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How to Spend $20 Million in 60 Seconds—or Not

Updated: Mar 1, 2022

Super bowl 2022 ads review

Another Super Bowl come and gone; a halftime show that some declare the best of all time (others argue Prince in Miami in the rain); and 97 ads from pre-kickoff to post-game that made us laugh, cringe and grab our phones to scan a bouncing QR code. In the end, there were two key takeaways:

1. If you have as much as $20 million to spend on marketing and branding, consider something other than a one-time chance in the Super Bowl; 2. There was only one Joe Cool in the game—Broadway Joe for DraftKings wearing the fur and getting the girl!

Despite blockbuster budgets and brands that many of us never heard of before Sunday, there are lessons to learn from some of the best—and worst—of what we saw.

Target Demographics

Along with a halftime show featuring some of the best known hip hop and rap artists, many of the spots aim directly for Gen X nostalgia. Songs from the '80s and '90s provide the soundtrack while celebrities such as Jim Carrey and Mike Myers reprise previous roles as "The Cable Guy" and "Austin Powers."

Identifying a clear target market is key to successfully delivering a target message. Verizon connects all the dots with Jim Carrey as The Cable Guy in the "Goodbye Cable" spot. It's funny, nostalgic and informational for anyone still unsure about 5G Verizon internet. Also, it lands a powerful blow at the competitive field without naming any particular company.

Emotional Appeal

In marketing, we often try to appeal to emotions. But who says emotional marketing is all about tear-jerker moments. Laughter is also an emotion. This year's commercials are filled with humor. After two years of pandemic concerns, 2022 seems like the year to connect with consumers through a good laugh.

Humor and relatability make for a power couple in marketing, as do real-life celebrity couple Scarlet Johansson and Colin Jost in Amazon Alexa's "Mind Reader." Just about any age demographic identifies with the necessity of saying one thing, meaning another in a relationship.

Strong Storylines

Most of what we saw didn't have strong storylines. But two that captured viewers' attention from beginning to end were also among the few heart-warming ads.

Toyota scores with the impactful story of the McKeever Brothers in "Start Your Impossible." Their focus on Paralympic champions began last year with swimmer Jessica Long's story. There is no Toyota vehicle in either of the commercials. Neither sells vehicles, but both sell memorable stories.

A dog. A horse. A comeback champion. Budweiser meshes all three themes with "A Clydesdale's Journey."

Celebrity Spokespersons

Celebrities should raise awareness and positively impact a brand. There was an overabundance of celebrities in ads this year. Some were hits, but several were misses.

Actress Lindsay Lohan's life may have been a train wreck in the past, but she makes a comeback in Planet Fitness' "What's Gotten Into Lindsay." While Lohan is a surprising celebrity choice for a fitness brand, it shows her taking control of her own narrative. It also elevates brand awareness with a message suggesting if Lohan can get it together at the fitness center, anyone can.

However, T-Mobile's collaboration with Dolly Parton and Miley Cyrus misses most tenets of advertising. The initial ad starts with Dolly seemingly delivering a PSA, but for what? Her overly plumped lips caused some viewers to quip that subtitles were needed to understand what she said. After 30 seconds, the message was still unclear.

The second spot, featuring Cyrus singing "Do It For the Phones," doesn't clear up the message. Instead of persuading viewers to switch to T-Mobile 5G coverage, it offends many viewers with a tone-deaf parody of the iconic "We Are the World."

Purposeful Marketing

Of the four healthcare-related ads that aired during the game, medical technology company Hologic markets purpose, not product. Featuring halftime performer Mary J. Blige, it delivers a powerful message encouraging women to prioritize their health. "Her Health Is Her Wealth" focuses on preventive screenings and drives viewers to a custom website promoting women's health.

The commercial hits on one of the many catastrophic impacts of the pandemic as people missed annual health visits. It also presents a strong, powerful woman delivering an authentic message empowering other women.

Brand Metrics, CTA and ROI

A QR code bouncing around the screen for 60 seconds with no ad text or logo was the most talked about Super Bowl ad. While several crypto brands advertised this year, Coinbase actually crashed its own app. Yet viewers didn't know the brand name unless they scanned the code. Some 20 million did to receive $15 in cryptocurrency.

The QR code was the obvious call to action, and it paid off for Coinbase. Along with capturing metrics for 20 million people who scanned it, the company also enjoyed an immediate short-term return on its $14 million investment. By noon on Monday, Coinbase's stock price rose 4 percent for a nearly $4 billion increase.

USA Today's Ad Meter may have ranked it dead last, but Coinbase emerges the winner in this year's Super Bowl ad competition.

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