Have Super Bowl Ads Jumped the Shark?

Today’s blog comes courtesy of Denise Wymore, owner of consulting service for cooperatives, Denise Wymore, LLC.

Have Super Bowl Ads Jumped the Shark?

26 years ago, Steve Jobs spent an enormous amount of money to advertise his tiny little venture during the Super Bowl. It was 1984. Director Ridley Scott (Blade Runner, Thelma & Louse) filmed a jogger representing Apple throwing a sledgehammer into a giant Big Brother image representing IBM – promising a populist shift in the future of personal computers. The ad only ran once.

No other ad has come close to the Monday water-cooler-hype created that Sunday. Can you even name the teams that were playing?*

Super Bowl ads quickly became another reason, and in some people’s books “the” reason to tune into the game. The problem? The cost to run a 30 second spot on the Super Bowl was astronomical and although the commercials were memorable, the sponsor? Not so much.

Can you name the brand behind these famous Super Bowl ads?

(1993) The Showdown with Larry Bird and Michael Jordan – they engage in a physics-defying hoops shooting showdown.

(2000) “Herding Cats” A Bonanza-like family of cat herders talk about life on the range.

(2003) Terry Tate: Office Linebacker. To boost productivity, a CEO recruits a linebacker to slam into a series of “Office Space”- style cubicle drones.

This year Pepsi announced it would not run ads during the Super Bowl but rather channel those resources towards social media efforts. What does that mean?

According to Frank Cooper, a Senior Vice President at Pepsico “The Super Bowl broadcast can be an amazing stage for advertisers if it aligns with their brand strategy. However brands should not blindly anchor themselves to history.”

Pepsi is preparing to launch a new cause-oriented marketing campaign early next year. The new campaign, called “The Pepsi Refresh Project,” is a long term, multi-million dollar grant program that will grant money to charitable causes proposed and selected by consumers using social media.

This year the Super Bowl shifted for the first time in decades. The game out-shined the commercials. The ads were, by most accounts, ridiculous, insulting, tired and stupid. Like Fonzie water skiing in his underwear to jump over a shark, it’s time to shut ‘er down. 

Instead, we should all take a page from Pepsi’s new playbook. What’s your cause? You don’t need to advertise it with frogs, Betty White or talking babies – you need to live it and let your audience talk about it. The water cooler is now in your member’s hand (think Facebook, Twitter, and good old fashioned text message).

The lessons we need to learn from both Apple and Pepsi? Vision and commitment. The 1984 Apple ad was important because the vision was real. Where is the Apple brand today? Where’s IBM?

Pepsi understands that a long term commitment to a cause can do more for their brand than dumping $3 million on 30 seconds. They are committed to letting their customers market for them.

Who Dat?!

*ANSWER: LA Raiders and Washington

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One thought on “Have Super Bowl Ads Jumped the Shark?

  1. Bravo! Finally, someone who gets it. Consumers are intelligent, passionate, and emotionally driven. When given the choice between hype and hope (for a cause), the cause will win. This is a que that should be taken from CUs, not Pepsi. After all, credit unions started the original movement by helping people.

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