build brands. It takes time to tell an engaging story.

Second, social media reached a new level. Most Super Bowl advertisers had elaborate campaigns before the game and several were active during the game itself. Oreo, Tide and other brands tweeted about the blackout, demonstrating an ability to react quickly to developments in the world. One of our favorite tweets was from SodaStream, which signed off after the game with this comment:  “Hope you all enjoyed the game! We’re signing off before we have to see that Go Daddy commercial again.”

A group of almost sixty Kellogg students watched the Super Bowl in Evanston and evaluated all the spots. Here are some of the grades and highlights.

The Best

 

Tide (A)

Tide topped the list this year with a very engaging spot about a Joe Montana stain. Going into the game, we weren’t sure the spot would do well since the branding is late; Tide shows up just at the end of the commercial. But the ad had tremendous breakthrough. In addition, since the ad focused on a stain people quickly connected it to Tide, the clear category leader. This sort of ad wouldn’t work for a smaller brand but for Tide it is a huge win.


 

M&Ms (A)

M&Ms almost won the review for the second year in a row with a spot that had very strong branding and breakthrough. From the first second it was clear this was a spot for M&Ms. The ad was clever and engaging; it quickly got people’s attention and kept it.


 

Best Buy (A)

Best Buy has run Super Bowl ads for several years. This was its best year; Best Buy’s ad featuring Amy Pohler was one of the top spots in the Kellogg Super Bowl Advertising Review.

The spot had strong branding; it was very clear this was an ad for Best Buy. The ad also communicated a benefit: great service. It got attention and was very distinctive.


 

Jeep (A)

Chrysler’s Jeep ad was one of the most emotional and somber spots on the game. The ad ran during halftime, right after the Beyonce’s half-time extravaganza. The rather jarring contrast attracted attention, reminding people that even as they enjoy the game there are service men and women all over the world serving our country.

The spot worked for Jeep; it touched the brand’s historical roots and gave the brand meaning and importance.

The joint Jeep – USO branding was curious. This reduced the chance Jeep would be accused of opportunism but might have diluted the branding to some degree.


 

Wonderful Pistachios (A)

Wonderful Pistachios ran a terrific spot featuring Psy and his Gangnam style dancing. The ad was distinctive and very well branded. The line “Get Crackin’ Gangnam Style” was a triumph.

Wonderful Pistachios focused on the category of pistachios more than the merits of Wonderful Pistachios over other competitors. The strategic clarity kept the spot simple and focused.


 

Axe (A)

Unilever’s Axe brand ran an insightful spot about men, women and astronauts. The brand found a way to build on its historical equity and keep things interesting and fresh.

Strong Performers

 

Samsung (B)

Samsung made an interesting choice with its spot on the Super Bowl; the brand decided to run fresh creative, not its highly successful ads attacking Apple and Blackberry.

The ad worked; it was distinctive and communicated clearly that Samsung was indeed the next big thing.

An interesting side note: Kellogg student Sam Sung approved the use of his name in the spot.


 

E Trade (B)

The E Trade baby returned this year with another solid Super Bowl spot. The message this year was clear: keep retirement account fees low with E Trade. Branding was solid; using the baby means people immediately know who the ad is for. The ad didn’t have quite the magic of some E Trade’s earlier spots but it still finished near the top of our rankings.


 

Audi (B)

Audi had a distinctive spot with a clear benefit: driving an Audi makes you confident and brave. Audi relied on consumer input to select the ad’s finish. We are curious why none of the options showed the girl traveling with the brave fellow in the Audi.


 

Taco Bell (B)

A solid spot for Taco Bell featured old folks acting young. The insightful ad dramatized youth as a mindset. Taco Bell embraced an emotional benefit; the ad didn’t talk at all about specific menu offerings or food quality.


 

Mercedes (B)

An interesting move by Mercedes: highlighting the brand’s surprisingly low price. The point came across. We wonder if this is where Mercedes should focus.


 

Speed Stick (B)

Speed Stick’s spot on the Super Bowl worked well; it was distinctive and got the point across in a humorous fashion.

The Low Scoring Spots

 

BlackBerry (D)

BlackBerry received the lowest score from the Kellogg panel this year. This is unfortunate because BlackBerry really needed a strong performance to reverse the brand’s negative trends.

There were two big problems in the BlackBerry spot. First, branding was weak; it wasn’t clear who was advertising. Second, there wasn’t a benefit; the spot talked a lot about what the product didn’t do but little about what the device could do. Why should we use a BlackBerry? We wish they had given us a reason.


 

Lincoln (D)

Lincoln also needed a big year on the Super Bowl but fell flat. The brand showed an attractive car. Unfortunately, the Super Bowl is full of ads featuring attractive cars.


 

Go Daddy (D)

One of the factors the Kellogg panel considers is amplification. The question: what will people remember from the spot? Is this positive or negative?

Go Daddy had a distinctive spot but negative amplification; people found the kiss to be disconcerting. The extended play version posted on-line was even more disturbing for those who went to see it.


 

Subway (D)

Subway ran some fine spots on the Super Bowl; the branding was clear and the message distinctive. Most days, this would be fine. On the Super Bowl, however, standards are higher and the Subway ads just didn’t measure up so suffered in terms of getting attention and being distinctive.


 

Calvin Klein (D)

In 2012 we saw the male form displayed by H&M. This year we saw it showcased by Calvin Klein. The spot was distinctive but didn’t resonate with the Kellogg panel.

Other Notable Spots

 

Budweiser (C)

One of the top ads on the Super Bowl was Budweiser’s Clydesdale ad. What a remarkable piece of film; in just sixty-second, Budweiser told a very complicated story but everyone could follow it. We showed the ad to a seven-year old girl one time and she then immediately played back the entire story in great detail, both what happened and the emotions involved.

The Kellogg panel scored the Clydesdale spot as one of the very best on the game this year. Unfortunately, the other spots for Bud and Bud Light were not as effective; this brought the score for the Budweiser brand to a C.


 

Dodge (C)

The ad we’d most like to see again is the spot from Dodge featuring Paul Harvey talking about farmers. The spot is deep and emotional.

The power of the Dodge ad is that it gives the brand soul; it really connects Dodge to rural America and traditional values. This is strategically brilliant. Chrysler has clearly defined the Chrysler brand as an urban brand and the Dodge brand as a rural brand.

The spot fell in the middle of the pack with the Kellogg panel; it wasn’t clear that people connected the creative to the brand and there were some concerns as to whether the brand took too much time to share its message.


 

Mio (C)

Kraft’s Mio took aim at Gatorade in its Super Bowl ad. The spot showed how to use the product and set a clear frame of reference. The ad would have scored better with a stronger benefit: why use this product, again?


 

Cars.com (C)

Cars.com has been a consistent Super Bowl advertisers; the brand has run solid spots over the years. This one worked well but didn’t break into the top of the rankings. Still, with the brand’s aggressive integrated marketing effort supporting the ad we suspect the overall impact might be very positive.

Final Thoughts

Super Bowl advertising is only getting to be more important; it has a unique role in the marketing calendar. Social media will play a big role again next year.

The challenge for marketers is to be safe but not too safe. The spots that live with us forever as blockbusters in the Super Bowl advertising hall of fame are those combine exceptional strategy and creative brilliance.

Tim and Derek

The 2013 Super Bowl is just days away. Many people are looking forward to the football game. We suspect more people are excited about the advertising.

Just as sports analysts are speculating about the upcoming bout between the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens, advertising enthusiasts are scanning the list of this year participants in anticipation of marketing’s big day.

Here are a few things to watch for in this year’s Super Bowl Advertising extravaganza.

  • This year there are a host of new advertisers hoping to reach advertising glory. The “rookie” entrants are always fun to watch to see how they handle the pressure of performing in the spotlight. On Sunday we will see rookies including Gildan Activewear, Blackberry and Soda Stream. The raw number of eyeballs the Super Bowl will fetch for these newcomers makes the desirability of the venue obvious. Of greater interest is whether or not these brands can bring both the creative panache and the strategic sensibility to have breakout debuts.

 

  • Veteran advertisers are returning as well. Anheuser-Busch InBev will return with plays in mind for both its Budweiser and Bud Light brands. There has already been buzz in the media about the classic Budweiser Clydesdales, who appear to be ready to introduce the consumer to a newly minted foal. With their veteran experience in the bowl, anything less than a strong showing by Anheuser-Busch InBev will be a shock. Doritos will be back with their crowdsourcing technique, putting into play its best consumer-generated spots.

 

  • Last year the Kellogg Super Bowl Ad Review rated M&Ms (Mars) the winner. The brand returns to defend its title with another spot. Keep an eye out for this execution to judge for yourself whether the brand is worthy of another title. Win or lose, it’s an almost certain that M&Ms (Mars) will make a strong play for the title.

 

We expect this to be an exciting year for Super Bowl Advertising. We will post results from the Kellogg Super Bowl Advertising Review right after the game.

Derek & Tim

Coca-Cola has a problem.

The iconic brand’s Super Bowl campaign is coming under fire from people who claim it reflects negative stereotypes of Arabs. The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, for example, is calling on Coke to change course.

Coke has to be concerned; you never want your brand to be accused of discrimination.

Back when I was at Kraft Foods I worked on a spectacular commercial for Miracle Whip that featured an Indiana Jones type character making his way through a traditional Moroccan market. I can’t recall the plot but at some point he ended up with an empty jar of Miracle Whip and this caused much concern, as you might imagine.

We put the spot on network television and immediately received word that some groups (including, I believe, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee) found it offensive because it promoted stereotypes. We quickly took the spot off the air and ran another one instead.

It isn’t quite so easy for Coke; companies don’t have lots of Super Bowl spots sitting around.

So what are the options?

– Drop the entire campaign and run something else. This is not an appealing proposition.

– Run it despite the criticism. This is also an unattractive option.

– Edit the spot to reduce the offensive images. This is not a good option, either; changes might impact the quality of the spot and fail to address the criticism.

I understand why some marketers choose to avoid all the Super Bowl scrutiny.