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Gearing Up for Super Bowl 2019? Here’s What We Learned from 2018

Super Bowl LII was one of the most memorable games in the history of the sport’s showcase event. The Patriots and the Eagles battled it out with neck and neck scoring until the final minutes of the fourth quarter, when the Eagles took the victory with a final score of 41 to 33.

Unfortunately for advertisers, however, the performances on the field were not replicated during the breaks. Ad memorability for the Super Bowl has declined for the fourth consecutive year as viewers have indicated lesser interest in tuning in for Super Bowl commercials.

This decline may cause some brands to start rethinking their potential $5 million investment in advertising during the game, but advertisers shouldn’t pull out just yet. There are still ways to take advantage of this unique, high profile platform by following a few guidelines for success.

So what are the causes for the continued decline in ad memorability?

Phoenix MI data suggests that one of the major reasons for the decline is creative quality, which research has shown has decreased over the past few years. However, other factors such as interest in Super Bowl advertising and non-creative factors, such as sentiment towards the NFL, are also contributors to the decline in ad memorability.  

Many brands changed their creative tone in 2018, shifting towards a more sentimental narrative. While Budweiser has always tugged on America’s heartstrings, other brands have tried to replicate this sentimental tone and have experienced mixed results. Shifting socio-political environments act as one external factor that has made sentimentality a more difficult tone to use because consumers more often consider the brand to be making a political point. Our data indicates that other, safer creative approaches include utilizing humorous tones, which has been seen as a high performing creative characteristic year over year. Case in point E-Trade uses humor to deliver its key message – start saving for retirement.

Brands such as Budweiser and Stella Artois used their spots to highlight important social messages, which enabled them to perform better. What made these ads stand out against the competition was their ability to drive an emotional connection and convey meaningful information.

Other brands miss the mark completely when attempting to highlight a social issue, and with consumers being more willing than ever to express their negative reactions to Super Bowl ads on social media, the risk becomes greater.

How can advertisers improve memorability in 2019?

  1. Be authentic

If your ad is going to touch on a social issue, make sure you analyze your creative and verify the brand’s authenticity. If a brand cannot show that they are truly making an impact on the chosen social issue, the ad will fall flat and could even inspire a negative response. One lesson brands need to remember is that when it comes to authenticity, actions speak louder than words.  

  1. Consider teaming up with a popular celebrity (or two)

Using celebrities or well-known brand ambassadors can be a great way to strengthen your brand’s online and social interaction. Celebs often have very large social media followings and can use that platform to drive people to watch your ad by using a simple post or re-tweet. However, including a celebrity alone does not guarantee better breakthrough. If you do choose to pair up with a celeb, try to integrate their unique persona into the ad or create a clear connection between them and your brand.

  1. When all else fails, make em’ laugh

Humor is a proven and effective way to get your brand’s message across while running less of a risk of negative backlash. Whether light-hearted or weird, humor can be a great way to help an ad break through by connecting with your audience. Pairing humor with relatable concepts and pop culture references can also drive strong performance.

Even though ad memorability has decreased for the Super Bowl over the past few years, there is still considerable opportunity for football’s showcase event. With the ever changing socio-political landscape, brands have to be smarter about what creative they put out and how they position their message. The Super Bowl is, well, the Super Bowl of TV advertising, so don’t be afraid to bust out the big ideas. By following just a few guidelines, brands can ensure their Super Bowl advertising makes it to the end zone.

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