Dan Fox
The views expressed in db Reader do not represent the views of the drinks business.

Why ShockTop’s ‘greatest SuperBowl ad ever’ was a failure

Summertime is generally a hot time for selling beer, but a slow time for beer-advertising news. There’s not that much to do in the marketing departments since their summer advertising was committed to in the early spring.

So brand managers can go on vacation. Major changes in direction can wait until after Labor Day. It’s too early to tell how this season’s ads have worked–or failed–in the marketplace.

Except when it isn’t.

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Just a few short months ago, ShockTop spent an estimated $5 million on its self-proclaimed “greatest SuperBowl ad of all time.” The commercial featured T.J. Miller exchanging conversational barbs with a talking tap handle.

The ad was followed up with the release of an extended video of the two characters reviewing other brands’ ads post-game, a “hilarious” Superbowl ad review, according to Adweek. “This really is long-form bonus Super Bowl content at its best,” gushed the trade publication.

AdvertisingAge gave the ShockTop ad three out of four stars in its SuperBowl ad review saying it had “dialogue worth listening to and a tone just right for the target audience.”

Northwestern University’s Kellogg graduate business school even weighed in, rating the ad highly and concluding “… it will boost sales, which is what a SuperBowl spot is supposed to do.”

We were skeptics. Before the full ad appeared, we worried that viewers might only get some funny schtick, not an effective ad.

Well, the definitive answer just arrived…

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As we put it in our post-SuperBowl review, “not selling the brand’s distinctiveness was a lost opportunity.” Sadly, we’ve seen this costly mistake many times before. It’s what happens when ad agencies and their gullible clients conspire to create ads long on humor, celebrities and entertainment value, but short–in this case, dreadfully short–on selling the brand’s distinctiveness. As our review noted, ShockTop’s distinctive “unfiltered” feature appeared only as a very minor afterthought at the end of its ad. All the drama was empty entertainment unrelated to the beer. So the creators got exactly what they wanted. And the brand got zilch.

The very same could be said of the BudLight “Party” campaign currently running.

We can only hope the Bud Light brand guys are being called back from their vacations.

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