I’ve been a dad for some time now, and seen my share of TV advertisements featuring clueless or uncaring or stupid or juvenile dads. The dumb dad has been overused to the point of becoming an advertising hack.
So it was refreshing to see two Superbowl ads this year that turned that theme around to show the upside of fatherhood. They’re both beautiful pieces of film and they both pack an emotional punch, but only one of them is good advertising.
Skincare and automobiles
Dove Men+Care put together a series of small moments of dads with their kids: helping a toddler on the potty, rescuing a boy on the monkey bars, dancing with a daughter. P&G really rocked this idea for moms first, during the 2012 Winter Olympics. Every dad recognizes these scenes from his own life.
Nissan sets a story of a race car driver dad and his son to Harry Chapin’s “Cats in the Cradle”, the boy growing up while dad is away racing cars. As a piece of film, this is maybe even more emotionally moving than the Dove ad.
Missing the audience - brand connection: Nissan
The Nissan ad is a lovely story, but a waste of advertising dollars. Their dad story reaches the audience but leaves the brand behind. For a company whose tag is “Innovation that excites”, the disconnect is striking. If Nissan’s innovation means anything in this story, it’s the thing pulling dad away from his son. If I’m the son in the story, I hate Nissan.
Making the audience - brand connection: Dove
Dove is going to get more traction out of their effort, because they make their brand value the centerpiece of the emotional hook of the ad. The tag is executed clumsily, but the line “Care makes a man stronger” fuses the core truth of the brand (caring) with the great dad moments in the film. So it rings true, and it makes for a strong and effective message.
Advertising needs a strong hook, but that’s not enough. If the hook isn’t attached to the core truth of the brand, it won’t move anyone.
The Super Bowl featured some really good and some really bad commercials this year. Instead of picking my absolute favorite and least favorite, I thought it would be interesting to compare two brands trying to do the same thing, one successfully and one unsuccessfully.
Market argument success: Chevy
So, clearly I’m not a man, but if I were, this would be a pretty compelling ad. The takeaway message is “Women find trucks sexier than sedans. Buy a truck and women will find you sexier.” While this might not be the most elegant ad of the Super Bowl, I have a hunch that it, in combination with the other ads in the campaign, will sell a lot of Chevy trucks, even without saying “Buy a Chevy”.
Why? Because by making a market argument for the whole truck category, as a leader in the category Chevy is going to profit from a huge percentage of those buyers, even if some of them end up going with their biggest competitor, Ford.
I also have a hunch that Chevy knows something that we don’t about their market share of first time truck buyers. If I’m right, more sedan owners who are converted to truck owners end up buying Chevy more than any other brand. You heard it here first.
Market argument failure: Reebok
Reebok also (perhaps unknowingly) took a market approach to their Super Bowl ad, “Be More Human,” though less successfully than Chevy. The first 57 seconds had me thinking this was a CrossFit ad. I wondered why, until I played “Find The CrossFit Logo” and realized that almost all the people in the ad are wearing CrossFit, and not Reebok.
What they’re selling in this ad is intense workouts and (maybe) workout gear more generally. I understand that CrossFit is a growing trend, and perhaps Reebok wants to be known as the fitness apparel brand for CrossFit enthusiasts, but without more Reebok-specific branding in the ad, nobody is going to make that connection with a 3 second logo animation at the end of the spot. And with only a 1.8% share of the fitness apparel market, they’re not going to benefit from more people getting inspired to buy workout clothes.
The missed opportunity makes me so frustrated, I could flip a tractor tire.
I’m going to start with an important lesson: A commercial’s spokesperson should be there to promote and represent the brand, not distract from it. Allow me to elaborate on this notion the best way I know how, with on-point pop culture references and social commentary. High fives all around.
Loser of the spokesperson games: Game of War
Let’s review the steps I took to find out what this commercial was for. First, I remembered that it featured that one model who is “hot” right now clad in a revealing dress and armor. But honestly, for the life of me I could not remember her name. I knew she was in that movie with Cameron Diaz, the one where Jaime Lannister cheats on his wife that he shares with Judd Apatow. So that is where my journey started.
I finally recalled the name of the movie, which was “The Other Woman”. I Googled the movie, clicked on a Wikipedia link, skimmed the article and discovered that her name is Kate Upton. Her own Wiki page neglected to mention the company’s name from the ad, but it did feature a picture of her wearing the outfit. So at least the company could count that as a win, I suppose.
Finally, after many minutes of research, I searched for “Kate Upton commercial video game.”
That was several steps for me to find out what your commercial was for, Game of War. It is a big fail if your commercial causes a person to think and care about the spokesperson only, not the product.
Winner of the spokesperson games: Clash of Clans
The commercial for Clash of Clans on paper seems identical to Game of War. Both ads showcased footage from their game world and a famous spokesperson in a “real” world. However, there were several noticeable differences between the two.
Where one ad created a fantasy world and placed their spokesperson in it, Clash of Clans placed theirs in a cafe, ordering a scone, like a regular joe.
This helped the ad tell a story to its audience. The narrative begins with playful game footage of gold being pillaged by giant trolls. The game prompts an unseen user to get his vengeance from the gamer who pillaged him, and a “Get Revenge” button is used as a bridge to transport the audience into the real world, where surprise! It is Liam Neeson playing the game!
This game isn’t some intense war game that you’d play for hours on home-based console. This commercial establishes that this is something you could play anywhere, even in short bursts, such as while waiting for a takeout order.
And while Liam Neeson’s “character” in this ad is reminiscent of his iconic bent-on-revenge “Taken” persona, his role adds to the premise of the game, rather than distracting from it. This greatly differs from Kate Upton’s role in the Game of War ad, which leaves the audience wondering when the model replaced Emilia Clarke as Khaleesi in Game of Thrones.