The True Test for Super Bowl Ads (No, It’s Not Just YouTube Views)

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The Super Bowl is a quintessential American ritual every year. It is a gigantic nationwide get-together of family and friends. For many, the actual outcome of the game is of lesser importance. But most will at least attend to the advertising, and there is much talk about it afterward. The Super Bowl is only half a football game; the other half is an advertising festival.

Over the years, the Super Bowl has evolved to be the place where the best campaigns are shown to consumers. The Super Bowl raises the level of advertising and sets the bar for achievement very high for advertisers.

After all, the Super Bowl is obviously a big awareness builder, but not every brand needs awareness. It’s a very specific case-by-case basis. For example, everyone knows Microsoft, so just by having a Super Bowl ad will not fulfill any need for more awareness, but it needs to communicate something more specific. Meanwhile, Coca-Cola is equally well-known, but an ad can drive consumption since it is a frequently purchased impulsive buy.

So, beyond awareness, what else does the Super Bowl accomplish for brands? For one thing, a chance to get on the Super Bowl is a way for brands to motivate and inspire the best work. For Volkswagen, this makes doubly good sense because the brand has a status in the American advertising word that is far bigger than its actual share of the automotive market. Volkswagen is known for iconic advertising. The challenge for all these advertisers is to create something so incredibly entertaining it actually gets to the top of all Super Bowl ads.

There is also something special about the advertising that makes it to the Super Bowl and that gets rewarded with attention or conversation by consumers. For example, the 1984 commercial by Apple was incredibly special. Americans love a good David-Goliath story. That’s in part why the ad has been so successful. Ironically, the 1984 ad was almost never shown because the board at Apple objected to it! Now we see another reprise, this time with Samsung being the one to challenge Apple. Samsung is currently one of the few companies that can compete against Apple. It’ll be interesting to see how Samsung positions themselves relative to Apple in their Super Bowl Ads.

However, the truly great Super Bowl ads require the agency to go the extra mile to really create something special that taps into the daily life episodes of consumers, that people can relate to, and that makes an emotional connection. This great ads move beyond into a trajectory over the next several months to meaningfully integrate into the consumer’s life.

A great ad should go beyond the event itself. Today, we live in a social and digital world, where content is shared. At Vivaldi Partners, we call this creating social currency. Our research shows that social currency creates significant brand value. Volkswagen’s Force commercial from last year’s Super Bowl has been viewed now over 49 million times on YouTube!

Most importantly, every ad needs to pay into the DNA of the brand and tap into the essence of the brand. Last year’s ad from Chrysler was tag-lined: “Imported from Detroit” and featured the rapper Eminem, who grew up in Detroit. This ad tapped into the many values of Detroit, the industrial city that fell hard with the downturn in the automotive industry. The ad was all about persistence and redemption. This ad deeply expressed what Chrysler stands for.

The ideal Super Bowl campaign should be leveraged throughout the year or years to come by building on the Super Bowl success and translating awareness into meaningful brand building exposures and sales. This effort will come in the form of significant digital and social efforts that helps consumers to engage with the brand.

The day after the Super Bowl, it’ll be fun to talk about the most amusing ads, but the more interesting story is to see which advertisers will be able to capitalize on their ads with long-term growth over the next several months.