Ads That Move the Needle

This morning Advertising Age reported that the Miller High Life one-second Super Bowl ad has created a year-on-year sales bump for the brand affectionately referred to as “the champagne of beers.” The real kicker is that NBC didn’t even air the one-second ad in some larger markets including New York, Chicago, and LA as they didn’t want to discourage marketers who “followed the rules” and bought traditional :30s and :60s like they were supposed to. “We definitely sold more beer,” said the High Life brand manager. And isn’t that the point? Forget what NBC and anyone in the establishment says they are supposed to do. Their job is to sell more beer and that ad did it. Compare the one-second Miller bought for High Life to the four and a half minutes Anheuser-Busch bought. Talk about ROI …

Contrast this with all of the red carpet-like reviews ads are given during high profile events like the Super Bowl and the Oscars (even on this blog every now and then). Sure, it’s a fun conversation to have but it’s like like having a sports discussion about which team’s uniforms are the most aesthetically pleasing. It’s secondary. The team with the most points at the end of the game wins, just as the ads that sell ultimately win.

We can talk endlessly about how the fan-created Doritos ad was voted as the most popular pick by USA Today and YouTube but I wonder if they sold more chips … My own personal aside is that I think anyone can write a funny sketch with someone getting a ball to the crotch but I think it takes a professional to move the needle and sell some chips.

Moving the needle is what it’s all about — not making clever, sexy ads. You need to sell more chips, beer, online job services, or whatever your particular widget may be. That’s not to say that you can’t be creative in the process but you can’t simply be creative for the sake of being creative and hope by accident that some chips get sold. I also say moving the needle because results can come in lots of shapes and sizes — sales dollars, units sold, website traffic, etc.

Ultimately I think that’s the difference between a professional sales and marketing strategy and writing a skit for the school talent show. Buying a one-second spot was a gutsy, creative move. It had people talking about it and anticipating it not to mention it was cost-effective, moved product and ultimately demonstrated ROI. It’s not an easy thing to do but I think sometimes it can look easy. At a glance it’s a funny guy shouting “High Life” that literally passes in the blink of an eye but in the boardroom post-mortem it is an objective achieved.