How Wendy's and Budweiser Won The Super Bowl

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It's that time of year again. When sports fans watch every replay, and agency types analyze every TV spot. While we generally stick to digital because we think it's far more effective and efficient for most of our clients, a couple of this year's television ads hit the mark for us. Why? Because they were emotionally engaging and went straight to the heart of competitive differentiation. And that works in any format.

 

Wendy's Super Bowl ad recommends avoiding the Frozen Arches.

 

In this 30-second spot, Wendy's borrows some of the sassy attitude and conversational style it brings to social media, claiming they're "not fans" of McDonald's frozen beef.

Conventional wisdom says negative advertising often backfires, but Wendy's goes right at one of its core advantages relative to McDonald's with this one and picks up the thread seamlessly on social media.

 
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 Wendy's picked up about 10,000 Twitter mentions Sunday night with its "frozen arches" ad.

Wendy's picked up about 10,000 Twitter mentions Sunday night with its "frozen arches" ad.

 
 
 About 85% of the social media sentiment about Wendy's was positive on Feb 4.

About 85% of the social media sentiment about Wendy's was positive on Feb 4.

 

Then there was Budweiser's spot about...water. With just the words "Texas Florida Puerto Rico California" flashing on screen, Budweiser made it clear their brand was bigger than beer. And made an immediate connection to anyone affected by any of those tragedies. And that's a lot of us.

 
 

The photo below is of my parents' Houston house, which had over 4 feet of water in it for days after the Corps of Engineers deliberately flooded their neighbourhood to avoid a catastrophic breach of the Barker and Addicks reservoir walls. I flew into Austin Labour Day weekend and my friends helped me load a pick-up truck with supplies they scavenged from Home Depot, Wal-Mart, and the like. Even in Austin (3 hours' drive from Houston, and largely unaffected by the floods), the shelves were picked bare. My brother, manning the situation from Houston, asked specifically for gasoline...and water. It was over 103 degrees in Houston, and gruesomely humid. The power was out and most major roads were closed. Drinking water, along with everything else, was in short supply. I won't forget it, and Budweiser didn't either. 

 
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Budweiser engaged its audience with empathy and action. Wendy's did it with sass and a consistent, conversational tone across social and TV spots. Engagement is the holy grail of marketing. With completely different approaches, both of these ads nailed it.  Kinda like a touchdown pass to your own quarterback.