As usual, one of the most talked-about aspects of the Super Bowl this year were the ads – the Brand bowl, as it’s become known.
There were some great commercials, ranging from the funny – like the NFL’s Dirty Dancing reenactment – to the ones that pulled on heartstrings – like Toyota’s “Good Odds” commercial about Paralympian Lauren Woolstencroft. And, still others received largely negative responses, like the misguided Ram spot that used one of Martin Luther King Jr.’s speeches as the narration.
We rounded up some thoughts from the March team on other Super Bowl commercials we liked – and didn’t!
“Budweiser and Stella Artois, with their ads centered on efforts to bring clean water to communities in need. Budweiser’s was very different from their previous Super Bowl efforts, and Stella Artois’ ad stirred me to act.” – Martin Jones, CEO
“The company that deserves true brand marketing praise this year is Tide, for their infinite ‘It’s a Tide Ad’ spot. Not only did this ad have its own spot, but Tide managed to capture mindshare in every other ad that aired as well. For the rest of the night, everyone kept wondering if each ad would turn into a Tide commercial… and some did. Talk about ROI! And, perhaps, money well spent in the effort to try to divert the brand conversation away from kids eating Tide pods.” – Meredith L. Eaton, Vice President
“Verizon’s first responder ad. I like that they were able to pull at my heartstrings with a relevant and timely ad. It wasn’t forced, which can sometimes be the case for the more poignant ads. It reminds us to thank those who risk their lives daily for others and underscores the importance of a reliable network that allows us to get in touch.” – Erica Frank, Vice President
“Tide’s ads were the most effective, in part because they caused me to second-guess every ad that followed and wonder if they were also Tide ads. It struck me when I was watching NBC’s long ad for “The Voice” – I was convinced that David Harbour was going to pop up and tell me it was a Tide ad, and was actually slightly disappointed when he didn’t. You know your advertising is good when people think of your brand while they’re watching other commercials.” – Manny Veiga, Content Strategist
“Toyota’s ‘Good Odds’ ad with Lauren Woolstencroft. It’s one thing to evoke a feel-good factor by empowering a disabled sporting icon like Woolstencroft, but what struck me about Toyota’s spot was that it had a clear link with their innovations in personal mobility technology. It was a quick, subtle but effective reminder that Toyota is more than an automaker, and it genuinely left me teary-eyed.” – Alex Jafarzadeh, Senior Account Executive
“Bud Lite’s Dilly Dilly ads are tired at this point. We’ve seen it already, and this one didn’t feel very fresh. The Super Bowl is supposed to be about a brand’s A game, and this felt like a C at best.” – Erica Frank
“I had a lot of least favorite ads, but the one that stood out was Dodge. They hooked me with the Martin Luther King Jr. quotes at the start, but once I realized it was all about selling trucks, it felt immediately exploitative and even profane. There were others that bothered me too – Budweiser spending a lot of money on a Super Bowl ad that essentially pats themselves on the back for donating water for disaster relief (itself a very generous and commendable act) also felt really off.” – Manny Veiga
“Using Martin Luther King to sell trucks – can’t really see the relationship there so it’s shameless, basically. And then ‘Built to Serve’, is disrespectful to those that actually serve really, isn’t it? It’s a pickup truck that has a massive engine, needlessly large in most cases (although it makes a nice manly noise) and it belches fumes into the atmosphere, equally unnecessarily. Neither inspirational nor heroic.” – Martin Jones
“Turkish Airlines’ ‘Five Senses’ ad with Dr. Oz confused me. I couldn’t understand why a TV doctor – and a controversial one at that – was pitching me the wonders of travelling the world from an expensive business class seat while delivering a lecture about the five senses. But, worse still, it lacked impact, so much so that I only remembered seeing it after looking back at a list of commercials that aired during the game. In my opinion, airing a forgettable ad is unforgiveable in a spot that costs as much as $5 million.” – Alex Jafarzadeh
What was your favorite ad this year?
Did you think Toys “R” Us was on its way out after filing for bankruptcy protection just a few weeks ago? The toy giant wants you to think again.
This week, Toys “R” Us unveiled an exciting new augmented reality app called Play Chaser, which turns its stores into virtual playgrounds. Toys “R” Us mascot Geoffrey the Giraffe will (virtually) welcome customers to the store, explain how to use the app and send kids on their way around the store to explore. Kids can scan Play Chaser signs scattered around stores to unlock the complete AR experience.
Customers will be able to play interactive games, like virtual basketball, earning stars to unlock more games. Different toys or activities come to life on your screen throughout the store: When you scan a sign in the baby doll aisle, for example, you’ll see an animated doll that you can “adopt,” name and play with. Play Chaser is currently testing in select stores, but it will be available around the country later this month.
This announcement certainly comes at an opportune time for Toys “R” Us, helping direct attention away from their recent bankruptcy filing. Just this week, we’ve already seen the narrative start to shift from “a company fighting to stay relevant in era of ecommerce mania” to “a forward-looking organization exploring emerging technology.”
And, Toys “R” Us is betting that this venture will help bring customers back into their brick-and-mortar stores.
“It’s going to transform the experience of coming into a Toys “R” Us bricks and mortar store and turn it into something that’s quite different and a lot more fun,” CEO Dave Brandon told USA TODAY. “We believe that’s going to drive a lot more traffic into our stores which will ultimately put us in a position where we can be more successful at growing our sales and our company.’’
This is part of a growing pattern among retailers, who are realizing that they need to give tech-savvy customers – especially in younger generations – a reason to come into the store in an age where everyone shops online. In that vein, creating an exclusive in-store experience that draws parents and children in will help make the Toys “R” Us store itself a go-to destination again.
March helps consumer brands in industries like retail develop a clear understanding of how, when and why consumers flock to, use and share the technology and digital experiences that transform lives. Learn more about our consumer innovation shop to see how we can help you.
Unlimited plans have saturated the market, leading to escalating pricing wars and, consequently, many customers saying that they don’t actually need unlimited data in the first place. Why pay for unlimited if you’re really only using data to stream Netflix and YouTube videos?
Telcos are catching on that consumers want choice, and just as importantly, they want perks. More and more, major providers are differentiating themselves by partnering with content providers to offer customers special benefits.
To that end, T-Mobile recently announced a new perk called “Netflix On Us.” Through an exclusive partnership with Netflix, as of September 12 all T-Mobile ONE family plans now come with a Netflix subscription – at no additional charge. Not only do customers gain access to the entire Netflix library, but they also get free mobile Netflix streaming.
“Netflix On Us” builds on other T-Mobile streaming offerings, like “Binge On” and “Music Freedom,” which allow customers to stream select music and video at no additional cost. But, the Netflix announcement moves a step forward by incorporating a standard Netflix subscription, without upping the cost of your data plan.
Not to be outdone, AT&T quickly responded by announcing that they’re expanding free HBO access and streaming to all of its Unlimited Choice customers, starting September 15. That means unlimited Game of Thrones binging, no matter where you are, without having to worry about using up your data plan or remembering your roommate’s sister’s boyfriend’s dad’s password.
For what it’s worth, Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam doesn’t seem too worried. In an interview with CNBC, McAdam stressed that Verizon cares more about the quality of its network than bonus add-ons. McAdam’s bet may pay off, but with rumors already floating about Verizon seeking a similar partnership, they may have simply been late to the game on this one.
Offerings like free subscriptions and unlimited video streaming are by and large aimed at attracting a younger crowd that doesn’t want to be encumbered by traditional cable. For customers who have already cut the cord, these kinds of offers put money back in their pocket ($9.99/month for Netflix’s standard plan, or $15/month for HBO Now), making mobile networks like T-Mobile and AT&T even more appealing. And, for customers considering ditching their cable box, this may just be the extra push they needed.
March’s team of mobile and telecom experts aligns with what’s happening next in the industry to help providers across the globe make a major impact. With an eye on the constantly evolving storylines and trends, March has the expertise telcos need to tell their story.
In an era of increasingly prominent fake news, media consumers are looking for credible information from credible sources. As self-publishing platforms like Medium, Twitter and Reddit continue to provide unfiltered, often unedited communications, there has been a dramatic surge in newspaper and magazine subscriptions all around the country.
Newspapers are often viewed as more credible because of strict editorial processes, fact-checking and rules about sourcing. Recently, subscription surges have been reported at The Wall Street Journal (300 percent increase), LA Times (60 percent) and The Atlantic (160 percent), to name a few.
This rapid growth shows few signs of slowing. In fact, the New York Times announced a second consecutive quarter of record-breaking subscriber growth, with 308,000 new subscribers added in the first quarter of 2017.
— NYTCo Communications (@NYTimesComm) May 19, 2017
What does this mean for the PR industry? March Vice President Meredith L. Eaton explores this phenomenon and more in her most recent LinkedIn Pulse piece, “Wanted: Credible news in an era of self-publishing & fake facts.” For both owned and earned content, PR pros need to act as their clients’ editors. From fact-checking content on a brand’s self-published platform to pitching research-based stories, comms professionals can help bolster their clients’ credibility.
For more of Meredith’s crisis communications tips, check out this Hacks & Flacks podcast on how to respond to a damaging story, as well as the Wall Street Journal’s two-part series about what companies can do when they are victimized by a fake news scam.
In The Evolution of PR, Content Marketing and Blogging, we cover:
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Mark your calendar: The EU’s new General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) go into effect one year from today. The new regulations mandate stronger protections for EU citizens’ data, so businesses must reevaluate their data privacy procedures. By May 25, 2018, all companies must abide by the GDPR or risk non-compliance fines.
— EU Justice (@EU_Justice) May 24, 2017
Are you in the U.S. and thinking that this doesn’t apply to you? Think again. Any organization that deals with EU customers’ personally identifiable information (PII) will need to make sure they’re GDPR-compliant. In fact, according to a recent Compuware study, a whopping 94 percent of U.S. companies traffic EU customer data. Yet, only 60 percent have detailed plans in place for complying with the GDPR.
So, what do you need to do to prepare? Of course, developing new privacy policies and procedures is key, but don’t overlook the need to share those policies with customers. In her latest LinkedIn piece, “GDPR Deadline Looms, Bringing Opportunities to the Fore,” March Vice President Meredith L. Eaton explains how companies can take advantage of this opportunity for more transparent communications with customers.
From blog posts to case studies, there are numerous ways to articulate how you’re complying with the new regulations and demonstrating a commitment to customer data security. And, when the average lifespan of a tweet is just 18 minutes, these types of longer-form content help ensure that your message gets through to customers and sticks. Bylined articles and customer testimonials can also help you establish credibility and reach a wide audience.
The one-year countdown starts today! Make sure your customers know that you’re ready for GDPR and are prepared to protect their data.
Did you know that the Boston area is America’s second-largest embedded systems market, behind Silicon Valley? Every year, software developers, hardware engineers, executives and suppliers gather in Boston at the Embedded Systems Conference to hear the latest industry news. New England’s largest annual embedded systems event, ESC features two days of industry education, sourcing and networking.
March VP Meredith L. Eaton attended the conference yesterday to learn more about where this industry is headed. She shared some of her thoughts on the event in her most recent LinkedIn Pulse post, “Embedded Systems Backing ‘Perfect Storm’ of New Devices.” There is a ton of excitement in the embedded tech world around current and future real-world applications.
Max Maxfield, Editor in Chief of embedded.com, gave a session about how the integration of technologies like artificial neural networks, cognitive thinking/reasoning, machine learning and VR/AR, underpinned by embedded designs, will lead to futuristic technologies much sooner than you might expect.
— Meredith L. Eaton (@MeredithLEaton) May 3, 2017
As these technologies speed ahead, comms pros have the opportunity to bring to life new and compelling narratives. Innovative technologies may also change the landscape of PR, as with the coming IoT era. Embedded sensors provide a wealth of data for highly data-driven campaigns, and evolving tech like voice assistants will affect SEO strategy. Lots of new and exciting things to come!
The Internet of Things (IoT) is coming fast. At Mobile World Congress, IoT was the top-mentioned technology, beating out much buzzed-about tech like 5G, AI and VR. By separate accounts, the number of connected devices is expected to reach 20.8 billion to 50 billion by 2020.
With these predictions in the billions, the coming IoT era is positioned to shape everything we do, from restocking groceries and driving connected cars to PR, marketing and communications strategies. How exactly will the IoT affect the PR industry? March Vice President Meredith L. Eaton offered her thoughts on the subject in her most recent LinkedIn Pulse, “Ready, Set, Adapt. Key Marcomms Questions for the IoT Era.”
The wealth of data produced by embedded sensors, for example, provides opportunities for highly data-driven campaigns, but marcomms pros will need to keep an eye on more substantial shifts in strategy as well.
Will the proliferation of voice assistant technology mean moving away from the written word? And how will the IoT affect your approach to SEO, when users abandon website search engines in favor of voice-activated options, like “Hey Siri” and “OK Google”? New opportunities may also arise, like the possibility of using predictive automation to create social media posts and communities.
We’ve already seen some of this kind of automation technology, with robot reporters writing news stories. The Associated Press, working with Automated Insights and Zachs Investment Research, uses algorithms to translate data into earnings stories, based on AP’s style and content preferences. These stories are written with no human involvement, though AP editors and reporters may update or expand the material after stories are published.
Perhaps someday PR pros may similarly be using robots to generate press releases, or relying on predictive automation for social media posts. We’ll certainly be looking out for these trends in the years to come.
What’s new in the mobile industry? Earlier this month, members of the March team went to Mobile World Congress (MWC) to find out. With 108,000 attendees and more than 2,300 exhibitors, MWC is the world’s largest gathering for the mobile industry. In addition to supporting client presence at MWC, March team members checked out what’s on the horizon in the mobile tech world, like a car you can control with your mind.
— James Gerber (@JamesGerber) March 2, 2017
IoT edged out 5G as the most buzzed-about technology at MWC17. One of our clients, Canonical, was able to capitalize on this trend with its purpose-built IoT platform, Ubuntu Core with snaps. In her most recent LinkedIn Pulse post, Vice President Meredith Eaton chronicled Ubuntu’s success at MWC. As a result of proactive media outreach, social media promotion and interactive use cases on the booth, Ubuntu was one of the top 15 most mentioned brands at MWC – edging out brands like Apple, Amazon and LG in the process!
— Ubuntu Cloud (@ubuntucloud) March 1, 2017
Proactive media outreach is always key when you’re gearing up for an event. That’s one of the tips Account Director Courtney Allen offers in her post, “The Definitive ‘Don’ts’ For Good Public Relations at Events.” Though event planning may be stressful, Courtney advocates for maintaining a positive attitude and keeping a cool head.
Have you ever bought a Fitbit, Garmin vívofit or any other kind of tracking device? More importantly: Do you actually use it? If you got caught up in the wearables craze, only to lose interest and set aside your device after a few months, you’re not alone. This phenomenon, dubbed wearables fatigue, is well-documented and growing.
More than half of U.S. consumers who have owned a wearable no longer use it, and 50% of consumers lose interest in their wearable product within a few months. Yet, there is a consistent group of people who are tracking fanatics. So, what are wearable technology brands to do? Not surprisingly, many brands are struggling with this contradiction.
How do you simultaneously market to hesitant first-time customers and experienced data junkies? In her most recent LinkedIn Pulse piece, March Account Director Courtney Allen talks about how comms advisors can work with brands to figure out how to speak to these two very different audiences.
The challenge of understanding your audience is not limited to the wearable industry, however. Jodi Petrie, Executive Vice President at March and the head of our new Consumer Innovation shop, recently sat down with Manny Veiga and Hacks and Flacks to talk about how consumer tech brands can better focus on their audiences.
How can brands get consumers to actually listen? Instead of going on and on about the inner workings of your new gadget, Jodi says, focus on how the product improves the consumer’s quality of life. Jodi shares some additional thoughts on the subject in her LinkedIn Pulse piece, “No more navel-gazing in brand communication,” including her take on the current state of tech communications, and how comms teams can help brands find a new way forward.
Cloud companies have long struggled to clearly explain exactly what it is that they do. While tech experts may understand their jargon, the rest of the public often sees it as nonsense.
Because of this, cloud companies have recently been placing increased importance on developing accessible, user-friendly messages. To that end, cloud startups and industry leaders alike are hiring editorial experts to help clarify their messaging and make it easier for the lay-person to understand. In her most recent LinkedIn Pulse piece, March VP Meredith Eaton explores why these editorial hires are such smart moves.
Think about Quentin Hardy, for example. Hardy recently left a sought-after gig as deputy tech editor for The New York Times to head a new Editorial Division at Google Cloud. He announced the news on Twitter, to an enthusiastic response from his followers. One user exclaimed, “[I’m] very glad somebody will be explaining this stuff in a way that makes sense to the rest of us.”
Some personal news: I’m leaving The New York Times to be the head of Editorial at Google Cloud.
— Quentin Hardy (@qhardy) January 23, 2017
I hope to help people understand how the growth of computer intelligence to every point on the planet remakes business, economics, & more.
— Quentin Hardy (@qhardy) January 23, 2017
Telling your story well is a major component of your PR strategy. Whether you’re a cloud company or not, it’s essential that potential customers – and journalists – understand your message. Reporters admittedly appreciate it when you reach out to them with simple, pointed stories, rather than overly wrought pitches.
Boston Business Journal reporter Jessica Bartlett sat down with Manny Veiga and Hacks and Flacks for a discussion about media outreach and reporting. She echoed the theme of simplicity, explaining that the best pitches are straightforward, with a thought-provoking angle. “If you lead with the complexity, you’ve already lost me,” Bartlett says. “I want to know why it’s interesting, and then we can get into the complexity later.”
The bottom-line: Keep messages simple, and don’t over-pitch.