March 16, 2020

“Social Good” – The Advertising Winner of Super Bowl LIII

Well folks, Super Bowl LIII is behind us and like every year many of us who work in advertising or marketing sit back to see what this year’s sponsors had to say during the coveted broadcast.

Today, I’ve read a lot of mixed reviews on what the experts thought of the ads. Many have said, “the brands fell flat”. Some said, “they better try harder next year”. While I’ll admit there was some of the usual Hollywood flare missing in this year’s advertisements, as the Forbes article “Super Bowl 2019 Commercials: 10 Themes Emerge That Reflect Consumers’ Fears, Desires, And Hopes” points out, we saw some definite trends this year. The trend that most stood out, was the move by blue chip brands to use their premium air time to promote “social good” messaging.

If you’re wondering what social good messaging is – don’t worry, you’re not alone.

Social good messaging is when a company or brand showcases work they do for a social cause. A social good campaign may highlight causes related to the environment, helping disadvantaged groups, supporting non-profits or improving people’s lives. As marketers and global citizens, this is important because it recognizes a shift from brands focusing on themselves to showing support for something bigger. In essence, these brands are showing us what they are doing to make the world a little better.

So what brands did this best? Of the television ads that aired, here are my top 3 – with explanations for each:

Microsoft’s “Everybody plays, Everybody wins” ad featured disabled children whose playing field is equalized by the use of their gaming console. For anyone who has ever interacted with a kid with special needs, it was heartfelt and very touching to see those kiddos feeling included with their peer group. The brand showed in a tangible way how it is helping the quality of an underserved group. I give a thumbs up both on message and a brand promise the audience can understand.

Google’s “Job Search for Veterans” ad featured a tool that veterans can use to find employment best suited based on their military experience. This ad seemed more neutral among the experts, but again, if you have ever volunteered with veterans or have spent an hour talking to them after they retire or return from deployment, you would understand it was a great social good message to promote. We also learned Google had a special search feature to make employment search easier for veterans. Well done Google.

Verizon’s “All Our Thanks” (First Responder) ad was also memorable. This one featured an NFL coach who survived a car crash. He was thankful to the first responders who were there every step of the journey. Much to the coach’s surprise, the people he was there to talk to were the people who had been there at that critical moment. While the ad is very moving and definitely took premium air time to recognize the importance of first responders, I struggled to understand the connection to the brand. The only connection I could make is that they were trying to make good on recent press about throttling data plans of firefighters during California fires, and of course donating to a fund that will benefit them. Maybe it was opportunistic, but it seemed Verizon is on the right track talking about this important issue – after all in the case of the coach, it all started with a call. The question moving forward is how will Verizon be involved in the process? The ad seems to miss the connection to a direct service and how they improve people’s lives.

As your brand is looking to do social good work, I recommend you consult with creative agencies that understand how to bridge the two worlds. Work with a partner who will take an insight or cause you care about to create a brand message that promotes social good and is related to your product or service. Ideally, you want to connect the message to your brand’s vision and share how it stands for something bigger. When you do so be authentic and do not leave your audience scratching their heads trying to figure out the message.

Of course this assessment is missing additional channels and results, but the key takeaway is that more brands are moving in this direction. What did you think of the social good work that aired? I am personally excited to see the trend head in this direction. I would love to hear your comments.


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