How about that Super Bowl?! Once again, savvy veterans stepped up and delivered. A handful of newcomers made their first big game appearance and didn’t disappoint. And wow, Steven Tyler sure is showing his age! No, we aren’t talking about what took place on the field. Here at GlynnDevins, it’s the commercials that drew our attention.
If these spots are a reflection of America today, then it’s the millennials’ world – the rest of us just live in it. This year’s commercials were designed to strike a chord at what matters most to millennials: social awareness (Budweiser, Stella Artois), diversity (Coca-Cola, Toyota) and current pop culture (Doritos, Mountain Dew).
But what about seniors? Which ads did we think they liked and disliked? How did their feelings compare to the national audience? Members of our Creative team share their insights on the commercials and how they related to seniors.
Vice President, Creative
Super Bowl commercials equal mass marketing with a high price tag. Oh wait, you bought multiple spots? Having more than one spot was definitely a trend this year. And honestly, some of those campaigns were my favorites. For me, the successful spots found a human truth within their brand and played on our emotions. Whether through humor or a tug at empathy, they tied relevance to their brand. Seniors, like the rest of the country, engage with brands on a daily basis. I imagine the commercials they enjoyed are likely the ones the rest of the viewing audience preferred.
Storytelling wins. I picked three Super Bowl ads and dropped the rest in the browning guacamole. An inspirational pair from Toyota touch a nerve and excite the heart as they unflinchingly tell their tales of humanity overcoming adversity. “Mobility Anthem” is a diverse, multigenerational slice of inspired, take-the-next-step life that reaffirms human courage. And “Good Odds” amplifies the same, focusing on Special Olympic skier Lauren Woolstencroft. The countdown meter – tracking her improving odds as she tries, fails, and tries again – is a smart touch that drives the story toward its epic conclusion. And my other pick? The minute-long version of “The Only Man Whose Bleep Don’t Stink,” a clever, documentary-style, crisply written spot for Febreze.
Now, why do these appeal to a senior audience? Because they’re stories – they’re well told, real, and feel worth watching and rewatching. The Toyota stories rekindle belief in humanity, and the Febreze story is comical, with rapid-fire laugh points. Both formulas work for senior audiences: Tell stories that inspire and tell stories that make them laugh.
E-Trade’s “This Is Getting Old” ad informed the audience that “over a third of Americans have no retirement savings.” Using a series of octogenarians struggling to keep up with their younger workmates and a cringe-worthy scene that featured a slo-mo Baywatch beach jog that included the flappy, crinkled, crepey-skinned torso of an exhausted over-the-hill “lifeguard,” the message was: Don’t get mad. Get E-Trade.
Who is this spot speaking to? Surely if one already is 85, it’s too late to launch an online investment strategy. Presumably, a younger demographic — with an investment horizon long enough to accumulate some wealth — is the target.
This means that the seniors shown in the spot are objectified as unfortunate, S.O.L., don’t-let-this-be-you examples of what happens to those without the foresight and wherewithal to invest for their retirement. There’s a ring of truth to it, yes, and this scenario will likely soon play out across some segments of the Baby Boomer generation. But the spot is tone-deaf to the indignities implied by such a fate and is devoid of empathy or guidance. This may seem funny to some in a younger demographic, but the message to seniors is, you blew it, losers, and you’re on your own. I can’t imagine that’s what E-Trade was going for with this commercial.
Vice President, Creative
The NFL came up as the big winner at its own advertising party. One of my favorite spots of the night featured New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning recreating, step-by-step, the famous closing dance number from cult-classic Dirty Dancing as practice for a “Touchdown Celebration to Come”. While Eli stood in for Patrick Swayze, the all-world wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. took on the role of Jennifer Grey. And yes, they pulled off “the lift” in a stunning conclusion. It was a solid bit of humor and was loved by all ages at the party I attended — apparently it brought the crowd at the “big game” to their feet.
While the top ten 2018 USA Today Ad Meter rankings skewed heavily in the favor of dramatic storytelling or cause marketing (60 percent), humorous spots still won the day with the first and second overall spots being Amazon’s Alexa Losing Her Voice and the aforementioned NFL spot. Interestingly enough, the mature audience ranked heartfelt spots from Budweiser (1st) and Toyota (2nd) higher, but definitely agreed they can’t wait to see this touchdown celebration next season, as it ranked 3rd overall for the Boomer-plus segment.
The most insightful and inspiring portrayal of seniors to me was in Toyota’s “Mobility Anthem.” While it opens on sweet babies, it closes on a senior setting a good pace on foot in a race. It defines what I see at senior living communities across the country. That at every step and stage of life, there’s something possible waiting for you. As the voice-over tells us, “When you’re free to move, anything is possible.”
The Coca-Cola ad, “The Wonder of Us” was all about the message. It was big and lofty and ethereal, but was at the same time pointedly personal. Seemingly right in the pocket of a brand whose recent efforts have included putting names on their bottles and cans. It, too, feels like a tone and approach the senior living market could stand to better incorporate.
To borrow a line from the ad, “No feet have wandered where you’ve walked. No eyes have seen what you’ve seen. No one’s lived the life you’ve lived.” In my opinion, those are facts to be celebrated and catered to in senior living.
When it comes to pop culture, we tend to like what we understand or can relate to. The honor of “most popular ad with older viewers” went to the more altruistic “Stand by You” from Budweiser. While it averaged 6.84 with the entire panel, seniors ranked it at 8.04 (their highest ranking). It more than likely won with this group because it tapped into their wisdom and life experience that we only get through hard times together. And having a catchy, familiar song didn’t hurt either. Although most marketers act like anyone over 50 doesn’t exist, the top 5 ranking of this ad shows that connecting with seniors can still help your brand.
Associate Creative Director
What I learned while watching the Super Bowl commercials with Mary Ann Popper, age 82: Seniors are like anyone else.
- They like to be entertained. (Doritos/Mountain Dew, with Peter Dinklage and Morgan Freeman)
- Humor is engaging but needs to be smart. (Sprint “Evelyn”; Bud Light “Dilly Dilly” campaign)
- Aspirational stories are just as touching for seniors as they are for the rest of us. (Lindsey Vonn for NBC Sports)
- Sorry, celebs. With apologies to Steven Tyler, Keanu Reeves, Peter Dinklange, Chris Pratt, Brooks Koepka and the rest – Mary Ann recognized almost none of them.
- Keep it classy. One celebrity she did recognize was Danny DeVito, but thought M&M’s “Eat Me” spot was “stupid and offensive.” Also, Groupon’s “Who Wouldn’t” ad in which a football is kicked into a man’s stomach for humor. “That’s not funny.”
- Finally, advertisers in technology categories lost her. Alexa, Hulu, Prime TV, Wix – they start with a premise that you know what they are and do, and she didn’t.
So, keep it smart, entertaining, funny when appropriate.
Find more senior living-related entries on a variety of subjects here.