Originally created 02/05/06

Super Bowl ads aimed to win attention, business



Come Monday morning, the talk around water coolers and across cubicles is bound to be about tonight's Super Bowl.

There'll be the usual banter concerning points scored, bad calls and the half-time performances, but a better part of conversations will be about things that happened off the field, particularly while the game was off the air.

That's right, the commercials.

Since the blonde with the short haircut and the shorter red shorts ran, sledge-hammer in tow, through a roomful of human drones and smashed the screen, effectively making sure "1984 (wouldn't) be like 1984," the masses hold their breath and keep their seats during the Super Bowl station breaks.

"The Apple (computer) 1984 ad inaugurated the Super Bowl as the stage for introducing a product or setting the stage for advertising agencies," said Jay Hamilton, associate professor of advertising at the University of Georgia.

Even before Apple launched its Macintosh computer and assured us that Big Brother would not reign supreme, Super Bowl advertising has been the stuff of legend, or at least worth looking back on.

- In 1973, Farah Fawcett and Joe Namath lathered up conversation in a Noxzema ad.

- In 1977, Xerox made us chuckle with Father Dominic and the printing.

- By 1980, the world smiled with Mean Joe Green's act of kindness toward a young fan who offered him a Coke.

- In 1995, Pepsi showed us what could happen when you try too hard to get the last drop, and in 2000, Budweiser had us with screaming "Whassuup!" into telephones and the faces of strangers.

What makes these ads and others that pack the Top-10 lists memorable?

"If I really knew I'd be a zillionaire, right now," Dr. Hamilton said. "It seems an ad has to have two very opposite things at the same time. It has to refer to things we already know - like a celebrity everybody knows or a situation everybody knows because they've been in it. Having that helps engage us because we recognize it, but they can't stop there because if they do then it's boring because we already know. So, they take what we know as a starting point and then they tell us something opposite of what we think they're going to do."

Another element that helps make ads memorable is the pure spectacle of the spots. Advertisers try to reach the height of creativity during the Super Bowl. They pull out all the stops and aim to make the biggest splash in a sea of viewership and marketing.

"A lot of the commercials we see are done for awards and industry recognition," Dr. Hamilton said.

Ad's big night

IN EFFECT, THE BIGGEST NIGHT IN FOOTBALL IS ALSO THE BIGGEST NIGHT IN ADVERTISING, AND THE INDUSTRY COMES OUT IN FULL FORCE.

"WITH THE PROLIFERATION OF MEDIA OPTIONS AWAY FROM BROADCAST AND TOWARD MEDIA SUCH AS CABLE, SATELLITE RADIO AND THE INTERNET, AUDIENCES ARE CONTINUOUSLY BEING BROKEN APART INTO SMALLER GROUPS," SAID BRENT CAMPBELL, the director of marketing for Munn Rabt, a New York advertising firm that has done work with BMW Motorcycles and health-care companies.

"The Super Bowl, on the other hand, is the one media vehicle left where an advertiser can reach most of America at once."

More than 90 million viewers are expected to tune into this year's game, and marketers and advertisers are willing to pay big bucks for the privilege.

This year, the price of a 30-second television spot is $2.5 million. Companies selling everything from pizza to antiperspirants, snack foods to hybrid cars will be touting their wares via the tube, hoping customers will respond - or at least be entertained.

Emerald Nuts, the snack nut brand of Diamond Foods Inc., ran an ad last year featuring the Easter Bunny playing to the conscience of a selfish father and saw its sales rise 56 percent, the company reported.

"We had lots of success with it on two fronts," said Tim Cannon, the director of marketing for Diamond Foods. "We made the ad pulls ... (for most memorable ads) and with new brand building."

Mr. Cannon said potential customers were engaged by the ad. This year, the company will be doing an acrostic name game to try and get customers to see that their snack nuts can be a part of a healthful everyday lifestyle.

"It really helps to break through the clutter," Mr. Cannon said. "(Viewers) are looking for the punch line, it's almost like a joke."

More than laughs

Even with the hefty price tags and the number of eyes tuned in, that doesn't mean advertising will be easy.

"As a consumer, remembering an ad is different from remembering the marketer," Mr. Campbell, of Munn Rabt, said. "Further remembering how that marketer can help you is different altogether, and far more difficult to achieve."

As it turns out, an advertiser can make a consumer laugh, but that's the easy, and maybe unnecessary, part.

"What's important for people to consider in making an ad or watching one is that it's got to resonate, it's got to be something that separates one player from another," Mr. Campbell said. "Just because you make someone laugh does not mean they will remember who you are or why they should care. Getting them to remember your message, value your brand, identify why they need your product and move to buy your product is the goal of good advertising."

Dr. Hamilton agreed.

"A good two-thirds of Super Bowl ads are flops," he said. "We've seen one where we usually end up saying, 'That's a dog.'"

That usually happens, Dr. Hamilton said, when the advertisers have missed a fundamental point of advertising.

"I think a lot of time it's that it forgets that it doesn't just have to attract attention, that's just part of the equation. It also has to say something compelling about the product or the brand. Many Super Bowl ads have huge special effects but say nothing about products," the professor said.

Mr. Campbell figures there will be more than a few examples of such this year.

The hard thing to figure out is whether some companies care.

"What they're trying to do is create a buzz," he said. "So basically, the next day I'll come to my office and they'll be talking about it in the press. They'll be getting people to talk about it."

Making it last

WHETHER THE TALK LASTS THROUGH THE DECADES IS NEVER A GIVEN, DR. HAMILTON SAID, NOTING THAT "THE BEST AD CAN DO THE FORMULA THING BUT IT ALSO SAYS SOMETHING CLEAR AND COMPELLING ABOUT THE PRODUCT."

WHEN YOU TIE ALL THAT TOGETHER, THOSE ARE THE ONES THAT ARE NOT ONLY THE ONES WE REMEMBER BUT THE ONES THAT ARE EFFECTIVE," HE SAID.

UNFORTUNATELY, THERE IS LITTLE EVIDENCE THAT MARKETERS HAVE FINALLY MASTERED THE ART OF MEMORABLE ADVERTISING.

"IT'S STILL HIT AND MISS, EVEN WITH $2.5 MILLION FOR TIME," Dr. Hamilton said. "That's because the best advertising can't be reduced to a formula, despite how hard we try. You can see that with Budweiser and it's 'True' campaign (featuring the Whassuup! commercials). Who knew that those wacky, slice-of-life situations would resonate with so many people?

"It's that element of the unknown that makes advertising so great," he said.

It's also what keeps us tuned in.

Reach Kamille Bostick at (706) 823-3223 or kamille.bostick@augustachronicle.com.

pizza hutPIZZA HUT: Singer/actress Jessica Simpson carries a pizza with Cheesy Bites. [CAPTION]

diamond foodsEMERALD NUTS: This year's ad will feature machete-wielding businessman and a networking druid.[CAPTION]

specialDegree: The men's deodorant commercials will feature stunt men.[CAPTION]

Super Bowl xL, 2006

Super Bowl xxxii, 1998[CAPTION]

Frito-Lay Doritos: The pretty girl doing outlandish things got a lot of attention for the new Doritos 3-D snacks.[CAPTION]

Super Bowl xxix, 1995[CAPTION]

Anheuser-BuschBudweiser: Bud-wei-ser. It's phonetics on a whole new level thanks to the croaks of the frogs in 1995.[CAPTION]

Super Bowl Xxxiv, 2000[CAPTION]

Anheuser-BuschBudweiser struck a note, and the popular lexicon, with their Wassuup! commercial, which debuted in 2000. [CAPTION]

Super Bowl xxxvii, 2003[CAPTION]

GatoradeGatorade: Michael Jordan took on an all too familiar opponent - himself.[CAPTION]

Super Bowl xxxviii, 2004[CAPTION]

H&R BlockH&R Block: You can't beat a celebrity face in a Super Bowl ad. Willie Nelson and his miniature make a pitch.[CAPTION]

Super Bowl xxxix, 2005[CAPTION]

Diamond Foodsemerald nuts: You've got to share the nuts. Ad featured the Easter Bunny and a talking unicorn.[CAPTION]

Super Bowl xl, 2006[CAPTION]

Career BuilderCareer Builder: Internet-based job placement company ad premiering tonight plays off animal-theme from 2005. [CAPTION]

Super Bowl Xi, 1977[CAPTION]

XeroxXerox: A monk finds a miracle in the latest copying machine and a brand is introduced to the world.[CAPTION]

HAND OUT/SPECIAL FEATURESXerox: Father Dominic helped put Xerox on the national radar during the 1973 Super Bowl campaign.[CAPTION]

Super Bowl VII, 1973[CAPTION]

HAND OUT/SPECIAL FEATURESXerox: Father Dominic helped put Xerox on the national radar during the 1973 Super Bowl campaign.[CAPTION]

Super Bowl VII, 1973[CAPTION]

HAND OUT/SPECIAL FEATURESXerox: Father Dominic helped put Xerox on the national radar during the 1973 Super Bowl campaign.[CAPTION]

Super Bowl VII, 1973[CAPTION]

Super Bowl xxv, 2001[CAPTION]

HAND OUT/SPECIAL FEATURESXerox: Father Dominic helped put Xerox on the national radar during the 1973 Super Bowl campaign.[CAPTION]

Diamond FoodsEmerald Nuts: You've got to share the nuts. Ad featured the Easter Bunny and a talking unicorn.