Image and credits: ries.typepad.com
The creator of some of the most memorable Super Bowl advertising forgot about storytelling in pursuit of ‘participation’ this year.
The sobering truth for those of us that work in the industry is that advertising in its traditional sense continues to be less effective. You know the drill… more viewing options + more fragmented audiences + DVRs = fewer people paying attention to what brands have to say during the commercial break.
Which is why these days we spend as much time plotting how the stories we tell on behalf of brands will be distributed (seeding strategies, social spread, etc.) as we do conceiving those stories in the first place.
Except on this day.
On Super Bowl Sunday, American consumers enter a parallel universe: one where a huge number of them are watching the same show, live and (most startlingly) giving a shit about advertising. After all, it’s not a normal Sunday when consumers are actively trawling YouTube to preview the spots they will be watching that evening.
I’m all for CMOs looking for more bang from their buck on Super Bowl Sunday. Build an experience around the spot, create an event, drive participation, hash-tag the shit out of it; but please recognize that The Super Bowl is the ultimate showcase for amazing storytelling and please make this your priority.
From Mean Joe Green, to Happiness Factory and Grand Theft Auto, this is something Coca Cola has gotten right many times before. Storytelling that communicates something important about the brand (its core narrative of happiness) within a context relevant and compelling to viewers.
But this is something they seem to have forgotten with this year’s Coke Chase. Three teams (Cowboys, Show Girls and Badlanders) are pursuing a giant bottle of Coke across a Mad Max-esque desert dystopia with consumers asked to vote for who they want to reach it first. But Coke have been so focused on their pursuit of consumer participation that they have forgotten to create something worthy of our time and attention: this is generic, banal and self-indulgent.
Generic: I am struck by the lack of brand story in this. Coke creative is usually joyful, bringing the promise of moments of simple happiness to life. But this is a generic story of a desirable product – our 3 teams could equally be pursuing a new car or phone.
Banal: As I mentioned, the first priority for Super Bowl advertisers is to make a great spot with the ancillary experience a bonus. And though there are some nice moments as you get deeper into the experience and begin sabotaging rival teams this isn’t compelling storytelling…the characters don’t steal my heart, the jokes don’t make me laugh. If Happiness Factory felt big and spellbinding and Grand Theft keenly observed and current, this just feels… small and flat.
Self-indulgent: My overriding feeling as I watch the spot and explore the rest of the experience is ‘who cares.’ Why should I care who wins? And why should I spend my social capital on spreading it on Coke’s behalf? The role of marketing is to make people care enough about a brand to act on its behalf (whether buying, liking, sharing etc). But this presumes that people already care about Coke and that helping their agency find an ending for an ad is a rewarding experience in and of itself. This feels like a better deal for the brand than it does the consumer.
The irony of course is that in 2007, Coke set out simply to make a great Super Bowl spot but in doing so, they also drove brand participation as the spot was shared and linked and imitated. In 2013, they have forgotten the storytelling in pursuit of creating an ‘event.’ I suspect that in six years time, we won’t be reminiscing about how we all got caught up in the Coke Chase of 2013.