By: Ashley Byars
Ahh, here we are in the week between the Super Bowl and Valentine’s Day. Some of you are still accepting the outcome of the big game, and others are worried about what they will get/give their true love. Here’s one subject on which everyone has an opinion. Which commercials made you feel the love and which made you want to erase their contact from your phone?
In most cases, everyone’s favorite commercial is a hilarious out-of-the box ad like this Old Spice commercial from 2010; But in others the commercial that sticks with audiences for weeks and months ahead is a heartwarming ad with intention. Last year, the 84 Lumber ad seemed to strike a chord with audiences, so much that their website crashed after viewers flocked there to watch the full video. According to adage in years past, “only 6.4 percent of Super Bowl ads in the past 10 years made a corporate social responsibility appeal.”
As a social impact agency, we want to know what cause connections work and why, so we are reviewing this year’s commercials through a match-maker’s lens. Our ratings are based on three criteria:
- Does the commercial feel authentic?
- Is there clear Brand Alignment?
- And does it move consumers to act?
Based on these three factors, which commercials were a perfect match, which had that awkward first date feeling, and who completely bungled the entire thing? Sit back, grab the left-over tortilla chips and keep reading for our official match-maker take.
The Perfect Match
Stella Artois & Water.Org
Stella Artois and Water.Org partnered up again to bring a 30 second spot to the big screen. Yes, we know this partnership is like the Prom King and Queen of commercials, everyone knows this couple. However, unlike a high school relationship, this partnership sets a high standard for the possibilities of strategic cause partnerships.
Water.Org’s mission is to provide access to clean drinking water and sanitation in the developing world. This is an ongoing partnership in which the premise is that if you buy one of the Stella Artois chalices, they will donate five years worth of clean water to a person in a developing country. During the Super Bowl commercial, Matt Damon says “”If just 1 percent of you watching buys [a chalice], we can give clean water to 1 million people.”
First, the brand alignment is spot-on. Water is quintessential to beer-making and fits right in line with Stella Artois’ commitment. Second, this commercial comes across as authentic to viewers. Including a celebrity in your commercial doesn’t always create a veneer of authenticity; however, in this case, it works, because Matt Damon has been behind this initiative for years and he has created a trustworthy association to the brand.
Showing real people adds to the authentic factor and demonstrates the brand’s commitment to diversity.According to water.org, “This year’s collection features hand-crafted designs inspired by Mexico, India and the Philippines, created by female artists from each of these countries. Purchase yours today and help end the global water crisis.” This commitment to understanding inclusion and women’s empowerment goes a long way in making consumers feel they are truly trying to connect with their audience.
Consumer Response: Again, Stella Artois and Water.org have done their homework and studied the film. This ad was less about the on-screen commercial and more about the social media buzz. They had celebrity influencers tweeting:
But more importantly, they also had an incredible response from consumers on social media using the hashtag #1Chalice5Years to tout that they were making a purchase, which is the ultimate goal of these high-dollar campaigns.
Awkward First Date
Budweiser & Disaster Relief
In a similar vein, Budweiser (also owned by Anheuser Busch) stepped out to address disaster relief efforts. As we have previously mentioned, creating a disaster philanthropy plan will become an integral part of CSR planning. While it may have felt a bit out of place during the Super Bowl and months after hurricane season, with a thoughtful and brand aligned ad, Budweiser was able to overcome the timing awkwardness by checking every box on our matchmaking list: brand alignment-check; authenticity-check; consumer action(buying more of their product)-check. A pairing that could have gone wrong was actually able to be heartwarming by showing how they donated what would normally be cans full of beer into cans of water to communities in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and California ravaged by storms and wildfires last fall. And, of course, everyone can get behind a good love song and their tagline coordinated with the background music was spot on, “Whenever You Need Us, We’ll Stand By You.”
The Loyal Standby
Hyundai & Hope On Wheels
Hyundai doubled down on their 60-second ad during the Super bowl this year to promote its charity, Hyundai Hope On Wheels, a 501c3 nonprofit organization launched in 1998 that provides grants to institutions pursuing research and treatments for curing childhood cancers. Even though they had to forgo shooting the ad in real-time due to security concerns, the “Hope Detector” ad had the same great surprise effect and was still heartwarming and fun to watch.
The use of real people and real cancer survivors adds the to authenticity and makes it feel more relatable to viewers.
This high authenticity level makes up for the slim ability for consumers to act. There is no call-to-action to donate to the nonprofit, but only the promise of a percentage being donated after you purchase a new car. But how often is one able to purchase a new car? Hyundai could increase the brand alignment by showing an ongoing connection to consumers, such as offering a ride-service to patients with cancer or smaller item of purchase (bumper sticker, etc) that people can immediately go out and purchase. cCeating stickiness, by continuously connecting consumers to to the cause, is an important part of a great partnership. Providing an opportunity to give back once every several years may not be the best approach for reminding your consumers you are devoted to the community.
Dodge Ram & Service Opportunity
We get it. Ram had success with on the American Farmer commercial a few years ago, and was trying to tap into that same emotional thread by showing people who are integral to the fabric of American life. However, their choice to include a sampling of a 1968 speech from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in their ad, not only missed the mark, but drew immediate backlash. True, this is not technically a cause partnership. That is why we are deeming this commercial a missed connection.
Imagine how differently this ad could have gone if after those powerful words, and their tagline “Built to Serve” popped up, they promoted a social equity partnership with a nonprofit, or backed the newly created NFL social justice committee? , Basically, anything BUT promoting more sales of their trucks.
Stepping back, if we look at this commercial through our criteria, it does not check the box on any of the three criteria that makes a great cause partnership: Authenticity, Brand Alignment, or Consumer Action.
Authenticity: The people of Twitter have spoken and declared this a complete miss. Critics have even gone so far as to dub over Martin Luther King Jr.’s actual words, specifically saying that Americans shouldn’t fall for the trappings of the advertising industry, which isalmost the opposite of the messaging in the Dodge Super Bowl ad-whoops.
Brand Alignment: We can vaguely see the connection that Dodge was trying to make here since a tagline of theirs is “Built to Serve.” Unfortunately,they were not able to effectively connect MLK Jr.’s words with their commitment to service. Since this was during the Super Bowl, we have to say that they dropped the ball.
Consumer Action: The ad offered no solutions for consumers to act or get involved in service to their community. Since the MLK holiday is all about getting out in the community and serving, there was a ripe opportunity to promote service and a call-to-action for how viewers could get involved.
Finding that perfect match can be tough, especially when millions of people are watching, and sharing their comments with the world. Companies can increase their effectiveness by keeping Cupid’s arrow pointed at authenticity, brand alignment and consumer action.