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Multicultural Marketing News – Super Bowl LII Ads Analysis: A Multicultural Perspective

Tuesday, Feb 06, 2018

Multicultural Marketing News February 2018
Super Bowl LII Ads Analysis: A Multicultural Perspective
  • Super Bowl Role Reversal? (PM3)
  • Super Bowl LII Kept It Simple (Ethnic Technologies)
  • Even Being “Safe” Still Has Multicultural Nuances (Vision Strategy and Insights)
  • Showing America’s Soul: Not The Whole Of Its People (Castells)
  • It’s Time to Set the Bar Higher (C+C)
  • A Socially Conscious Year For Super Bowl Ads: Emphasis On Family, Charity, Diversity (NRS / National Retail Solutions)
Super Bowl Ads Multicultural Commentary
Super Bowl ads have, once again, provoked commentary from advertising experts in marketing to Hispanic, Asian American, African American and other Multicultural markets. MMR asked top experts, from among those featured in our Source Book of Multicultural Experts Online, to provide their analysis of the Super Bowl ads from a multicultural perspective.

Super Bowl Role Reversal?
Many Super Bowls deliver a “meh” football game with the TV commercials providing the highlights.  2018 treated us to a great 60 minutes of football punctuated interrupted by mostly disappointing TV spots.  Brands moved away from the politically infused messages of 2017 – but this year many embraced something of a CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) approach, evidenced by spots from Budweiser, Stella Artois, Hyundai, Toyota and somewhat controversially, Dodge RAM.  While multicultural consumers appreciate the socially responsible efforts of companies – we tune into the Super Bowl for entertainment.
Overall diversity was present in messaging and on-screen representation  of characters, but without any spots having the intention of being explicitly culturally relevant (think Toyota’s past “hybrid” bilingual spots).  The only directly culturally focused spot was for Blacture; although Lexus’ Black Panther spot likely prickled the “cultural antennas” of African American viewers, and the aforementioned Dodge RAM commercial offended many.  Multicultural viewers tend to prefer either humor or nostalgia in their TV commercials and in our opinion some of the culturally neutral spots that fared best were Tide’s various creative and disruptive executions; Coca-Cola’s The Wonder of Us , and M&M’s Human and Amazon’s Alexa Loses Her Voice .  Brands whose spots likely fell flat with multicultural viewers: NFL, Kia, Squarespace, Diet Coke and Skechers. By Eduardo Perez, Partner, PM3,
Super Bowl LII Kept It Simple
Super Bowl LII steered away from controversy. While ads during last year’s game were overtly socially conscious, with spots surrounding immigration and other polarizing political themes, 2018 mostly played it safe with humor.  One has to wonder whether corporations faced backlash from such ads last Super Bowl and simply wanted to avoid controversial discussions this year. Indeed, one of the only spots from 2018 that attempted a political message was from Dodge, who used a soundbite from Martin Luther King, Jr. to overlay imagery of their trucks, and it has already been heavily criticized on social media since it was aired less than 24 hours ago.  However, most ads focused on entertaining without a strong message, such as Bud Light’s continuing “Dilly Dilly” and Tourism Australia creating a faux-trailer for a new Crocodile Dundee. Even spots for the NFL itself, which has no doubt faced a large share of political discussion this season, had Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr. breaking out their rendition of the famous scene from Dirty Dancing. On social media, reception for most of these ads seems light and positive.  Granted, there were also a good number of ads that showcased corporations’ philanthropic programs, such as Matt Damon’s clean water promise from Stella Artois and Hyundai’s Hope on Wheels to fight pediatric cancer. It seems these feel-good messages were included for millennials and younger viewers, who are generally less interested in advertising and more interested in making a difference.  It will be interesting to see how Super Bowl marketing themes – humorous or heavy –  evolve in the coming years. By Tracy Fey.  Contact: Karen Sinisi, Director of Sales, Ethnic Technologies,  866-333-8324 ext 117,
Even Being “Safe” Still Has Multicultural Nuances
“Keep it Safe” must have been the subject line for the memo that I envision went out to all players, performers and advertisers during the planning stages of Super Bowl LII.  Clearly, this Super Bowl succeeded in serving up low-risk and controversy-free entertainment. Leslie Odom, Jr. and Pink provided an awe-inspiring musical backdrop to showcase the patriotism of the NFL. Justin Timberlake turned in a strong yet safe performance and still managed to honor Prince while avoiding controversy over a planned hologram. And, for the most part, the ads stayed clear of anything particularly “heavy”. They took us down memory lane, made us chuckle, or showcased the uniqueness of their brands. Ho Hum… And then, the Ram truck ad. This ad used a powerful MLK speech – a sermon actually — on the importance of service as the voiceover to sell trucks. The connection was not at all clear, which made the ad seem overtly, and uncomfortably, commercial. The use of THE Civil Rights icon further ignited emotions during these especially racially charged times. The reaction to this ad was immediate and brutal.  But, where Ram failed, both Budweiser and Mass Mutual succeeded in communicating the intent of Dr. Kings message of “service”. These companies used very different approaches, but both approaches worked, because they connected service to issues that really matter. Budweiser showed how the company turned from producing beer to canning water, provided much-needed relief to recent disaster areas across the United States. Mass Mutual showed examples of unsung heroes in real cities and towns providing grassroots support to other members of their community. The ad effectively demonstrated the diverse tapestry of people, circumstances and issues that comprise a community and keep us connected.  “Service” as an ideal is worthy of a commercial for any brand, but one of lessons we take away from Super Bowl LII is that issue advertising works when relevant and culturally sensitive. The importance of robust market research that can be analyzed for specific audiences could not have been more poignantly illustrated. By Brenda P. Lee, Partner, Vision Strategy and Insights, 410-521-2147, 
Showing America’s Soul: Not The Whole Of Its People
Sitting in a bar in Mexico watching Superbowl 52 livestream complete with ads, I witnessed the ups and downs of both the ads and the game to its Eagles soaring finale, and my lens changed from a U.S. Multicultural marketer to a world participant. From that perspective, the question was simply ‘what multicultural ads…and does it really matter on this particular world stage? My answer continues to be a resounding yes, even if today’s Superbowl ads are more attraction vs. sales driver, this is how U. S. brands show their diversity and inclusion – both to its people and on a global scale – and impact brand perceptions.  The ads ran the gamut from the ingenious, heartfelt, hilarious, viral and ‘we are the world’ to the inconsequential and insulting – and while more ads championed global diversity and had an African-American focus, it was weak in portraying U.S. Hispanics, Asians and other ethnicities who drive the sales and growth across many categories.  Diversity was nicely portrayed by a handful of brands with inspirational feel-good themes and evoking the power of possibilities. Toyota’s ‘One team’ spot showcased people from the world’s major religions en route to a football game while another reminded us that ‘when we are free to move, anything is possible’; T-Mobile showed us a beautiful future with connected babies from all walks of life all over the world, a solid premise since T-Mobile invests in diversity and their workforce is over 60% minorities; E-trade cleverly prodded us to save since ‘over 1/3 of Americans have no retirement savings’; hilariously showed how they empower (and dominate) our lives with Alexa fill-ins Gordon Ramsey, Anthony Hopkins, Rebel Wilson and Cardi B; Tide’s clean-centric campaign with a breadth of people poked fun at advertising; Coca’s Cola’s ‘The wonder of us’ celebrated diversity with a poem that there’s a Coke out there ‘for he, and she, and her, and me, and them’; and Budweiser’s bottling water ad focused on their response to natural disasters all over the world set to the song ‘Stand By Me’.  In a riskier, more political light, the hip-hop star Pras succeeds promoting his new ‘blacture’ site that begins with him blindfolded with tape over his mouth, and once removed, the text says “A voice and a vision for Black Culture”. Conversely, RAM trucks was unsuccessful and totally crossed the line showing people helping others while using Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s words about the virtues of service to sell trucks and punctuate RAM’s tagline “Built to Serve”.  There were also some great ads without a multicultural or global cast, because all ethnicities could effectively relate to the theme, context, situation, or humor…what we call a ‘universal ad’. These included: Toyota’s emotional portrayal of the odds of winning a Paralympic gold medal with Lauren Woolstencroft (1 in 997,500,000); the NFL’s salute to iconic Dirty Dancing with Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr.; Tag-team Mountain Dew and Doritos’ funny spot with hip-hop lip syncing from cherished actors Morgan Freeman and Peter Dinklage; Pepsi’s fun, nostalgic journey narrated by Jimmy Fallon about all their classic celebrity ads; Bud Light’s Bud Knight, again, with Freeman; Danny DeVito’s M&M personification; and the off-beat standout ad poking fun at country music by the Voice, hugely popular among Hispanics.  The rest of the ads were either irrelevant to Multicultural USA, vanilla, non-sequiturs, over-the top or totally flat. (Jeep, Michelob Ultra, Squarespace, Diet Coke, Febreze, and Hyundai to name a few.)  Bottom-line, some ads have a powerful enough theme or context universality that can be relevant to a multicultural audience, even without checking the casting box or leveraging ethnic-specific insights – but they are few and far between. However, in a unique world stage like the Superbowl, meant to entertain rather than sell, the possibilities are greater.  By Liz Castells-Heard, President, Castells Advertising, 213-688-7217,
It’s Time to Set the Bar Higher
Another Super Bowl came and went; another series of ads along with it. Puppies, babies, adrenaline, screaming and a sprinkle of diversity – the “so called” recipe for success. Some approached this better than others. Coca-Cola and T-Mobile managed to pull at the heart strings of millions through their powerful ads that created a strong sense of connection through diversity. Other ads seemed misguided. I’m talking #JACKvsMartha among others. The intentions were there, but the execution was uninformed. Nevertheless, it’s time to update this recipe when it comes to reaching the Multicultural audience, or should I say reaching the people of America. A sprinkle isn’t enough anymore. Especially on this magnitude of stage. It’s time to move toward an integrated approach that turns that sense of connection through diversity into a reality in our industry and our workplace. Diversity should be felt day one during that brainstorm as much as it should be reflected day fifty in the final product. It’s time to step up. It’s time to set the bar higher.
By Melanie Baduy, Multicultural Accounts, C+C, 206-262-0363,
A Socially Conscious Year For Super Bowl Ads: Emphasis On Family, Charity, Diversity
From jaw-dropping creative parody to the things that make you say “Hmmm?!”, the commercials accompanying this year’s Eagles’ win against the Patriots were as up, down and unexpected as the game. With the world watching, familiar brands and products rose to their stellar reputation. It was a socially conscious year for Superbowl ads, with much emphasis on family, charity and diversity. At checkout counters across the US, ethnic market customers briefly took their eyes off our NRS POS on-screen ads to watch superbowl commercials heralding Doritos, Mountain Dew, Mexican avocados and Pizza Hut delivered to the Garcia’s urban home. What a fabulous tribute to the multicultural essence of our country, a tapestry of diversity!  This year, Super Bowl advertisers took a deliberate stance in socio-political correctness, focusing on familiar, shared traditional values and American comforts of modernity and technology while triggering cravings. This year’s commercials were successful in tempting people, hungry or not, to head to their local bodega and shop. Even after a savory foot-long hero, who can resist a bag of Doritos Blaze chased by Mountain Dew Ice? At National Retail Solutions, our mission is to help bodegas thrive and succeed with a point of sale system that incorporates customer loyalty discounts. What we share in common with Super Bowl 2018 is our love for multicultural consumers in this country who strive to keep traditions alive; particularly the traditions and flavors shared with loved ones.  By Diana Stern, Director of Marketing and Sales Support, National Retail Solutions / IDT, 973-438-5066,
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Multicultural Marketing News  (MMRNews), is published by  Multicultural Marketing Resources, Inc. (MMR). For a free subscription, sign up  here .