Functional Content Goes to the Super Bowl

By: Marc Acton, Associate Creative Director

For marketers, the Super Bowl is basically the Super Bowl of advertising, where we see the best and brightest of our industry show off their best stuff. With every commercial break, agencies at the top of their game are competing for more than sales—it’s really cultural relevance they’re chasing.

And, for us marketers, like a professional musician watching a concert, it’s hard to just sit and appreciate the artistry without doing just a little critiquing. Here are three principles we can glean from this year’s crop of the best commercial treats our industry had to offer and ways you can use those principles to sell more stuff.

If You Can’t Make ‘Em Laugh, Make ‘Em Cry

In today’s sharing economy, and especially in the Super Bowl, it’s never been more valuable to have hilarity as the capstone of your commercial. But, there’s another way to crack the sharable nut. Verizon’s Answering the Call commercial was heart wrenching, pointing users to an equally emotional microsite. Hyundai’s ads were, too, where we got to watch previous Hyundai customers get tear jerked by beneficiaries of the brand’s childhood cancer research program. Neither of these commercials had anything to do with products. What they did was to sell an idea through brand association. Cancer research is good—therefore, Hyundai is good.

The power of this technique is best illustrated by a quote from Maya Angelou, who said, “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” If you’re trying to get people to remember your brand, make them feel something powerful, and they’re likely to never forget you.

Conversion is Often About Jumping Platforms

While multiscreening has been a thing for years, it’s often looked at as a challenge advertisers face—how will we attract eyeballs when everyone watching is also watching something else?

This year, more commercials than ever embraced multiscreening and encouraged viewers to pick up the phone, tablet, or laptop and log in. Squarespace asked you to check out what Keanu Reeves made. The new Han Solo movie asked you to watch the full trailer. And, that Verizon ad masterfully coaxed you to check out a microsite with no real sales language. Instead, what it had was an irresistible, emotional quotient and perfect product associations (our reliable network gets you help when you need it most).

If you want to entertain, then make a great commercial/website/video. If you want to convert, think about the context of your audience and give them a reason to want to go to where you need them to be, so you can sell them what you want to sell them.

Function Feeds Off Frequency

The absolute creamiest of the crop of Super Bowl 2018 commercial series was this series by Tide, which paired infinitely likeable everyman actor David Harbour (from “Stranger Things”) with a sendup of every tired Super Bowl ad trope. But, the genius comes when the ad ends because its setup tells us that any ad could be a Tide ad. After watching, I couldn’t stop wondering if every commercial I didn’t recognize was a new Tide spot. Sure, they borrowed the mechanism from the classic Energizer Bunny campaigns, but they made it fresh (like their detergent, I suppose, although they never really mentioned it).

For most business, functional content means blog posts, social media management, or email marketing. But, as you’re building your content programs, remember that your customers almost never buy on their first interaction with you. That’s why the Tide effect—getting your customers to think, read or interact with your brand on multiple occasions—is crucial.

Want to put some function in your content? We can help. As experts at inbound marketing, we write, edit, design, develop and deploy content that supports your business goals. If you need us, we’ll just be over here watching that Verizon ad again, probably weeping uncontrollably.


Marc Acton

Marc Acton was born at a very young age in a moderately old town in Florida. Some other stuff happened, and then he became iostudio’s Associate Creative Director. For us, he proudly pokes and prods projects for the Army National Guard including social media and web, writing and strategizing content that converts. He is a fan of the Oxford comma, saying more with less, and helping write bios for extremely talented iostudians. He also flies helicopters for the Army National Guard. Which reminds us, how can you tell if a helicopter pilot is at your party? (He’ll tell you.)