Super Bowl Ads: ASMR, Aussie Accents, and More

The Super Bowl is one of the most expensive times in the North American calendar to book an ad. And rightly so—considering there really isn’t another comparable event that guarantees a captive audience of hundreds of millions. In fact, the Super Bowl ad spots have become their own cult-like watching experience for both those interested in the media landscape, and just your everyday viewer.

Agencies spend all year perfecting their spots, shot by shot, frame by frame. As we enter 2019—the year of the voice and the era of the audio renaissance—how many brands are actually giving their ads as much audio attention as they are visual?

Turn Up the Licensed Music

This year’s ads showed a significant uptick in licensed music (up 26% from last year according to AdWeek), which proves the increasing importance of music as a pillar of the cultural zeitgeist. Overall, we’re seeing the industry shift away from stock audio libraries and move toward custom or licensed music.

Licensed music, however, can be a costly, short-lived and potentially risky audio strategy. Music licenses aren’t cheap and extending them beyond a campaign can be cost-prohibitive—which means you miss out on building long-term equity. Also, the brand immediately associates themselves with an artist they cannot control—which doesn’t always end well. (Remember Chris Brown and Wrigley? Or Ludacris and Pepsi?)

Audio Ads still Lacking in Prominence

Surprisingly, very few ads during this year’s Super Bowl actually featured an audio logo. Considering how powerful a branding asset it can be, especially with such a large audience, this is a huge mistake.

Audio is half of the medium in a TV spot. Your audio logo is your trademark, your punchline, your signature, that—when effective—can leave a strong imprint in the audience’s collective memory and live much longer than the 30 second commercial spot (with the potential of being recalled years and years later). Remember bud-wei-ser ? So does everyone else. I don’t even have to describe the commercial to you before you have images of frogs and beer crossing your mind.

ASMR makes it’s Mainstream Mark

The most interesting use of audio this year was the Michelob Ultra spot by FCB Chicago—which utilized the very on-trend internet-born phenomenon of ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response). The simple explanation: it's that feeling of well-being mixed with the familiar down-the-back-of-the-neck tingling sensation in response to gentle sound stimulus.

While it’s definitely not the first ad to utilize ASMR, this definitely marks it’s aesthetic moving from internet culture into mainstream media.

The only unfortunate part of this spot is that ASMR only really works when using headphones. While there must be a few people out there watching the big game with cans on their head (not that kind), the effect will be lost in usual social environments, such as a sports bar or living room.

As a Creative Director, I’m seeing a big missed opportunity. Imagine the impact if Michelob followed up this spot with an audio campaign targeting headphone or connected home users (specifically at a time they know it will be quiet at home). Not only would they extend their message beyond Super Bowl weekend, but listeners would be able to experience the ad to it’s full effect.

Andy is the King

A favorite of ours is definitely the 'Andy Warhol Eating A Whopper' by David Miami, which simply and brilliantly used licensed footage from JØrgen Leth's 1982 film 66 Scenes from America. The punchy sound design was by no means an accident. They specifically remixed the sound to amplify and heighten the familiar sensory sensation of unwrapping a Burger King burger—giving it an almost ASMR-like experience.

The Aussie Accent Resonates

There’s a reason why actors who sound like upper class Brits are used to help sell everything from luxury cars to fancy mustard. Accents in ads are an intrinsic part of the message and can add substance, personality and help define the brands positioning. A Dutch study has shown that foreign accents that are congruent with the product they are selling (ie French Accent for French Cheese or German Accent for German Automobile) have also proven to be more favorably perceived by audiences.

Tourism and beer brands have capitalized on the accent in the past, and this year was no different with the delightfully Aussie Yellow Tail ad. It’s an accent often associated with adventure, wanderlust and generally friendly folk. Ironically, our SVP of Ad Innovation, Lizzie Widhelm, recently admitted to being more susceptible to ads that are in an Australian accent.

Ready to talk about your audio strategy? Reach out today.