SUPER BOWL 50: BEYONCÉ ISN’T THE ONLY ONE WHO STUMBLED. BRANDS DID, TOO.

Shravya Kaparthi, Senior Analyst, Decision Sciences, RAPP Dallas

The Super Bowl’s reach: 50 years of evolution, 63 ad spots, about 120 million viewers in 170 countries, 4.3 billion Twitter impressions, 200 million Facebook posts/comments, over 300 million dollars of advertising budget…

…BUT “brand” Beyoncé with, $0 marketing budget, managed to create the most impactful conversation this year, with a combination of her on-stage stumble and performance promoting #BlackLivesMatter.

This year, Super Bowl advertisers seem to have played it safe. Diversity was obvious, stereotyping was consciously toned down, women looked smarter and less objectified, humor was ‘proper’ and everything seemed politically correct.

We’ve come a long way. But, like Beyoncé, brands stumbled through their performance.

Isn’t the Super Bowl a platform larger than one just set for following hygiene norms? In this multi-screen, short-attention-span world, where crafting clutter-breaking content and effectively targeting advertisements have both become even more challenging, the Super Bowl is one of the few platforms which is actually all about the advertisements. These advertisements, in particular, not only contribute to pop culture content – but also guide and inspire the advertising fraternity across the globe.

That said, not many important social issues were tackled this Sunday. Brands didn’t even really try to fuel thought-provoking conversations: topics like income inequality, drug addiction, racial profiling, gender roles, gun laws or Syrian refugees, which could’ve been well-served by the larger platform, were passed over.

The NFL’s #NoMore campaign, against domestic violence, Colgate’s #EveryDropCounts ad, towards saving water, Mini Cooper’s #Defy Labels spot, addressing stereotypes, AXE's #FindYourMagic and P&G’s #DadDo all toed the line of diving into some of today’s hot-button social issues, yet they didn’t feel, or even try to be, quite as profound as their predecessors, like Always’ #LikeAGirl and Dove’s #RealStrength campaigns.

I think brands missed a powerful opportunity to share their point of view and create strong conversations on #IllrideWithYou, #ProudtoLove #IStandwithAhmed or even #LeanIn – all of which have become a part of our everyday conversations. And all of which are important to have an opinion about.

For example, almost every post/comment on Humans of New York gives us a glimpse into important and relevant subjects – ones that people are passionately expressing strong points of view on. Surprisingly, during this Super Bowl, brands didn’t follow suit – they decided against challenging the conventions.

Why?

According to the Ad Meter ratings, the top adverts from this year’s Super Bowl, except for Colgate at the 20th rank, were all product-driven, executed with a lens of humor/sarcasm, ‘cuteness overload’ or sci-fi sophistication.

Sure, most brands checked all of the boxes for conventional marketing. Yes, America is going to be a minority-majority very soon – and we are gearing up for that. Yes, we did our research – so we cast our representative audience appropriately. And, yes, we will not broach any controversies. We will be fun and happy, not provocative and serious. Are these mutually exclusive?

Advertising is powerful. Not just because it’s inspired by culture, but because it can actually shape it. As content creators and curators, don’t we have a responsibility to encourage bold and meaningful conversations? As brands, whose sole purpose is, ultimately, to be a significant part of consumers’ lives, isn’t it imperative to consciously fuel such conversations?

When will we shift our marketing communications metrics to the impact of conversations that matter? Did most brands lose out on a valuable opportunity this year?

It’s time we shift from marketing to mattering.

Super Bowl 50 Twitter Facebook Impressions Ad Budget Stats