Six Super Bowl Ad Themes and How They Apply to PR

February 7, 2012

Needless to say that it wasn’t just the Giants and Pats who had a lot of skin in the Super Bowl.

As marketers, we can appreciate the work that went into the various ads and the anticipation of seeing how they’ll perform – whether it be via The USA Today admeter, mentions in social media, sales, etc.

In looking at the ads that received the most positive buzz, I noticed a few themes and had some thoughts on how they could apply to PR.

1. Pop Culture: many ads leveraged current pop culture trends from the Audi vampire commercial to the Ferris Bueller CRV commercial. Personally, I thought the Audi commercial did the best job of this as it directly linked its news/product benefit – new LED lights – to the vampire phenomenon (I also just love anything Vampire).

How can this apply to PR? This is possibly the easiest yet most overlooked inspiration. What conversations are you having with colleagues as you wait for your turn at the coffee machine each morning? What are people talking about at the parties/gatherings you attend? What are your friends and family posting to Facebook? Finding a way to insert our brands into existing conversations is much easier than starting those conversations from scratch.

2. Music: great music was at the heart of so many of this year’s ads and really helped to draw out the emotion like the Hyundai (client) Rocky commercial or the Pepsi/Elton John commercial.

How can this apply to PR? This is a tricky one for me but I’d like to see us push ourselves here considering Spotify’s growth on Facebook and music’s ability to connect and inspire people globally.

3. Celebs: Acura used Jerry and Leno, Dannon John Stamos and Pepsi Max Regis. Some did it better than others. I think the ones who did it best leveraged the celeb’s unique association with their product or category like Leno and cars.

How can this apply to PR? We always create long lists of criteria with which to evaluate our potential spokespeople but we tend to think about them in categories. Perhaps the first questions we should ask is which celeb has a unique and direct link to our product, brand or category?

4. Humor: from M&Ms to Doritos (client), I literally LOL’ed during several commercials – again, the trick is to be funny AND get the product message out there like in the case of M&Ms touting hard candy shell and milk chocolate center.

How can this apply to PR? It could be as simple as using humor in a pitch letter or Facebook post – as long as it’s appropriate to brand/message.

5. Break-through: amid the sea of half dressed women, splashy, funny and bright images, some commercials broke through the pack for being very different (and powerful) compared to the landscape like Chrysler and Clint Eastwood, Budweiser Ends Prohibition and Ronald McDonald House.

How can this apply to PR? Always think about the landscape your campaign will appear in. For example, if you are working on an Earth Day campaign, think about what typical coverage looks like and challenge yourself to look/feel different.

6. Social Media Extensions: in addition to the television commercials, most Super Bowl advertisers had integrated campaigns with extensions in social media. Toyota is an interesting example because it seems their commercial was well received but not their Twitter activity.

How can this apply to PR? Pay attention not just to the message but execution across each and every platform.

I would love to hear your thought on the Super Bowl ads and any implications you think they will have/could have.

Lauren Sugarman is a vice president/account supervisor and works out of Ketchum’s Chicago office. She was born and raised in Miami, Florida, and is a reality TV and home décor junkie. Please don’t ask her if she is crazy from moving from Miami to Chicago – she is (see reality TV interest)!