Last week, we talked about The Super Bowl Advertising Hall Of Shame.
The Super Bowl commercial in question was a $2 million spot in 2000's Super Bowl XXXIV, the infamous "Dot Com Superbowl."
The message we held up for a good-natured beating was advertising a long-since-forgotten business called Lifeminders.com.
The erstwhile e-mail reminder business had two weeks to produce a commercial before the big game.
What I'm about to say, I mean in the nicest possible way: The result was a disappointing, titles-on-the-screen message that lacked clarity and purpose.
THE TAKE AWAY FOR THE SMALL-BUSINESS OWNER WAS THIS...
Successful advertising, even under the duress of a time crunch, requires being resonant for your core customer--a quality that has nothing to do with the delivery platform, whether it's Google ads or Super Bowl ads.
Successful advertising requires clarity.
Successful advertising requires respect for the prospect.
Successful advertising requires knowing how to light up that prospect.
These qualities can all be implemented more easily by understanding and establishing a brand, and using that brand to inform the subsequent messages.
IRONICALLY, THIS YEAR'S SUPER BOWL IS EQUALLY ILLUSTRATIVE
There is even more shame to go around--epic shame with a $5-million price tag.
A 2017 advertiser says they fired their ad agency, leaving themselves with not two weeks to create a Super Bowl commercial--but two days.
And oh, what a commercial it was.
We're talking 30 seconds of WTF.
We open on an extreme close-up of a long, brown, russet potato. It's sitting on a white background.
Across the potato, written in all caps with a sharp-pointed black marker, is the word, "ADVERTISEMENT."
AND THAT IS ALL YOU SEE
For 30 full seconds, you get a static shot of the potato.
The camera never moves.
There is no audio beyond the dead air of the room in which the potato was shot.
WHAT WAS THIS AND WHAT WAS THE POINT?
This non-message was the brainchild of the folks from the fill-in-the-blanks party game, Cards Against Humanity. (Tagline: A party game for horrible people.)
And yes, this commercial message failed miserably--by Cards Against Humanity's own admission.
They've written a story about it, published at the social journalism site medium.com.
The story is entitled: "Why Our Super Bowl Ad Failed."
In it, Cards Against Humanity is very candid about their miscalculations.
The first thing they admit is, "We wasted time with establishment thinking" by going to ad agency, Wieden + Kennedy:
They wasted over six months of our
precious time pitching concepts like
people laughing while playing the game,
and amusing card combinations coming
to life on screen. Eventually, we realized
that they were burdened by conventional
thinking and fired them.
THEIR OTHER EXPLANATIONS ARE EQUALLY BRAZEN ADMISSIONS
Admissions like, "Overconfidence in the model."
"Failure to trust our customers."
"We were asking the wrong questions."
"Our ad failed to connect with young people."
"We didn't add music."
Really, it's hard to imagine such an epic series of enormous miscalculations coming together in a single $5-million spot buy.
You could even call it a perfect storm of hubris, arrogance and stupidity fueled by filthy lucre.
AND THE MOST EPIC OF OUTCOMES HAS RESULTED
Cards Against Humanity admits: "While we succeeded creatively, the advertisement showed a disappointing return on investment ($0), and we are now going out of business."
What is the takeaway for the small-business marketer here?
Be as wildly creative and out-of-the-box as you can be while remaining on-brand.
Spend as little money as possible.
And harness the power of the press.
This is fake news taken to a genius level.
If you've never followed the marketing efforts undertaken by Cards Against Humanity, they are masterful in what has evolved into a kind of 21st century marketing as performance art.
They never bought a $5-million Super Bowl spot. They are not going out of business. And this lunacy has created an epic stir in social media.
IT'S A SATIRE OF SUPER-BOWL ADVERTISING AND SELF-CONGRATULATORY AD-BIZ DOUBLESPEAK
It has also been widely covered in the press--and at least one news outlet thought it was for real. (Website newsy.com has added an editor's note to the story, saying, "Well, we fell for it.")
By spending virtually nothing to publicize this non-commercial, they created a fake news story that has millions of people paying attention to Cards Against Humanity.
They've done it before by doing things like promoting Black Friday sales by raising prices.
They've replaced their product with boxes of bull poop--and thousands have purchased it.
Last December, they spent over $100,000 digging a hole in the middle of nowhere.
During the presidential race, they set up an anti-Trump Super PAC called the Nuisance Committee. They bought a billboard with a comic-book image of the candidate screaming at a computer monitor. The headline read, "Donald Trump mains Hanzo and complains about team comp in chat."
Which means absolutely nothing if you weren't their core customer of a college-age gamer who plays the anime computer game Overwatch.
Know what this is?
EARNED MEDIA DOLLARS RIDING WILD
If you don't know the expression, earned media is essentially free advertising. Earned-media dollars is what that coverage is worth expressed in monetary terms.
It's what your business gets when you do something so attention-worthy, the press feels compelled to cover it.
Cards Against Humanity has probably earned countless millions of dollars in earned media, or as it's sometimes called, free media.
But this kind of thing is not limited to people who have national reach.
Slow Burn Marketing has a client who makes a Bloody Mary mix. She is the queen of earned media. She works constantly to get her product in local press, most recently with a prominent mention in the Sacramento Bee.
Back in the pre-digital era when I worked for a homemade ice-cream business in Miami's South Beach, I would routinely get them covered on local radio and in the local newspapers--including a full-page Miami Herald story about a burgeoning ice-cream war in South Beach. (The ostensibly warring parties were good friends--but the press didn't know and they loved the story.)
Slow Burn also works with the first-ever winery in Park City, Utah. That might sound like the punch line to a joke. And that's probably one reason why their story keeps catching the eye of journalists in the local area. And the wine is excellent.
WHEN YOU UNDERSTAND YOUR BRAND, YOU CAN THEN UNDERSTAND HOW TO BE A FASCINATING STORY
The news media need news.
They need stories people will pay attention to.
And especially in an age where everyone is overworked and underpaid, stories that seem made-to-order are especially profitable.
The small-business owner who understands the business's brand can then understand how to promote that brand in ways that get headlines.
And there may be no better scalable example from this year's Super Bowl than the fake Super Bowl message from Cards Against Humanity (a party game for horrible people).
They make it work.
They make it fun.
They make it profitable.
And their strategy can easily be scaled down for even the small-business owner working on the local level.
To see Cards Against Humanity's Super Bowl failure story, click here. Or copy and paste http://tinyurl.com/zmey3ch
Your Lean, Mean Creative Director in
Blaine Parker helps people sell their stuff. An advertising Creative Director and Copywriter at Slow Burn Marketing, he specializes in big-brand thinking for small-business marketing. He has the voice of a much taller man.