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Lessons from a Nauseating Super Bowl Ad

Posted by Jeff Rosenblum on February 11th, 2013 at 12:24 pm

Last Sunday, I saw a Super Bowl ad that made me want to puke. Not figuratively. Literally. Here’s why…

During the game, I ate a ridiculous amount of food. That doesn’t make me unique. It makes me American. Studies show that it’s the second largest day of food consumption behind Thanksgiving. In fact, over a billion chicken wings were eaten during the Super Bowl. The day after, 7-Eleven saw a 20% increase in antacid sales.

So when Sonic advertised late in the fourth quarter for its new foot-long hog dogs covered in glutinous toppings, I was nauseous, because at that point I was filled with roughly 2,000 calories of food.

In a laboratory environment I’m sure the Sonic ad did great. It’s catchy, it’s witty, there’s a lot of product and logo shots, and the food looks delicious. From a media planning perspective I’m sure the ad buy made a lot of conceptual sense. Unlike many of us who grew up in digital, I don’t denounce a Super Bowl ad buy. It’s an amazingly powerful way to create cultural currency, and I’m sure that the media buying team did a great job of negotiating the rates.

The problem wasn’t the ad itself, but rather the mindset of those who saw it. In the first quarter when people were still hungry, that ad would’ve been extremely effective. But in the fourth quarter, all people really wanted was some Pepto Bismol and to go to bed.

The lesson here is to focus on the mindset of the audience who will view your ad or marketing collateral. Put yourself in their shoes and on their couches. It’s critical to understand the thought process at the beginning of the marketing exposure and the desired thought process at the end of that marketing exposure. This approach would show that Sonic’s fourth quarter ad was a great piece of creative simply served at the wrong time.

When we examine each piece of creative through the lens of the audience rather than an advertising executive, it provides an opportunity to strengthen the relationship between a brand and its audience, not just win awards. Ultimately, it allows us to turn prospects into customers and customers into evangelists. Without looking at marketing collateral through the eyes of the audience – without careful attention to mindset – we could waste millions of dollars on ads that could have been world-class if delivered at the right time.

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