Some tugged at heartstrings and some made us feel empowered…and others were like watching a train wreck (read: GoDaddy). While they varied in themes, this year’s Super Bowl ads were memorable and drove serious revenues in the hours following their appearances. News reports have repeatedly dissected which ads were effective, fan favorites, most revolting, etc., but what can PR pros take away as lessons learned?
For one, some of the best ads, e.g., Dodge Ram, Budweiser, Audi, all played down their branding in favor of a more subtle approach that focused on the consumer’s life experience. It was about appreciating the hard work of farmers, the strong relationship between the Clydesdale and his trainer/friend and the boy who takes his dad’s car to the prom with the confidence to kiss his crush. In the midst of these feel-good moments, consumers don’t mind seeing a brand’s presence and naturally form a positive association with it. PR can certainly take a page from this concept as the best PR campaigns are rooted in messaging that addresses the target audience’s experience and enables them to identify with the issues that a company’s product or service helps mitigate. Conversely, PR programs that come across as thinly veiled ads or are solely focused on product pitches are largely ignored by buyers.
Another takeaway is that a quick response to real-time developments can yield big results. I’m referring to the Oreo tweet that was posted during the 34-minute power outage—a well-coordinated effort between Oreo and its creative agency that resulted in a simply designed image with clever copy (You can still dunk in the dark) along with the tweet “Power out? No problem.” Oreo successfully made its brand relevant in the midst of the outage—a situation that everyone watching the game was focused on. Similarly, when a big industry news announcement breaks, PR pros who quickly huddle with their senior executives and proactively push out relevant commentary are the most successful in generating interviews and inclusion in timely news coverage.
While Super Bowl ads aren’t usually associated with pure public relations, many of the same basic tenets still apply for successful execution—know your audience and prioritize their experience/issues in your approach, and pay attention to breaking news or developments that your organization or clients can naturally comment on. Of course, including a cute horse or fast car doesn’t hurt either.