Over the past two decades, Superbowl ads have evolved from generic product shots to two-minute stories that have altered our lexicon (think “Where’s the beef?” and “Whassup!”), warmed our hearts (the Budweiser Clydesdales* and Chrysler’s “Halftime in America”), and fundamentally changed the way ads are created (remember the Doritos crowd sourced ad?).
These commercials are planned, researched, and focus-grouped all year. Every second of each spot must be intentional and thoughtful. After all, with the price of a 30-second spot on Fox costing $5.6 million in 2020, that’s roughly $190,000 per second.
That leaves very little room for dead air.
On Superbowl Sunday, Doritos competes with Chrysler. Coca-Cola goes head-to-head with Amazon’s Alexa. The prize isn’t sales—it’s market share in viewers’ minds. Come Monday morning, whose commercial will be shared in Slack channels and parodied on SNL?
So how do you tell a compelling story in a minute or less? How do you avoid being drowned out by the noise of your competitors? The marketing teams behind the commercials you’ll watch on Sunday use three concepts that are proven to work.
- Concept 1: Your product is secondary. Your “vibe” comes first. This year, Doritos’ commercial shows Sam Elliot giving a dramatic monologue of Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road.” Absolutely nothing in the commercial, short of a brief product shot at the end, has to do with Doritos. The spot is playful, fun, and riffs on several pop-culture moments of the year. It also makes the association in the viewer’s mind between Doritos and humor.
See also: Microsoft’s “Be the one” that links game-changing leaders like Katie Sowers with Microsoft.
- Concept 2: You only have a second—pick one thing you want your audience to walk away with. Hyundai has “smart park.” I know this because I watched their new Superbowl ad—the one in which they say “smart park” five times in fifty seconds. The spot pokes fun at the iconic Boston accent by having several Boston-born celebrities discuss the car’s “smaht phahk” capabilities. Watch it, but be warned—you’ll hear Chris Evans’ voice every time you go to park your car.
See also: Emily Henn and Charlie Day air their pasts in Tide’s “Dirty Laundry.”
- Concept 3: Let your product speak. In a chase scene worthy of one of the million Fast and the Furious movies, Porche’s commercial presents their electric car in a dramatic heist. In the two-minute clip, Porche’s Taycan demonstrates its speed and handling. More subtly, Porche counters the doubts many people have about electric cars—that they don’t have the speed and force that other sports cars do.
See also: Google tugging at our heartstrings with a man using Google’s reminder program to remember his late wife.*
By using tried-and-true concepts, and precise messaging, these companies make a big splash in a short time. And even if you don’t have a Porshe-sized budget, a creative concept and message can elevate your brand in just thirty seconds.
Inspired to share your message? Let LMD tailor-make an ad that has a big impact.
*The author of this article will readily admit crying while watching these commercials.