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Tag Archive: Super Bowl

  1. What This Year’s Super Bowl Ads Taught Us About the Future of Marketing

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    The Super Bowl generates as much interest for its advertising stunts as it does for the actual game. This year, advertisements cost approximately $5 million dollars for a 30 second spot, setting yet another new record. It’s fun to see what standout stunts major brands come up with for such a high-profile and high-budget opportunity, but as marketers, we should be looking a little deeper.

    What did this year’s ads teach us about the state of marketing? What can we apply to our own advertising campaigns?

    Lesson One: Social Is Still the Way to Go

    When people watch the Super Bowl, they’re at home with friends and family, and during commercial breaks, they’re probably on their mobile devices. This year proved, once again, that social integration is the way to go; offering one opportunity for social engagement instantly makes an ad more effective.

    Take Esurance’s ad at the beginning of the game as an example. The company offered a $250,000 sweepstakes in its one-minute ad, costing the company upwards of $10,000,000 to produce and broadcast. Was it effective?


    During the game, some 835,000 tweets were sent using the indicated hashtag. By late Sunday night, that level reached more than 2 million. If the ad’s budget were translated to a cost-per-tweet, it’d be about $5—not exactly attractive, but that’s a level of engagement above and beyond the first impressions the ad could have given with no social integration whatsoever.

    In today’s world, everything should tie back to social in some way. It’s a free added value, so never pass up the opportunity.

    Lesson Two: Edgy Isn’t Always a Good Thing

    Last year’s Super Bowl ads had some edgy contenders, including a Doritos commercial with a disgusting airline passenger and misogynistic undertones and a Nationwide ad featuring the perspective of a dead child. The mentality behind these choices was: go big or go home. Under most circumstances, taking risks is a good thing, even if it means alienating some of your audience. Even if a handful of people are turned off, you’ll still get brand visibility points for generating a discussion. However, these exceptionally risky ads did more harm than good by some reports, and the reaction this year was to aim for a more conservative style.

    Brands didn’t take as many risks, reflecting a recognition that just because edgy can be good doesn’t mean that risky is always good.

    Still, there were notable exceptions trying too hard to do something crazy.

    Take Mountain Dew’s Puppymonkeybaby, for example.


    Seriously, what the hell is this thing? A noble effort, but putting random things together doesn’t instantly make a good advertisement.

    Lesson Three: Laugh or Cry

    This year’s Super Bowl proved that emotional appeals are still effective, and the two strongest emotional peaks are laughing and crying. Divide this year’s ads into emotional piles, and you get them roughly split down the middle, with only a handful of outliers; half the ads were intended to make you laugh, and the other half were intended to make you cry.

    For example, take T-Mobile’s spot, featuring Steve Harvey making fun at his recent faux pas at the Miss Universe pageant. It got a lot of laughs, and a lot of views on YouTube—3.6 million and counting as of the writing of this article.


    Audi took inspiration from David Bowie’s recent death in a move some would call exploitative and some would call a moving tribute. Featuring “Starman,” the ad certainly had a timely appeal, and undoubtedly induced a river of nostalgic tears across the country.

    Lesson Four: Context Is King

    Content is important, but context can make or break your message. When people watch the Super Bowl, they’re surrounded by their friends and family. They don’t want to think about car insurance, or toenail fungi, or irritable bowel syndrome.

    Xifaxan’s ad featured sports fans watching the game with a tangled knot of—literal—irritable bowels.


    This isn’t a pleasant image or thought for people sitting comfortably with friends and family, enjoying processed snack foods and alcohol. Remember your audience. Remember your medium. Otherwise, you run the risk of alienating not just some, but the majority of your audience. In the digital marketing world, you’re likely marketing less than $5 million, but it’s still essential that you get the context for your messages right.

    Lesson Five: YouTube Rules

    There’s no single ad that demonstrates this, because all of them have earned a similar benefit. Several Super Bowl ads emerged on YouTube before the game even started, and by the end of the game, practically all of them were up. Most have received millions of views, with cult hits like “Puppymonkeybaby” getting 15 million or more. YouTube remains an incredibly powerful channel, rivaling the potential reach of the Super Bowl itself, and you don’t have to pay $5 million for a spot there.

    Overall Takeaways

    The power of social media can’t be underestimated, even by major corporate brands who can afford a Super Bowl spot; good timing and good incentives (like a themed contest) can generate overwhelming engagement, and YouTube seems to get more practical and more approachable by the year. Remember to keep the context of your message in mind (and always prioritize your audience), appeal to the strongest of human emotions, and don’t be afraid to take risks—just keep them grounded enough that people don’t think you’re crazy.

    Want more information on content marketing? Head over to our comprehensive guide on content marketing here: The All-in-One Guide to Planning and Launching a Content Marketing Strategy.

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  2. How Google’s Candidate Cards Turned Into a Travesty

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    Google is never short on ideas how to improve its search system and break ground in new areas of user satisfaction. Sometimes, these ideas are large and revolutionary, like its embedment of maps into local searches. Its Knowledge Graph, a system of direct information provision (forgoing the need to peruse traditional search entries) is one of the most robust and useful additions in recent years, and it keeps evolving in new, unique ways.

    Rather than solely providing word definitions, or numerical unit conversions, or even filmography information, the Knowledge Graph can provide unique insights on news and upcoming events. Take its entry on the Super Bowl, for example (keep in mind this was written just before the actual Super Bowl):

    Super Bowl Keyword Search Results

    Presumably, this entry will self-update as teams score throughout the evening, and in the next week, will instead offer retrospective analysis of what is currently a forthcoming event. As a user, this doesn’t leave much to be desired; I can even scroll down to find additional results.

    But a recent feature of the Google Knowledge Graph has made a much bigger impact, and reveals one of the biggest current flaws of the direct-information model. It’s all about Google’s portrayal of candidates in what has undoubtedly been one of the most eventful, peculiar election seasons of the past few decades.

    Candidate Cards

    Google’s politics-centric new feature, candidate cards, has begun the same way all its features begin: as an experiment. Accordingly, let’s refrain from judging this system too harshly.

    The idea was to give the American public more transparency on their leading presidential candidates—which sounds great in theory. Google’s idea was to give each significant candidate a designated position in their search results for certain queries. These “candidate” cards would appear in a carousel to potential voters, giving them a direct line of insight into the candidates’ actions and positions. This feature was rolled out as a trial for the recent “undercard” Republican debate, along with YouTube integration and live tracking via Google Trends.

    Google Candidate Cards Mobile View

    (Image Source: Google blog)

    Here’s the issue: if you followed along with this experiment during the actual debate, you wouldn’t see multiple candidates’ positions. You only would have seen one, at least for the bulk of the time and for most queries.

    As SearchEngineLand’s Danny Sullivan noted in a blog post on the issue, the carousel of cards that appeared, for practically any search, only showed posts and positions by one candidate: Carly Fiorina.

    gop debate serp

    A handful of general searches like “gop debate” or even just “debate” returned the same carousel. Likewise for any undercard candidate-specific searches, such as “Huckabee” or “Santorum.” At first glance, you would assume that this is some type of error with Google’s system, that somehow these posts were “stuck” as the top results for any query that tapped into the feature. Could this mean that Google was unfairly favoring one candidate over the others?

    Google would later confirm that nothing was wrong with the feature. Each candidate had the same ability to upload information to this system; Fiorina was the only candidate who made use of the system, and therefore had substantial ground to gain.

    Main Candidate Cards

    Candidate cards for the main GOP candidates appeared not long after the undercard debate ended, including Donald Trump, who was absent from the “main” debate. Take a quick look at these and take note of anything peculiar that stands out:

    GOP Debate

    (Image Source: SearchEngineLand)

    Look at the center post, which features a link to donate $5 to Mark Rubio’s campaign, and consider the nature of the query: 2016 Republican debate. If you’re like me, this raises some questions about the card system and whether it goes “too far” for search results.

    Three Major Concerns

    I don’t care who you support, which party you belong to, or what you think about this election. For the purpose of this article, I’m assuming every candidate on both ends of the political spectrum is equally unqualified to lead the country, and so should you. Remove your biases and consider the following dilemmas this system presents, for any candidate in the running:

    1. Free Advertising. There are strict rules about political advertising, which go into exhaustive detail that I won’t attempt to reproduce here. It seems that Google’s card system can be taken advantage of as a free, unrestricted place to advertise, whether it’s through the request for campaign donations or an attack on another candidate.
    2. SEO as a Political Skill. Take Fiorina’s case; should she be rewarded with extra publicity because of what basically comes down to SEO skills? This seems strange at first, until you realize this is mostly the case anyway—you can bet each candidate has a dedicated contact responsible for making sure they rank highly for public searches (not to mention the presence and effects of social media marketing in political elections).
    3. Biased Media Control. Last, and perhaps most importantly, should Google be allowed to control the parameters for which we view candidate information? Contemplating the possibility of filtering out one candidate’s cards, this is concerning, yet again, it’s nothing entirely new—Google’s stranglehold on search results is currently being investigated as a violation of antitrust laws in Europe.

    What does the candidate card system say about Google? What does it mean for the political system? Is it a useful tool that needs refinement or a total travesty that should be scrapped? I’m not quite sure myself, but you can be sure this experiment didn’t quite go the way Google originally intended. Keep your eyes peeled for how this feature develops—it could have a massive impact on how this and even future elections pan out. In the meantime, you better hope your favorite candidate is as skilled at SEO as you are.

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