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Why Super Bowl ads don't 'work' and that's a good thing...

Every year I look forward to the Super Bowl ads, not because I’m expecting them to be particularly exciting (a girl can always hope), but because they break the rules. It’s the one time of the year that we actually put the interests of the audience first, rather than the channel.  

Imagine if we made Super Bowl ads according to the conditions of the Super Bowl viewing environment. Imagine if we put supers across the ads because they would be viewed at noisy parties. Imagine if we reduced them down to essentially just their logos and a product benefit message, because we’re in a competitive environment with lots of other brands advertising at the same time.

Would we have enjoyed the Game of Thrones surprise if they told us what it was for in the first three seconds? Would we have watched Jason Bateman as intently if a title card had announced: "Hyundai presents the pain of car shopping"?

We would never do that because the Super Bowl advertising is about brand stories told epically -- and yet that is exactly what we do with online advertising.

Online publishers are excellent at understanding their platform, the mindset of their audience and the best way to get attribution for their advertisers to ensure they keep coming back. They know that online ads are intrusive and interrupt content people actually want to watch. They know that people aren’t necessarily paying attention to the ads, so they put together a set of rules to help make the advertising effective in that environment.

The rules of online video advertising:
• Show your logo in the first three seconds of the film.
• Tell your message quickly.
• Anticipate the skip, don't put anything important after they might have skipped.
• Tell them your message but also use supers in case there's no sound.

As a comms planner, I’m acutely aware of the "rules" to optimize work for each channel, but I don’t always agree with them.

Super Bowl ads can achieve the same, hardworking objectives as our online ad placements. We saw product demos, brand awareness, and promo announcements throughout the Super Bowl. Yet they almost all ignored the "rules" we abide by online.

The rules of Super Bowl advertising are the rules we should apply to every creative message your brand puts out into the world, regardless of the channel.

• Make it culturally relevant.
• Have a point of view.
• Give people something they never expect.
• Be entertaining.
• It's ok to laugh at yourself.

Because if we have something worth saying, people will listen.

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