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6 Keys to Cutting Through

Cutting through has never been easy.  The old-school triumvirate of surprise, emotion and relevance used to deliver reliably effective ads.  But after tracking some recent success stories, I recommend adding a new troika of socialize, searchify and extend.  While the most successful of Super Bowl ads covered most of these bases, here’s how a few stood out on the individual components.

Surprise: It’s almost impossible to cut through if your communications, whether ads or social posts, lack an element of the unexpected.  A classic example of Surprise in action was the Taco Bell “Viva Young” spot, in which a gang of geriatrics party like there’s no tomorrow.  This spot also proves you can still surprise people with an idea borrowed from a now “old” ‘80’s movie.

Emotion: When the Budweiser Clydesdale “Brotherhood” spot ended, even the most macho of football fans were reaching for their hankies, and the Twitteratti were almost too weepy to tweet.  The fact that this touching ad ranked highest on USA Today’s Super Bowl Ad Meter reminds us of the power of emotion and the enduring connection brands can but all too often forget to make with consumers.

Relevance: The circus that is Super Bowl advertising can lead to surprising and emotionally rich ads that still fall way short, such as the Beck’s ad with a singing goldfish, which AgAge lambasted as the worst of the night.  Recognizing the power of relevance, Adobe took a clever swipe at all the Super Bowl advertisers with a parody video that ran the next day and only online, garnering over 130,000 views among the close-knit marketing community.

Socialize: While trying to bake social media into your ads is almost a “duh” these days, it’s actually harder to do well than you might think.  In fact, one critic felt Coke worked so hard to make their “Chase” ad a participation sport that they lost their way.  One brand that succeeded in socializing their advertising effort was Oreo, whose Whisper Fight ad drove +50,000 fans to Instagram while its impromptu blackout meme stole the show online.

Searchify: Given that 70% of purchase journeys begin on Google, it would be simply insane not to consider search when creating ads and other marketing materials.  Nonetheless, only a handful of Super Bowl advertisers served up a memorable hashtag or URL to cue consumers to search for them after the game.  Audi, on the other hand, with its audaciously memorable ad and #BraveryWins hashtag, ran away with nearly 10 million post-game views, assisted by 2,670 game-time tweets (see Amy Vernon’s helpful hashtag analysis).

Extend: Though we are in obvious territory here, it is remarkable how many Super Bowl ads lacked an idea that extended beyond the thirty-second spot.  This was certainly not the case with the AXE “Lifeguard” ad that met all the criteria above AND set the stage for the AXE Apollo Space Academy, an on-going promotion that includes sending 23 “brave civilians” into space.  For a more detailed look at this particular campaign, see my review on PSFK.

Final note: While this article focused on big-time TV ads, the same principles of surprise, emotion, relevance, socialize, searchify and extend apply to just about any marketing endeavor, big or small, B2B or B2C.

Drew Neisser is founder and CEO of Renegade, the NYC-based agency that helps CMO’s transform marketing from mere messaging to programs of genuine value.  Dubbing this approach “marketing as service,” Drew and the Renegade team...

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