Save the World. And Pass the Cheese Dip.


We all know the numbers.  A cool five mil for 30 seconds to be a part of the big show.  Which for some brands is a drop in the Beechwood aged bucket to reach all those eyeballs.  But in today’s ROI driven marketplace, where measurement and analytics rule, the expectations for a Super Bowl commercial go far beyond winning the USA Today Ad Meter. Needles must be moved.   Content must be shared.  Brand promise must be delivered.

And frankly, that’s not a tough challenge for some.  Brands like Snickers, Frito Lay, Bud and others know their place in consumer’s lives.   So finding the sweet, or salty, spot is just about crafting breakthrough creative.  And they will.  Their work will be crafted by the best creatives in the country, with A talent directors and massive budgets.  And in most cases, it will shine even if the game itself does not.

But what if your brand’s positioning is a little more nuanced?  If, in addition to selling toothpaste, you are also taking a stance around certain social issues.  So while Snickers is talking about not being yourself when you’re hungry, your brand’s mission is a higher one?  Say, of actually defeating Hunger? Or poverty?  Or spousal abuse?

This is the challenge that today’s more pro-social brands face when they decide to play on advertising’s biggest stage.  And it’s tricky.

We’ve all been at those Super Bowl parties when a brand brings the serious, and the crowd turns as sour as Bill Belichick at a post game press conference.   So here are 5 simple takeaways for such brands to keep in mind before you take the field:

1. More Awww less Shock.  Thoughtful, mindful, emotional messages are all in play. Horror is not.  Dove has done brilliant work the last few years around important messaging like female empowerment.  Without turning people off. A deft touch is everything.  This year’s Colgate spot looks it will navigate that terrain well.  Far better than Nationwide once fared. #NationwideKills.

2. Don’t be a hypocrite.  The Super Bowl is a day of mass consumption. Corporate excess. Six hour pre-game shows.  A bloated halftime spectacle.  Love it or hate, but if you are going to use it as a stage, embrace it.   It’s not the time, or place, to talk in earnest about your stance on carbon pricing. Or domestic violence. Just ask the NFL whose work last year in that effort was roundly booed.

3. No politics.  On this day, there are no red states, or blue states. The only debate should be whether the Orange Crush can stop Cam and the Dab.

4. TV or not TV?  Some of the winners of the big game were brands that didn’t even run spots.   The infamous Oreo “You can still dunk in the dark” tweet during the power outage in 2014, helped make RTM real time marketing a household phrase amongst CMO’s everywhere.

5. Enjoy it.  Whether you’re the client, or the agency, being a part of this spectacle is unforgettable.  So sit back, feel proud you have arrived, be proud you work for a brand that’s doing good in the world, and pass the cheese dip.

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