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Super Bowl Ads Analysis: A Multicultural Perspective

Date: Feb 05, 2013

The highly anticipated ads of Super Bowl XLVII have, once again, provoked commentary from marketing experts who target Hispanic, Asian American, African American, LGBT, People with Disabilities and other ethnic/niche consumers. MMR asked these top experts, listed in our annual directory, The Source Book of Multicultural Experts, to provide their analysis of the Super Bowl ads from a multicultural perspective.

Insights from the Experts

Super Bowl Ads Didn’t go the Extra Yards to Score with the Multicultural Market
From a creative standpoint, most of the Super Bowl commercials didn’t ‘stand’ out, since advertisers seem to have adopted the standard formulas for targeting male viewers.  Few made an impression: Anheuser-Busch’s (Clydesdale), Tide (Miracle Stain) and Audi (Bravery). However, even these missed the opportunity to connect with their diverse audience. While GoDaddy’s (Yourbigidea.co) commercial included ethnic talent and was cleverly executed, their Smart & Sexy ad has been highly disliked.  Similarly, Coke gives a strong message by showing great moments across the world caught on security cameras. But, they fizzled out with their CokeChase campaign, which may have gotten hits online yet faced backlash from the Arab community and didn’t make a lasting impression. If these brands consistently made an effort to be inclusive and consider cultural nuances, they would see quite an impact on their bottom line. Nawaf Soliman, President, Object DC, 703-917-0023, nawaf@objectdc.com.

“Viva Football!”
Another Super Bowl came and went with this year’s event providing a good game and some enjoyable TV spots too.  And no doubt more Hispanics were watching those ads than last year as the Latino NFL audience continues to grow.  And although the 2013 ad lineup didn’t include anything as groundbreaking as 2006’s bilingual Toyota spot, there were some creative executions that should have appealed strongly to Hispanics, starting with Taco Bell’s “Viva Young”.  The spot’s soundtrack is a Spanish version of Fun’s “We Are Young”, which at first seems confusing but one quickly catches on. And although intended to play on the irony of “seasoned citizens” out partying and having fun, the concept of our abuelos staying up late and enjoying the evening is not so unusual for many of us.  The universally appealing humor, the music and Taco Bell’s current bilingual tagline “Live Mas”, probably made this one a winner among Hispanics.  Latina actresses also graced a couple of Super Bowl commercials.  Naya Rivera (Glee) featured in M&M’s very humorous 30 second “Love Ballad” and Zoe Saldaña (Colombiana, Star Trek) appeared in Bud Light’s voodoo inspired “Lucky Chair”.  Hopefully as Latino viewership of the NFL in general and the Super Bowl in particular continues to increase, advertisers and their agency’s will increasingly find ways to appeal to the segment.  Super Bowl 2013 was a good indication of that trend. Eduardo Perez, President, PM Publicidad, 404-870-0099 ext. 205 or eperez@pmpublicidad.com.

Controversy? What Controversy?
I feel companies in recent years have looked at developing ads that can be controversial to enhance their viral spread and further extend their Super Bowl advertising spend. However, this year seems like most of the controversy is a self created stunt to get people talking because I doubt they would be talking about the end shock factor in any of these ads. I didn’t feel that any of the Super Bowl commercials really demonstrated a rational tone that was outside of any ethnic comfort zone. There has been a lot said about the Coke commercial, but it was merely a cinematic representation of a great race amongst different people and how best can we demonstrate different people then having them dressed in their national dress (Arabs, Americans, etc). The Volkswagen commercial stirred some controversy as you have a Caucasian speaking with a Jamaican accent, although it is noted that this was done for humor as there are many Caucasians in Jamaica that speak with such an accent.  So one can’t say they are stereotyping a race as they are people who live in that particular region…similar to people imitating a Hispanic or a British person. Daniel Ocner, Director, Strategic Marketing & Development, MediaMorphosis, 718-472-3700 or Daniel@mediamorphosisinc.com.

What’s up with Madison Avenue?
This year’s Super Bowl advertising was unremarkable in reflecting the diversity of America. In fact it was less diverse that last year and paled within the context of a very diverse NFL. You could even argue that the NFL was not diverse with all of the talent being African American and the head of the officiating team Black also. What’s up with Madison Avenue? I must give credit to Century 21 who chose to have their real estate agent and the face of the company be African American.  The Jeep commercial honoring those that serve was well done and recognized the diversity of the armed services. P&G deserves credit as well for casting their Tide commercial with an African American couple in a non-stereotypical advertisement.  That’s it since I discount celebrities. Stevie Wonder is everybody’s superstar and “salt and pepper” casting doesn’t count either. Perhaps more diversity in the ranks of those that create the advertising for America would result in more diverse advertising too. Unremarkable advertising usually results in unmemorable advertising. Ron Campbell, Pres./CEO, Campbell-Communications, 718-671-6989 or ron@campbell-communications.com.

Bud Light and Subway — Disability-Savvy Commercials
Bud Light and Subway are big winners of Super Bowl XLVII in terms of disability-savvy commercials. Music legend Stevie Wonders riffs on superstitious sports fans in the Bud Light commercials. In the spots, set to the tune of Wonder’s “Superstitions” two football fans ask voodoo practitioners Wonder and Zoe Saldana (Star Trek) to reverse the luck of a rival fan’s favorite chair and in the other ad hold competing team voodoo dolls. Subway’s spot congratulates Jared Fogel for keeping weight off – as a result of the “Subway diet” for 15 years. Jared was congratulated by world-class athletes, including former Rutgers football player Eric LeGrand who is a quad as a result of a sports accident. The other spots were disappointing in that families, workplaces, dance floors and schoolrooms, while self-consciously trying to be diverse in the traditional sense, were devoid of people with disabilities – unless they were hidden.  We fondly remember the “Dan” spot by the former Cingular Wireless and “Bob’s House” by PepsiCo – let’s hope advertisers show more interest next year in tapping the brand-loyal disability market segment’s $200 billion in purchasing power.  Thanks to Pauley Parette (from NCIS) for saying “thank you” in sign language for the CBS spot. Tari Hartman Squire, CEO, EIN SOF Communications, Inc., 310-473-5954 or  Tari@EINSOFcommunications.com.

Superbowl XLVII Was Full of Exciting Moments but Unfortunately They Were Limited to the Game
After watching Super Bowl XLVII, disappointment sank in regarding the variety and creativity of the commercials. Unfortunately, it seems that companies were going more for a level of shock than for originality in their marketing plans. Jeep’s commercial focusing on the home coming of our troops, was one of the few commercials that highlighted the multicultural nature of our society. They were able to show how even though we are made up of many nationalities, we are not complete until we are together as one in our nation and we all are waiting for that moment when a loved one comes home. While this commercial focused in on our troops more than their product, it will be remembered because it made a statement that is close to many individuals. Rachel Wilhoit, Sales & Marketing Support Executive, Ethnic Technologies, LLC, 866-333-8324, ext.121 or rachel@ethnictechnologies.com.

Coca-Cola Super Bowl Ad Takes Heat: Offensive to Arabs and Gay Community?
The problem with the Coca Cola ad is that it relies on stereotypical characters to tell their story. While it may not be blatantly racist, the fact that it pits these groups against each other in the ad is insensitive. It is trying to sell their product at the expense of these groups. There are much better ways to tell the story.  Side note: The Coca Cola ad is getting lot of negative attention as “Arab” offensive – but what about the cowboy of color and the Priscilla Queen of the desert (gay) offense? It seems to me that the “women on the bus” are actually a reference to the Musical and Movie “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert?” A story about drag queens who adventure across the Australian outback in a bus they name “Priscilla” I looked at this again and it seems like each of these “groups” is actually a reference to a movie – where the characters race across the desert in the original film. If that is what the ad is in fact referencing it took me a LONG time to figure out. And if that is in fact the case, Coca Cola needs to better reflect why they are using these particular characters and “groups”  It surprises me that these brands would approve advertising that even borders on offensive. With their brand equity at stake, not to mention the costs, how smart is that?  Consumers are rightfully raising eyebrows. People are smarter these days about what is offensive. They are making an important statement and brands should listen up. Brand marketing is about building relationships. These ads in question are actually doing the opposite. Christine Lehtonen, President, Executive Creative Director, asterixGROUP, 415-261-7808 or chris@asterixgroup.com.

Is Multiculturalism Being Respected or Simply Being Ripped Off?
Multiculturalism permeated the highly-powered commercials that debuted in Super Bowl XLVII while still primarily appealing to a general market audience. References to Latino, African-American, gay, young and infamously Jamaican life and values were easily identifiable but the majority were not aimed at consumers from those market segments.  A good example was Taco Bell’s “Live Más” ad, set to Latin rhythm and backdrops of club scenes with an elder Goldblatt as the lead male character.  One African American elder was in the mix of an excitement-seeking crew of retirement home residents.  This hip-hop styled “sampling” of effective multicultural marketing and advertising was also true of the Coke commercial, which had a clear reference to “Priscilla Queen of the Desert” without the drag queens.  What does this say for the future of multicultural marketing?  Is multiculturalism being respected or simply being ripped off? Roy Cosme, President, Arcos Communications, 212-807-1337 ext.11 or rcosme@arcos-ny.com.

Let’s Stop Making Super Bowl Ads and Let’s do Great Spots That Run During the Super Bowl
Chrysler returned to the mini-movie formula, nice, effective, poignant. But to me something’s missing in Jeep’s America: Hispanic representation. With the large number of Hispanics serving in the armed forces, I was disappointed in not seeing more Hispanic soldiers in the spot; It was mostly whites and African-American, with only a hint of Hispanic parents waiting for his son/daughter. We are a big part of the armed forces, we are a big part of this country… but we have a minor role in Jeep’s America. Mostly forgettable spots, some as dark as the power outage, plagued the Super Bowl. I think brands and agencies alike are thinking the wrong way; trying to do the next great Super Bowl ad as opposed to doing a great spot that breaks during the Super Bowl. We are kind of getting tired of the formula. Enough talking babies, gratuitous use of celebrities and expensive visual effects. Tide’s miracle stain, Axe’s astronaut and Coke’s security camera deliver clearly their brand’s message in an interesting, funny or touchy way and don’t feel like Super Bowl ads (even acknowledging Tide’s tie to the game). They are just plain great spots. Elias Weinstock, Chief Creative Officer, Casanova Pendril, 714-918-8200 or elias.weinstock@casanova.com.

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