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Advertising Insights from Darth Vader

Ineke Caycedo
VP, Brand Development

I hate to admit it, but I was more interested in the ads during the recent Super Bowl than in the game itself. I have soft spots for both the Packers and the Steelers, but somehow, I just wasn’t that into the game.  Tuning in to see if advertisers bring their A games, however, has become a bit of a tradition for me. And, having followed the usual flurry of pre-game speculation about which ones where promising and which would fall flat, I was curious to see if they lived up to the hype.  So, flipping back and forth between the game and the Top Gear marathon on BBC America, I checked them out.

Overall, I’d say this year is on par with some and better than most. I’m not sure any hall-of-fame ads will come out of this one — like Snickers’ Betty White getting tackled spot from last year. This year’s Snickers entry was Rosanne Barr getting pummeled by a log, but I expected it. So, in my mind, it’s been done so to speak.  That said, my favorite ad hands down was this one…

It’s priceless! I’ve laughed every time I’ve seen it. It ranked fourth in MediaCurve’s survey and ranked second in the category of most likely to be talked about around the water cooler.

And then there’s this one…

Grateful furry animals that have my back…it warms my heart and brings a smile, every time.

I wasn’t alone in my love for these spots, these two were among the top four most enjoyed spots in yesterday’s game according to which surveyed thousands of participants regarding their perceptions of the ads using parameters like emotion, memorability, involvement, and breakthrough.  They used an online dial-testing system with participants to measure interest in the ads.  Bridgestone’s ad ranked number one overall and also claimed the top spot in the water cooler category.  You can see the realtime results off all the 110 ads they were monitored here.

According to MediaCurves participants NFL’s "Best.Fans.Ever." ranked second overall.  If you love classic TV sitcoms, you’ll see why people loved this spot..

It was like a walk down memory lane, and I enjoyed every nostalgic second of it.

Bud Light continued it’s winning streak with with a spot called Dog Party…

While not necessarily in my top four (and rightly so…I’m not Bud Light’s target audience), this spot is indicative of Bud Light’s continual focus on originality and memorability.

So what can higher ed brand managers learn from the success of these spots?  Employ these three best practices next time you do a TV ad and you’ll have a better spot, even though you don’t have millions to spend on special effects…

  1. Pick one target audience. Don’t try to speak to all audiences with one spot. Bridgestone’s target audience is middle to upper-middle class safety and environmentally conscious individual; Passat’s target audience is affluent, though not rich, Baby Boomers or Gen X’ers, and family conscious; Bud Light’s audience is younger – late 20’s to early 30’s, middle-class male who hasn’t quite left his college years behind.
  2. Keep the brand message simple. Passat – sleek modern engineering for the modern successful family; Bud Light – when you have Bud Light, you have the makings for a cool, fun time. 
  3. Know your audience, what makes them tick, what pulls their heart strings, what makes them laugh, what they care about.  The genius of the Passat commercial is that it taps into two strong emotional areas for its target audience, parenthood and their own childhoods – that time in their lives when anything was possible and Star Wars was the number one box office hit.  Similarly, the NFL ad pulls on the 30 to 40 something nostalgic heartstrings of its key viewers.

8 Replies to “Advertising Insights from Darth Vader”

  1. What shocked me is the lack of insight on the part of Chrysler. They develop an driving, passionate nod to Motor City, allow for a cool clash of hip hop and luxury, and never bother to ask their featured celebrity (Eminem) if he was in any other commercials come the Superbowl. He was… in a Lipton Brisk iced tea commercial where he’s a petulant claymation figure demanding that all commercials he appears in be strictly about him – completely contrary to the theme Chrysler offered. Very sad for them.

  2. I like your point about target audience. I feel like I am in the target audience for Skechers, but their ad was lowest on my list. How many women get excited about seeing Kim Cardashian in workout clothes?Interesting insights this morning from Ad Age about the difference between popularity of commercials and recallability (is that a word?) Here’s the URL.

  3. Agreed Chris. I thought Skechers was off the mark…unless they’re trying to get men to buy the shoes for the girlfriends/wives…which we of course all know is dangerous territory!

    To me, popularity is short lived where as memorability is just that. In fact some pretty “unpopular” spots still live on in our minds…(even though I try to forget!).

  4. Great comment Jason. I wasn’t sure about who Chrysler was targeting with their brand. I loved the look, timing, and emotional tenor of the spot. The cinematic quality of the spot was lovely, and I thought the narrative was beautifully written. For me, it was actually a disconnect to have Eminem step out of the car only because I don’t think the design of Chrysler’s cars is actually hip and cool — they come across a conservative family vehicles to me. Maybe Chrysler’s trying to reposition its brand and hip luxury, but I’m not sure I’m buying it.

  5. It is interesting that you mention repositioning to luxury – someone at the party I was at pointed out that quite a few brands seemed to be pointing themselves toward that word this year, as if someone finally gave the OK to seek luxury items again. The really weird part is, at the time, I agreed with them, but now I can’t recall which spots seemed to lean that way. Maybe that’s part of the problem with depending too much on the buzzy idea of the moment.

  6. Interestingly, a lot of “luxury” brands have done OK during the recession, as have budget brands. The brands that have suffered most are the ones in the middle, or that haven’t done a great job of defining what they stand for. I think Chrysler fits in the “not having differentiated itself enough and therefore no one gets what it stands for.” However, the “luxury” brands that have done well are not the flashy types, but the reliable “good investment for the long term types.” I think you have to build that cred first before you can build luxury cred. Not sure Chrysler has done that effectively. And their pricing strategy seems all wrong for the luxury brand too. In my mind, they’d be better off taking a page from Target — cool, hip, live the contemporary lifestyle for not a lot of money type of campaign. Of course the car would actually have to look hip…but that’s another story…oh yeah Ford’s got that story 🙂

  7. I’m never into the game, I always watch for the ads, but this time there actually was a game to watch. I was torn between watching TDs and following’s live panel blog about the ads.

    Which should tell you, that I was mostly unimpressed with the ads. “Darth Passat” was the only one that I simply liked and remembered. But I have to ask myself what is the unmeasured strength of bad ads? – i.e. Skechers and Kardashian — It’s got great recall because it is so bad, but I sure wouldn’t buy it…

  8. Hi Sara. I was doing that too. It was a good game…just couldn’t get into it. Good question about unmeasured strength of ads that have recall, even those that are popular, but don’t get the job done for the product. The Taco Bell chihuahua was one of those > memorable, quoted, buzzed about, didn’t increase sales. Then there where the Mr. Whipple Charmin ads. People hated the ads, but they sold the Charmin. I’m all about advertising delivering ROI for the brand. Not sure a Skechers/Kardashian partnership will increase sales, which I’m going to assume is their goal, so in that respect – memorable or not, the Skechers ad fails.

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