By Brian Cristiano, Founder & CEO, BOLD Worldwide
Super Bowl ads have been a who’s who competition of celebrity appearances and shock value, but in recent years, marketers have begun seeing the value in storytelling cross platform. Successful brands know that the secret is developing story-driven, contextual content that incites viewers to take action. Companies can no longer get away with simply blowing their entire budget on 30-second broadcast spot with a celebrity appearance or flashy set design; they need to refocus their approach and give viewers a reason to engage with the brand before during and after the big game, or risk flushing $5 million down the drain with another forgotten Super Bowl ad. Or worse, by missing the mark completely — a la Nationwide in 2015.
But how can brands stand out in a sea of companies trying to do exactly that? The 2017 viewer is not easily impressed. Not only is everyone an ad expert these days, but it’s also becoming more and more difficult to strike the right balance between humor and relevance that is not only a memorable story, but where the viewer actually remembers the brand.
This year, Heinz is one of those brands managing to stand out. The company has taken a completely different approach by declaring that it’s skipping the Super Bowl broadcast ad spend this year and, instead, giving all salaried employees off work the Monday after the Super Bowl. According to the company, more than 16 million people call in sick on the Monday after the big game, costing the country around $1 billion in revenue. In response, Heinz is launching a campaign to petition for a new national holiday called “Smunday.” As of January 27, the online petition had more than 33,000 signatures, and had been extensively covered by the media.
Other brands should pay close attention to this unique approach to Super Bowl marketing, essentially creating buzz not only without buying ad space but also about not buying ad space. It could pay off big time for Heinz if they continue to leverage the social conversation. After all, real marketing engagement is about creating engagement—standing out by having something to contribute—and social media is where that happens.
In the end, there is no recipe for success with Super Bowl advertising, besides knowing your brand, understanding your audience, and finding a way to connect with them in an authentic way. This newly segmented media landscape has offered more opportunity than ever, but only the brands who are able to truly deliver on engaging content and meaningful conversations will win.