I feel like such a nerd saying this, but I LOVE commercials.
Not all commercials, mind you, but commercials that are really well done make me very happy. I have been known to *not* skip through the commercials while watching a show that I’ve DVRd. Really.
So, although I like football (I mean, it’s not hockey or anything), what I love most about Superbowl Sunday is the commercials. And maybe the cake I made in the shape of a football field.
Last year, I was really disappointed in many of the choices that brands made, and I remember wondering why they would spend so much on ad space for a commercial that was so-so, or downright offensive. I didn’t feel that way this year – there were so many spots that were just brilliant, clever or funny, so I know I’ll have a hard time of narrowing it down!
Since I’m just coming home from judging weekend for the Legal Marketing Association’s Your Honor Awards (for which I was a judge), I’ve got all of those conversations and criteria swirling through my head at the moment. So that with likely make me hyper-critical of the messages of these ads and hopefully able to narrow them down to just my top five! All right…top ten – but I’ll split them into two posts for you!
As we normally do, let’s start with the good. I wanted to pick a favorite, but I liked so many of them, that I can’t choose just one. I’ll kick off with the one that was most emotional for me, though just slightly missed the mark (and I’ll tell you why).
A Hero’s Welcome
Something that you probably don’t know about me is that my brother-in-law was in the Marines, and my cousin and several friends were in the Army. All of them served in the Middle East, and there was a period of about seven years where not a day went by that someone I cared about wasn’t directly in harm’s way. So this ad really means something to me – the idea that Budweiser would sponsor a huge homecoming for this soldier is amazing, and makes me tear up just thinking about it.
And I love the sentiment that every soldier (and marine, and naval seaman, and airman) deserves a hero’s welcome.
Where I think they missed the mark was both in their hashtag and a call to action – first, their hashtag included spaces. If you know anything about hashtags, you know that they way that they work is that a space discontinues the link to a search. So in this case, only "salute" would be the hashtagged word.
But more importantly is the lack of a call to action. If Budweiser wants us to agree that every soldier deserves a hero’s welcome, then there should be either a website where viewers can go and contribute to the efforts that Budweiser is engaged in (more of a unified campaign), or information on how Budweiser supports our troops. I’m so glad for this soldier and his family that they did this for them, but I also thought of my brother-in-law, cousin, and friends, and all the other military men and women who return home without any sort of celebration or parade (beyond the ones that their families put together for them). The ad just didn’t go far enough.
I am glad however, that Budweiser is confident enough in their brand that the only nod to themselves were the Clydesdales. They didn’t hand this soldier a beer, or put their logo everywhere – they just focused on thanking him. And that was a beautiful thing.
British Villians "Rendezvous"
This may be another of those commercials that I liked because of my personal history – I’m half English, with dual citizenship, so I watch and enjoy quite a lot of British television and movies. And I thought this commercial was clever:
There’s so much I love about it, both from a marketing perspective, and a humor perspective. Jaguar manages to weave in throughout the narrative things that they want you to associate with their brand – "precision," "love of power," "sounds right," "one step ahead," etc. The spot itself mirrors the feel you’d get from a James Bond movie, and appeals to the slightly naughty in all of us. They use a hashtag (correctly, I might add) that doesn’t use the Jaguar name, but might be one you’d use to join in the conversation. And I’ve always loved the English pronunciation of "Jag-YOU-ar."
It’s the type of ad that makes you want to go out and buy this car. The only downside was the use of white jaguars – we’re talking about "villains" and being "bad" – shouldn’t the car have been darker? (I may also be biased because I really don’t like white cars)
You may remember from previous years that I’m usually not a fan of Doritos commercials (I am, however, a fan of Doritos). But this year, they surprised me with a few great spots, two of which make it into my top ten. This is my favorite:
Although I’m not a fan of the older kid’s "fresh" attitude – my mom NEVER would have let me get away with sassing her like that! – the triumph of the younger brother with the help of his trusty and giant dog is a great underdog story (and that’s coming from an oldest kid here, folks). It’s memorable, it reinforces the idea that a person will do something crazy for the love of Doritos, and it showcases their message that Doritos are "For the Bold." Plus, who doesn’t love a giant dog? Especially when Doritos takes the age-old joke of "that dog is so big you could ride him" and runs with it!
The Phone Call
Maybe it’s because I’m an ’80s kid, but I loved this commercial from Radio Shack.
Radio Shack is poking fun at themselves here – they’re a well-known ’80s brand, who did very well during that decade, and has always seemed tired and outdated since. So the idea that the "’80s called and want their store back" is a very funny and clever one. To then bring in other well-known icons from that decade was great – the California Raisins, Hulk Hogan, Cheers, Chips, Chuckie and more – it really is as though the eighties are coming in and taking the store away.
It’s an excellent way to visually show us that they’re getting rid of their old and outdated reputation, and bringing us a new, fresh store that has the things we want. I’d be willing to check out a Radio Shack after seeing that commercial (if for no other reason than to make sure that the execution of the promise inherent in this commercial is as expected). I’d really like to see them take this campaign further in some way, with more than just television ads.
The Cheerios spot was another fabulous one – could they have chosen a better brand ambassador than the adorable (and clever) Gracie?
I love it – Cheerios weaves their cereal throughout the ad, by using it as a way to count the family members and tell a story. It reinforces their message of being a "family" cereal, and Gracie is the star – both because she’s clever by asking for a puppy as part of the deal of accepting her new baby brother or sister, and because of the diva look and hand wave she gives her dad as she does it.
Plus, I think we can all relate to kids trying to make deals with their parents (and dads agreeing to these deals without checking with mom – the look on mom’s face at the end is priceless).
Lessons for Lawyers
All right, so we’ll be back tomorrow with my other top choices, but in the meantime, what can lawyers and law firms learn from these successful advertisements?
- Go the extra mile: When you’re marketing your firm, or your practice, have you gone far enough? Make sure that the campaign is unified – if you’re doing advertisements in legal magazines, are they linked to your firm’s branding? Where else can you use those ads? Do you repurpose the language and imagery at sponsored events? On business cards? In the brochure? On the website? If you’re going to spend the money to create something, identify how you can leverage it both internally and externally.
- Use technology and the "new stuff" correctly: If you want to be "hip with the cool kids" as a friend of mine says, make sure you’re using it the right way. There were a few hashtag mishaps last night, and that can be easily avoided with due diligence. It’s great to show your clients and potential clients that you’re a "cutting edge" firm with the use of the latest trend, but make sure you’re doing it correctly (and for the right reasons), or it can have a much more negative impact.
- Market to Reinforce Your Brand: I can just picture my attorneys all tuning out because I used the words "marketing" and "brand" in the same sentence – but before you go, remember that your "brand" is often just who you are as an attorney. Are you a hard-nosed litigator who gets the job done for clients? Are you a detail-oriented corporate attorney who’s an ace with contracts? No matter who you are, who your firm is, or what your practice is, everything that you do reinforces the message that clients and potential clients get from you. Send them a bill with a mistake in it? They don’t believe your claim that you’re detail-oriented. Forget to call them back within 24 hours to update them? They don’t believe that you care about client service. It’s not just about putting together advertisements that showcase the things you and your firm are known for – it’s about connecting everything that you do with what you say.
- Don’t be Afraid of Humor: Poking fun at yourself can be hugely effective. You obviously need to be careful in doing so that you don’t undermine your credibility or quality, but there are many ways to do it that help clients and potential clients to see that you don’t take yourself too seriously, and that you’re someone that they’d like to work with. Take a look at the Radio Shack commercial – they’re not saying that they have low-quality products; instead, they’re saying "hey, we recognize that everyone thinks we’re stuck in the ’80s, so here’s a funny way to show you that we’ve modernized." Humor isn’t right for every firm or every situation, but don’t be afraid to use it – it will make you more memorable. Promise.
- Find a Good Brand Ambassador: Is there one image or person at your firm that everyone associates with the firm name? Winston & Strawn’s bulldog is the first that comes to mind – it was a bold move for them to tie their brand to the bulldog, but a brilliant one. The bulldog is tenacious and stubborn – two good qualities for a tough law firm. After all, the bulldog is the Marine Corps mascot, and who’s tougher than they are? Think about who or what represents your firm and how you can really reinforce that – as we say, it’s very powerful that there are brands out there who can just show you a certain kind of horse, and you know exactly who they are and what they’re selling without another word. How can you accomplish that at your law firm?
I’ll be back tomorrow with more great commercials – but feel free to share your favorites in the comments!