Ad agency Droga5 is famous for coming up with unconventional marketing solutions. Best known for the award-winning UNICEF Tap Project, an initiative encouraging restaurant patrons to donate $1 for tap water typically served with meals, the 7-year old agency was one of the most admired agencies in a survey conducted by my firm, Avidan Strategies, last year.
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For advertising folks this is Armageddon Week, when the gathering of armies of copywriters and art directors battle for fame to the end of times, or at least until the Super Bowl. It’s the time when agencies and their clients lose their minds completely and actually convince themselves that spending $4 million on a 30-second commercial makes sense (not to mention the money the agencies spend to produce the commercials, often spending millions more on celebrity endorsers).
In truth, for most brands that advertise on the Super Bowl this is a colossal waste of money. Often, research has shown, the commercials the viewers like the best are the least effective at selling. Rather than exploit this opportunity to sell a benefit, too many companies blow it by focusing on entertainment.
And the entertainment is usually predictable to ideas that the viewers have seen too many times before: cute dogs, babies, celebrities, or sexy supermodels.
One of the biggest advertisers during the game is Anheuser-Busch InBev. It has an exclusive deal with the NFL for its beer brands. This locks all other beer brands out from airing Super Bowl ads. This year it brought 4 minutes of airtime to the tune of more than $30 million. A-B InBev is also spending millions on such celebrity appearances like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Don Cheadle and comedian/musician Reggie Watts that appear in the ads.
Super Bowl advertisers always rationalize this waste of money by pointing out that it has the largest audience of any event, with 110 million people watching the game (at least when the outcome is still in doubt). But, in this digital age this is a drop in the bucket. More than 1 billion unique users visit YouTube each month. And that’s where Droga5, ad agency for Newcastle Brown Ale ambushed giant Budweiser.
Millennials, the target customers of Newcastle, love ironic humor. And they see through hype. The agency launched the “If We Made It” website with the goal of ideating the most insanely outlandish Super Bowl ads possible and teasing it out online without actually producing anything.
The campaign lampoons the Super Bowl advertising with clichés like dancing sharks and girls in bikinis fighting giant robots through the power of dance. These are all things you would have seen in Newcastle’s Super Bowl ads…if the company had made them. But since the company couldn’t afford to make those outrageously expensive ideas, they show you storyboards of what those ads could have been. And strangely enough the storyboards work better than if Newcastle actually had the money to produce the commercials.
But the true genius here is that the idea is not just about entertainment. It is strategically focused and reinforcing the brand’s positioning of “honesty”, or “no bollocks”, to use the British slang. It admits that it chose this approach, not because of some pretentious principle, but because it did not have the money to burn.
Most advertising over-promises, but beer advertising is dishonest and deceitful. Tiny Newcastle Brown Ale stands out from the clutter by being truthful.
Here’s the advertising: