Super Bowl 2015: The Marketing Winners and Losers

I’ll be honest, I don’t care much for football. Sit me in front of a basketball or baseball game and I’m all in—but football… eh. However, as a marketer, I absolutely love the Super Bowl. After all, what’s not to love when your career centers upon branding strategy and marketing messages? It’s perhaps the one time of year that the best marketing campaigns stream across our television sets (and sometimes some utterly horrible ones). So here’s a look at the true winners and losers of this year’s game:

Winner: Coke’s #MakeItHappy Campaign

It’s no well-kept secret that I think Coca-Cola makes marketing magic regularly and my beloved fountain soda company did not fail to disappoint last night. If you didn’t get a chance to check it out, click the video below:

There are a number of things I love about this commercial. Perhaps most importantly, Coke seized the opportunity to talk to a very captive audience about the incredibly important, albeit somewhat uncomfortable, topic of cyber bullying, online degradation and Internet harassment. The company didn’t choose to go the safe route. Rather, it used its precious ad time to expose the fact that individuals of all ages—and from all walks of life—contribute daily to this negatively saturated digital age. In fact, it wasn’t until midway through the ad that it became evident that it was a Coke commercial. The focus was solely on the impact of the message.

As the commercial progresses, we witness how just a small change in behavior—using our words to love instead of hate—can change our universe. We watch as Internet dialogue gets reinvented as harsh comments turn into happy comments. But Coke takes it a step forward to have a powerful anti-hate song playing in the background to really heighten emotions. And yes… you can bet I broke into a big ole’ dopey smile.

The ad ends with a powerful message of “The world is what we make it” and encourages viewers to #MakeItHappy, a clever play on the expression “make it happen.” Well done Coke… and yes I am sipping on your wondrous beverage as I type.

Honorable Mention: Budweiser’s ‘Lost Dog’

I would venture to say you don’t even have to be a dog lover to get completely consumed in Budweiser’s “Lost Dog” commercial. Take a look here:

What is so unbelievable about this commercial is its ability to convey such emotion without a single word ever being spoken. Rather, Budweiser relies on the use of an iconic song, an impossibly cute dog and incredibly heroic horses to tell the tale of friendship and camaraderie. Just as with Coke, you don’t know which brand is sponsoring the advertisement until the very end when Budweiser flashes its logo with the hashtag #BestBuds.

So what’s the lesson to marketers? Sometimes the simplest of concepts and fewest amounts of words have the biggest ability to pull at the heart strings. Go on… join the 21-plus million who love this ad!

Loser: Nationwide’s “Make Safe Happen”

If you had the pleasure of missing this ad, I feel sorry for putting it below but, here it is…

It’s hard to decide where to start when it comes to assessing the pitfalls of this ad, so I’ll start with the ad’s total lack of sensitivity. Brands can definitely target heavy stuff during the biggest night of football—see my accolade to Coke above. But in this commercial, Nationwide appears to almost intentionally misdirect viewers into thinking this is a joyous ad for the first 28 seconds, until the child somberly says, “I couldn’t grow up because I died from an accident.” Simply put, this statement and message leaves viewers feeling like the wind got knocked out of them.

The ad feels baseless, insensitive and grossly out of place. But it appears Nationwide expected this reaction: “We absolutely knew that there was going to be a reaction where you had strong feelings both ways,” said Nationwide Chief Marketing Officer Matt Jauchius. “The initial negative reaction from the social space was a little stronger than we anticipated, but we absolutely anticipated that we would cause a conversation.”

Didn’t feel like Nationwide was on anyone’s side last night.

Who do you think were the marketing winners and losers from last night? Let me know in the comments section below!

Carrie-SDubbed a “Chatty Cathy” from the time she uttered her first word, Content Boost’s Director of Content Marketing Carrie Majewski (née Schmelkin) is nothing short of verbal. Her love of talking matured into love of writing which inevitably transformed into a love of marketing. Carrie is responsible for overseeing the cutting-edge content marketing beast that is Content Boost—managing brand and editorial strategy, fostering client relationships, identifying new revenue opportunities and striking strategic partnerships. Carrie has worked with a variety of high profile clients on branding and copy creation from Sprint to Panasonic to AT&T to Emerson Network Power. When she’s not busy wordsmithing and debating content marketing versus traditional marketing, you can find her working on her swag in a hip-hop dance class, clogging her DVR with “Friends” reruns and trying desperately to make it up past 9:30 pm on the weekends with her hubby. #OldSoul.

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