Super Bowl Ads Prove The Power Of Storytelling Videos

Less Crazy, More Story.

If you were one of the 111 million people to watch this year's Super Bowl, not only did you see the greatest comeback in the game's history, but you may have also detected something different in this year's commercials. 

It's not uncommon for a typical Super Bowl party to be split between people who care about the game and others who simply care about commericals. In fact, I've watched many Super Bowls when people only start passing out the "shooshings" and really focus when the game goes off and the commercials come on. People get excited about the creativity, humor and sheer surprises that typically come with Super Bowl ads. 

This year was different.

You didn't see as many dancing monkeys, fireball explosions or the likes of Mountain Dew and Doritos trying to one-up each other for the "Most Entertaining/Ridiculous/Sexy/What Just Happened Award?!?". Instead, you saw a lot of brands coming out with advertent or inadvertent messages on political topics.

The videos that got the most chatter and publicity on the day after the big game all tended to have the same video style of being narrative based, storytelling videos. 

Storytelling Videos Evoke More Emotion

We've written in the past about Why Story Matters when you are creating a video. The statistics show that 75% of users visit the marketer’s website after viewing a video that tells an excellent story. We saw a lot more storytelling in the videos this year. 

Maybe the three most talked about and memorable videos were from Airbnb, Budweiser and 84 Lumber.

Leaving the politics aside for just a moment, let's talk about these videos. All three are dramatically different in terms of length - Airbnb (:30) , Budweiser (1:00) and 84 Lumber (5:44), but the common thread is that each of these videos tell a powerful story. 

At the core of each video is a clear message that comes through in how the video reveals the story. For Airbnb the message of "#weaccept" is made clear through the diversity of actors shown throughout the video. 

For Budweiser, the story is about an immigrant who has a big dream. The story is quite dramatic as you work through different scenes of extreme trials the main character is faced with before Adolphus Busch meets Eberhard Anheuser in St. Louis. As a viewer, you are along for the journey and you have an emotional tie with the character who is trying to achieve his dreams. 

The final narrative video of 84 Lumber may be the most emotional journey of all three. As the entire story was deemed too controversial for TV, this ad directs viewers to watch the over 5 minute narrative on their YouTube channel. For the 10 million people who have done so, you follow along with a Hispanic mother and daughter who are on a journey of immigration to the United States, only to find a wall has been built.

84 Lumber caused a bit of controversy with what message they were actually trying to get across. The video seemed to communicate that the company was promoting illegal immigration, which was later clarified when 84 Lumber posted a statement saying, "The journey of the mother and daughter symbolizes grit, dedication and sacrifice. Characteristics that we look for in our people at 84 Lumber." The commercial was coinciding with a national hiring campaign. 

Perhaps 84 Lumber left their message intentionally vague to try to thread the needle and get more publicity. Perhaps not. Either way, their narrative driven video left a memorable impression on all who viewed it. 

Brand Beliefs Matter For Millennials, But Be Careful

Again, we're not making a comment one way or the other on the politics of these commercials. What we want to point out is the fact that these brands took a risk, decided on a message, and created a narrative driven video to help make that message emotional, powerful and memorable. 

You can do the same thing, but we offer a word of caution. 

As this Forbes article points out, Millennials care about your values as a company, probably more so than any other previous generation. At the same time, Millennials have a heightened radar for BS. They can sniff out what is real and authentic and what is not. 

In watching these more political Super Bowl ads this year, I personally put on my own BS radar hat. There were companies trying to take advantage of political hot topics who were willing to take the risk of the bad PR because, "hey, bad PR is better than no PR." And then there were companies who were still taking a risk with a more sensitive topic, but the message felt more true to the brand.

Of the three videos above, I would say that Airbnb's video seemed to make that transition more smoothly because their product is already based upon this idea of a worldwide "belonging". Their product offered them a natural leap to a message that made sense for their brand. On the other hand, Budweiser's felt a little more forced. Both got a lot of media traction, but the full impact on each brand is still to be determined.

So, when it comes to making a storytelling video for your brand that is memorable and powerful, we would say this. Don't reach for topics that are outside of your brand beliefs just because there is a current buzz around them. In the long run, your brand is wayyyy more important, and millennials can see through anything that is not authentic. If you haven't already, go through the brand building exercise of discovering who you are, what you believe in and what you care about.

Certainly, not every video you make needs to be about a cause or issue, but if you are going to go after a more potentially divisive topic, make sure you are rock solid about what story you are comfortable telling and whether or not it is true to the core of your brand. 

When you are ready to create a powerful storytelling video, we're here to help.

Our POV, FeaturedEric Sztanyo