Last night, we celebrated that fine American holiday called Superbowl. While my heart still aches for the Steelers loss (full disclosure: I’m a diehard Pittsburgh fan and a lifelong citizen of SteelerNation), life goes on. So, like everyone else this week around the watercooler, we won’t discuss the game. Instead, we’ll talk about the commercials.
At close to $3 million a pop, these advertisers took a swing for the proverbial business fence by throwing out their best and funniest, trying to engage America (sidenote: when I saw the Superbowl in Singapore, they showed “local” commercials) to buy their products. Some good, some bad, and some were an epic fail.
Every year, bloggers, Advertising magazines and people critique these ads and talk about the winners and losers. Each and every one of them are posted on YouTube and hit counts tend to follow public opinion. AdAge posted all of the commercials in one place and also provided their critique.
Let me share some of my thoughts and how they apply to churches:
Best Buy – Things Change Fast (Ozzy and Bieber)
While I am not a Bieber fan (but like Ozzy), the ad delivers on both providing a bit of surprise humor while clearly expressing the benefit of Best Buy’s technology buy back program. Worried technology is moving too fast, Best Buy provides you an out. Best Buy clearly shows the pain people experience and a way to avoid it.
Church Application: Best Buy clearly understood the technology buyer’s dilemma and created an offering to solve it. Churches need to understand their communities pains, issues and dilemmas and clearly articulate a solution to solve it. For example, live in a poor community where people want to work but can’t afford child care, start a subsidized pre-school. Live in an expensive suburb with people with their houses “underwater” (owe more than worth), bring in a Christian financial expert and help people through their needs. Find a need and fill it. Then tell everyone you can…
Chrysler – Imported from Detriot
Chrysler combined patriotism and a bit of swagger from Eminem to try to reframe Chrysler cars coming out of Detroit. I think AdAge frames the commecial up best:
“What starts out as a down-on-our-luck tribute to a broken city morphs into a defiant, we’re-back rallying cry faced by none other than Eminem, another broken thing out of Detroit who happens to be staging a massive comeback.”
After two years of being battered by a bad economy, many Americans may relate to this captivating Detriot homage by Chrysler and the car they made together.
Church Application: Chrysler shows the power of authentic storytelling. Most commercials show cars driving at insane speeds down a desert road or a closed track. The commercial focusing on telling a story about people, a town, the hardships they endure and the car they created. Stories are powerful things. What is your church’s story? Why should people pay attention? How do you show a transformation from brokeness to wholeness? How can you tell it in a captivating way that expresses why your church may be the best fit for them? Authenticity is the key.
Motorola – Empower the People
Motorola does a fine job beating up Apple using their own framing in their 1984 Super Bowl commercial. Apple has turned us into the very thing it railed against…a bunch of drones without choices, without the freedom to express and create outside their “walled garden” and without our own identity. Motorola shows how it breaks through those walls to touch someone else and help them “unplug.” It provides wonderful competitive framing vs. the market leader while using the story to show some of the cool features of the Motorola XOOM.
Church Application: I have spent some time in the past talking about the Apple Catholicism and what churches can learn from it. The arrogance of Apple and turning into what they once vehemently opposed has created the opening for competitiors to exploit. Denomination arrogance has led to decline because they were unwilling to change. We need to reexamine what we are doing and be willing to admit we’re wrong and adapt where it does not violate our principles and theology. We need to be able to articulate what empowers our mission to reach others for Christ and show it in a clear, compelling way.
Bridgestone Tires – Carma
Bridgestone plays off the idea that “one good turn deserves another” where a man who was able to avoid hitting a beaver ends up getting saved by the same beaver 6 months later. Why could the man stop in time both times…his tires. Bridgestone plays off the “common belief” and then relates it to their product and product benefit.
Church Application: Bridgestone combines a common belief with an outstanding use of drama and clear demonstration of the product benefit. What are the common beliefs in your community? Do onto others? Welcome all? One good turn…? Any of these commonly held ideas can be framed in the context of Christianity and your church. Don’t overdue it and don’t get hokey. This approach can be done very badly, so let’s be careful out there with this one…
Doritors – “Crash the Super Bowl” series
Doritos and Pepsi have used consumer generated commercials over the past couple of years to express the benefit of their products in a humorous way to “Crash the Superbowl.” They allowed consumers to submit ads and then allowed everyone to vote on the commercials they would show. Some (like the Doritors Commercial “The Best Part” show the extreme lengths people will go for the extreme flavor of Doritors. My personal favorite of the bunch shows what the extreme flavor can do…
Doritos (and PepsiMax) allow consumers to create their own commercial and use humor to express the benefit. The company narrowed down the submissions and allowed people to vote on their favorites. The result: cheap to produce, yet effective commercials every year.
Church Application: The power of the approach is that Doritos and PepsiMax allow the consumers to take control of the message and express the benefit based on the brief provided by the company. How can a church allow people to “make their own commercials” that may be more compelling than what your internal creative team can create (blashemy! gasp!). It will likely feel more authentic. I know of one Annual Conference that is working to leverage this approach to connect with youth. I’ll blog more about that one once it is announced.
Volkswagen (VW) – Going Cute to Connect
Volkswagen has a long history of creating commercials that connect with the emotions of consumers. It tells a simple story that connects with the consumer on an emotional level and this year was no exception.
“The Force” combines kid cuteness and pop culture power of Star Wars to make an engaging spot. It works to emotionally bond with their target consumer (young families) and create a moment of lightheartedness. The same is true for the “Black Beetle”
Most car commercials look the same. These are uniquely VW.
Church Application: VW uses emotions to bond with its consumers. They are willing to invest with in a relationship with their consumer and reinforce those feelings over time. Churches can do the same thing. We can evoke a feeling in a unique, creative way and slowly shape a relationship with our congregation and our community. It is not just about articulating a “benefit” like we care about kids, but doing it in a way that creatively connects our message with our intended audience.
OK…what can churches do with this?
I am not advocating churches to make TV commercials and air them during the Super Bowl (but it could be interesting to buy one of the local Super Bowl spots next year and try it.). What we need to do is examine the best Madison avenue has to offer and understand how we can apply it to our context.
Storytelling, emotional connections, humor, consumer generated content, competitive framing and focusing on the benefit are powerful tools to spread the message of Christ and the relevance of your church to someone’s life.
Is your church willing to learn to relevantly connect with your community? Are you willing to learn from Madison Avenue to learn how to connect with people from Main Street?