The Super Bowl is the only event that reaches a national (even international) audience with a single, point-of-moment impact. This year’s game was amazing, the half-time show was awesome and the ads were great. Enough has been written about all of that. I want to talk about the trend I saw woven through all of these elements: the trend of positive, open, genuine emotion. I have to say, it’s about time!
The ads were heavy on emotion, with a focus on dads, family, love and respect. Even the spots that went down the route of humor, like the Fiat ad and the BMW i3 ad, were respectful in how they got a laugh. There were few to no potty jokes. I felt genuinely touched by a few of the messages, and even the ads that stepped over the line (Nationwide’s “Make It Safe”) were grappling with emotion. The ones that did it best (Budweiser, Nissan, Toyota) were solid, and you could sense just how much time and attention brands paid to “getting it right."
The last few Super Bowls have been rife with ads that tried too hard, beating you over the head with their humor in an attempt to make sure you “got it.” In many cases they played to the lowest common denominator. So when we saw the ads with real emotion they stood out, but maybe not always for the right reasons. This time around was different. There was an authentic feel to most of the ads and from what I've read the last two days, that authenticity resonated with viewers. Why? Because they’re sick and tired of being treated like the vocal minority.
The vocal minority are the people who use social media, and media in general, to proclaim their hatred of this and that, tending toward overreaction, in many cases from a less informed perspective. These are the people who should be given a test before they are given access to the Internet.
Please don’t think I disagree with the rights of free speech or an open press. Still, there are an unfortunate few who like to proclaim what they think for everyone else to read, while the far larger majority of people are busy, sane and well-spoken, but simply don’t have the time to get into a heated verbal battle with someone who will never see the opposing point of view as valid.
OK, that was my old-man, grumpy-rant mode. But back to the Super Bowl and its positive commercials, and the culmination of the half-time show with Katy Perry doing "Firework": That's what I hope is the beginning of a trend toward truth, integrity and true emotion in advertising again. I saw intelligence displayed in messaging and the desire for these brands to truly build a relationship with their customers and not treat every interaction as a transaction.
I saw corporate America trying really hard to become good corporate citizens again. McDonald’s may have done this the best. Though I rarely if ever eat at McDonald’s anymore, I can honestly say their ads made me change my opinion of how they treat their customers.
The lasting impact remains to be seen. Still, I hope these were not one-off messages, but the start of full-fledged campaigns. If these feelings of genuine, authentic emotion are explored through the rest of the year, then I will remain optimistic that brands will treat their audience as humans rather than walking, talking cash registers.
By the way, when you treat your audience like a collection of humans rather than dollar bills, you end up having a stronger business. It’s funny how doing the right thing can actually be the best thing, too!