3 Lessons from Popular Super Bowl Ads

Karl R. LaPan, President & CEO, The NIIC

Photo by Wade Austin Ellis on Unsplash

Sports fans and pop culture enthusiasts alike are gearing up for Super Sunday. Whether you genuinely love the on-field action or just tune in for the commercials, I think we can all agree that the Super Bowl offers entertainment value. Athletic performance and highly-anticipated ads produce a winning combination. However, sometimes they don’t. Check out this list of famous Super Bowl flops.

But what can business builders with more modest marketing budgets do to replicate this success on a smaller level, say on social media? (The average cost of a 30-second Super Bowl commercial is estimated at $5 million.) Following are a few lessons you can glean from the most memorable ads over the years to apply to your future marketing campaign.

1. Humor resonates.

Levity can be a marketer’s secret weapon. Think Wendy’s, Dorito’s, Coca-Cola and Career Builder’s commercials over the years. While more massive messages can stand out and have their place in reaching Millennial audiences, a lot of older viewers don’t want to feel like they are being lectured or pandered to. Keep it light, and you’ll have them talking for days.

2. Sizzle still sells. 

How can you position your brand or product as cutting edge or something to be coveted? Look to the luxury auto industry for inspiration. They have a knack for making high-end vehicles synonymous with celebrity status or prestige, i.e., the sizzle factor. How can your brand follow suit? Remember, Seth Godin, he says, “be sticky, memorable and remarkable.”

3. Keep it short and sweet.

The “Distracted” Age means our collective attention spans are shorter than ever. Did you know a goldfish has an average attention span of 9 seconds and humans have an even less average attention span of 8 seconds?

If it’s not bite-sized, it’s not going to get through to younger audiences. So, don’t bury the lead in a long and drawn-out ad. The most memorable Super Bowl ads are usually between 30 seconds to a minute. You’d be surprised how much you can say in such a short amount of time, especially when you have strong visuals to accompany.


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