Superbowl ads are a lot of fun. I didn’t have a chance to watch them in real time but I’ve been getting a kick out of the post-game analysis to see whose ads were dubbed the best and whose stood the best chance of taking on viral lives beyond their original air dates.
Deciding which ads are good, though, is just ridiculous. The best ads sell the most product and we won’t know how that worked for a long time. In some cases, like Budweiser, we may never know because the product sells in such massive amounts over such a long span of time and in such a multi-layered marketing environment that attaching cause and effect to any given ad is a pretty tall order. Personally, I loved the Budweiser ad, but I also love good beer so it certainly didn’t work on me.
I did discover, though, that Hyundai was enjoying a significant bump in web traffic generated by its ad for the Santa Fe minivan. According to Edmunds.com, the Hyundai ad, which is about a boy and his mother gathering up a group of friends to take them to the park, generated a lot more traffic than an emotional Jeep ad that focused on returning troops.
What I appreciated about the Hyundai ad was that it did what good marketing should do. It showed how the product made its customers happy. In this case, it made the boy happy by solving his problem with neighborhood bullies, which was the entertaining, attention-getting part, but on a more fundamental level it showed the mother using the van to meet a practical need that many mothers share. By doing both very well the ad appears to have been very effective.
Compare that to the ad that tied the Jeep brand to patriotic emotions stirred by returning troops (with narration by Oprah, no less) and it’s easy to see why the near-term results were weaker. The subject matter may have been noble, lofty and moving, but the connection between motor vehicles and returning troops was tenuous at best. The commercial didn’t draw a clear enough line between what most people want from a vehicle and how a Jeep might make them happy.
I’ve written in previous posts that the key to motivating new arts audiences lies not in boasting about lofty, abstract promises that aren’t necessarily connected to what your audiences are looking for, but rather by demonstrating how your product will make its customers happy by satisfying their actual needs or desires. These two ads seem to be good examples of these ideas in action.
Arts marketers who want to develop effective marketing messages would do well to stay sharply focused on what their audiences say they want, and on creating messages that connect those stated yearnings to what the product can actually deliver. If the yearnings are about enjoying an evening out with friends and taking in a concert or show, for example, your job is to connect those wants to your product in the clearest possible way. (Hint: you’ll probably want to show some images of your potential customers having a good time in your venue.)
And keep in mind that arts marketing is not the Superbowl. Nobody cares if you’re clever or cute or entertaining. That’s not what you’re there to do. If you want to be memorable or attention-getting, just do what the Hyundai ad did and make sure that your entertainment value is a logical, integral, sensible outgrowth of your core message strategy.
That Hundai ad didn’t make it to the top of many “best” lists on Monday, but if it sells more Santa Fe minivans, who cares?