What do you think of when you think of Super Bowl ads? Memorable spots? Your favorite celebrities? Big budgets?

At Umault, we think of all of these things, but we mostly think about the entertainment value. And then we wonder, why can’t all marketing and advertising be as entertaining as Super Bowl ads? Why aren’t we always trying to entertain?

Ah, entertainment. The key to capturing an audience’s attention. But what if your company doesn’t specialize in highly caffeinated beverages that allow you to pull off a “Puppymonkeybaby”-esque spot?

The thing is: you can pull off more than you may think. Super Bowl-level creative without the Super Bowl-level production budget is possible, even for B2B companies.

In this episode of the podcast the Umault team talks about:

  • How to balance entertaining and selling in a way that’s effective for your brand
  • Why you should always seek to tell a story with your video versus just listing features and benefits
  • The importance of authenticity when connecting a story with your brand

Key quotes

“It’s the balance between entertaining and selling. You have to do both. But can you let the entertainment help you do the selling as opposed to just selling?”

Tory Merritt

“It’s almost like a competition. People want to see how much you can entertain them and sell them at the same time.”

Guy Bauer

“Think about building a story instead of just listing features and benefits…what kind of story can we tell? In real life, how can we improve somebody’s life?”

Hope Morley

“Don’t be emotional just because you think people like emotion.”

Guy Bauer

So many reference videos!

Pepsi – Deprivation Tank – Cindy Crawford – Super Bowl 1994

Genesis – “Going Away Party” – Chrissy Teigen and John Legend – Super Bowl 2020

Snickers – “Fix the World” – Luis Guzman – Super Bowl 2020

Jeep – “Groundhog Day” – Bill Murray – Super Bowl 2020

Mountain Dew – “As Good as the Original” – Bryan Cranston and Tracee Ellis Ross – Super Bowl 2020

Rocket Mortgage – “Home” – Jason Mamoa – Super Bowl 2020

Hyundai – “Smaht Pahk” – John Krasinksi, Rachel Dratch, Chris Evans, David “Big Papi” Ortiz – Super Bowl 2020

Volkswagen – “The Force” – Super Bowl 2011

WeatherTech – “Lucky Dog” – Super Bowl 2020

Verizon – “The Amazing Things 5G Won’t Do” – Super Bowl 2020

Microsoft – “Be The One” – Super Bowl 2020

You can listen to the episode using the player embedded above, or you can read a full transcript below.

Episode transcript

Hope Morley:

Hello, and welcome to So You Need A Video, the only podcast…

Guy Bauer:

That we’re aware of.

Hope Morley:

About simplifying your brand sales message with video. I’m Hope Morley.

Guy Bauer:

I’m Guy Bauer.

Tory Merritt:

And I’m Tory Merritt.

Hope Morley:

And welcome to our very first video episode of our podcast. So for those of you listening at home on your favorite podcast app, you can check us out on YouTube to see what our beautiful faces look like.

Tory Merritt:

Yeah! See us be awkward in person.

Guy Bauer:

And don’t judge us by this lighting, okay. Look at our-

Hope Morley:

This is our office.

Tory Merritt:

Our gaffer was sick today.

Guy Bauer:

Right, exactly.

Hope Morley:

And on our episode today for our first video episode, it is early February. We are just coming off Super Bowl weekend. Even if you’re not watching it for the football, you’re watching it for the ads. Those of us who watch it for the football and the ads also get something out of it. So why are Super Bowl ads such a big deal?

Guy Bauer:

Super Bowl ads are why I got into this business in the first place, actually. I remember the Michael Richards, Cindy Crawford Pepsi deprivation tank spot. And if you haven’t seen it, we’ll put it in the show notes. It’s the spot that got me to think about advertising as a career. The Super Bowl to me, why people love them… Why they love the Super Bowl ads is they have celebrities. And even if they don’t have celebrities, it’s funny. They’re all entertaining. They’re all based in entertaining you rather than selling to you. And they’re just all clever and really cool and fun to watch.

Hope Morley:

And even when they have celebrities for the most part, they’re making fun of themselves. So they’re even an extra layer of entertainment. It’s not just like, I’m Cindy Crawford in a Pepsi commercial.

Tory Merritt:

Right.

Hope Morley:

But then we’ll link to the ad, but then she lets herself become Rodney Dangerfield, right?

Guy Bauer:

Right, right.

Hope Morley:

And it’s like, so they’re making fun of these beautiful people and all this stuff. Or this year the Genesis car ad with Chrissy Teigen and John Legend that they’re making fun of themselves-

Tory Merritt:

Luxury.

Hope Morley:

Kind of in luxury.

Tory Merritt:

Right.

Hope Morley:

The sexiest man alive thing. It was a very tongue-in-cheek, making fun of themselves too.

Tory Merritt:

New luxury.

Tory Merritt:

And they still sold.

Guy Bauer:

Kind of like the Tide ad.

Tory Merritt:

Well and they still sold.

Tory Merritt:

I think it was a balance between… It’s the balance between entertaining and selling. You have to do both, but can you let the entertainment help you do the selling as opposed to just selling without much of the entertaining.

Guy Bauer:

Yeah, it’s so weird. And then for the rest of the year commercials are boring.

Tory Merritt:

They’re back to just selling with no entertaining.

Guy Bauer:

Right. Just noise and-

Hope Morley:

It’s just the car is just driving down a road with voiceover about how it’s-

Guy Bauer:

0% APR 60 months, no down payment, whatever.

Hope Morley:

Yeah. Then they’re like, yeah.

Guy Bauer:

Yeah. I remember just thinking when I started this agency, wait, why don’t we just always make Super Bowl commercials?

Tory Merritt:

Quality or caliber.

Guy Bauer:

Yeah, and I’m not talking like obviously-

Hope Morley:

The money part is-

Guy Bauer:

Yeah, exactly. Super Bowl spots have crazy VFX. My favorite spot… No one’s talking about it. Everyone’s talking about the Bill Murray spot, which is awesome. But my favorite was the Snickers hole.

Hope Morley:

The Snickers hole was really good.

Guy Bauer:

It was so great! At the end the selfie people fall into… Look the Snicker hole! It’s working! It was great!

Hope Morley:

That was good.

Guy Bauer:

Obviously that had huge budgets. So Super Bowl spots do have big, big, big, budgets with VFX and all the celebrities. But even if you strip all that away, it’s all based in just entertaining you. And like you said, strike… And actually the best Super Bowl spots, I would argue, people want them to be selling something. You can’t just make a Super Bowl spot that doesn’t have some kind of commercial hook. It’s almost like a competition. People want to see how much you can entertain them and sell them at the same time. And that’s why everyone loves the Jeep thing because it’s entertaining and they put a big orange Jeep.

Tory Merritt:

Yeah, yep.

Guy Bauer:

You know what I mean?

Tory Merritt:

It’s vibrant. It’s not hiding, you’re not hiding it. It’s not content [product] placement. You know what I mean? It’s like actually-

Hope Morley:

At our Super Bowl party, the ad with Bryan Cranston, it was the Mountain Dew ad.

Guy Bauer:

Yeah, that was good.

Hope Morley:

No, but after we watch it we’re like, why is that Mountain Dew? Why is it The Shining? Why is it Bryan Cranston? None of it… It was kind of entertaining, but then you’re like, this did nothing for me.

Tory Merritt:

Right.

Tory Merritt:

Versus the Jason Momoa spot which I guess was for Rocket Mortgage. They put in the top five. It’s very obvious what that is. Also maybe small agencies would be willing to-

Guy Bauer:

Highdive Advertising here in Chicago, they did the number one-

Tory Merritt:

And five? Number five?

Guy Bauer:

And five. So they did Bill Murray and Jason Momoa. Which is, yeah.

Tory Merritt:

So I’m willing to bet the budget’s actually probably weren’t crazy, which is maybe why they went… The client went to them, which was cool. The other spot I liked of course was the “Smaht Pahk” spot. I’ve heard it’s a rip… Mark Lantz this is for you, called out that it’s a rip off of an old ad. I don’t know if it was Honda or something else.

Guy Bauer:

Oh, really?

Tory Merritt:

And he’s like, “It’s a worse job.” But it got the point across. It’s very obvious. That entire thing was selling right, selling, celebrities. But you found a way to make it funny and link in a little bit of Boston for people who…

Guy Bauer:

And if we break down that Hyundai spot. What is the story? So the story is not separate from the functionality of the car. This is why it’s so good is that it’s not story and then shoehorning in the functionalities. The whole story is about John…

Hope Morley:

Krasinski?

Guy Bauer:

Krasinski parking in a very tight spot and that the car can do it itself.

Tory Merritt:

When no one else could have done it.

Guy Bauer:

Right. And it’s like, that is the content of the spot and it’s so simple. And I think so many brands, they think that you’re either entertaining, or you’re either content marketing, or you’re selling.

Tory Merritt:

Right. You can’t do both.

Guy Bauer:

And to me the Super Bowl, everyone should just do Super Bowl commercials all the time. And a lot of people read into, oh well spend a lot of money all the time. And I say no, it’s like balance the two. Just entertain and sell, you could have both.

Tory Merritt:

Which that Volkswagen spot was the same thing, right? It was also the remote start back when that was cool.

Hope Morley:

The Darth Vader kid?

Tory Merritt:

Yeah, the Darth Vader one. And it was still, the whole purpose of it was, it’s like magic. Like, you know what I mean?

Tory Merritt:

It’s using the force.

Hope Morley:

Yeah, your car is magic.

Tory Merritt:

But you remember exactly what feature it was, the remote start.

Hope Morley:

Most of our clients and most B to B clients that we work with, obviously, they might think about the Super Bowl in the context of all the money that gets thrown at it, right? We’re not talking about $6 million for a 30 second spot or hiring Michael Bay to do your ad. That ends up being completely nonsensical.

Guy Bauer:

It wasn’t even good.

Tory Merritt:

But if you’ve got it flaunt it.

Guy Bauer:

It wasn’t even good.

Hope Morley:

No.

Guy Bauer:

It looked dated. It looked like something done in the 90s.

Hope Morley:

Which might’ve been on purpose?

Guy Bauer:

Yeah, I don’t know.

Hope Morley:

And we’re talking about the Hard Rock Hotel’s.

Guy Bauer:

Yeah.

Hope Morley:

So what can our clients be taking out of the Super Bowl ads?

Tory Merritt:

Biggest piece to me is everything revolves around humans, right, and people. Every spot that we’re talking about, there were people somehow in there. And at the end of the day, everyone’s selling to human beings. So even if you are selling ball bearings, you as a human are selling ball bearings to another human. So thinking about what you enjoy and what entertains you instead of just standard sales tactics is really important when you’re coming up with creative… regardless of whether it’s more of an industrial product or service or something complicated with AI, machine learning, that at the end of the day it’s people watching people and that’s what entertains versus… unfortunately, a lot of animated explainers that may not have considered, what do I enjoy watching when I get the chance to be on the other side?

Hope Morley:

And thinking about building a story instead of just listing features and benefits, right? Like the smart park example we were just talking about. You could just come on and have a screen be like, this car can park itself into tight spots. That’s not interesting. But you can take that feature and you’re like, what kind of story can we tell? What in real life, how does this improve somebody’s life? Right?

Tory Merritt:

Right.

Hope Morley:

And it’s like we’ve all been there that the spot’s too narrow. We know we wouldn’t be able to get out of the driver’s seat so you just drive by. But, oh hey, the car can do this so you can fix this problem.

Tory Merritt:

It’s kind of like SNL. I feel like they take little issues of things that are happening and then you build a vignette from that to make it something that’s entertaining instead of just sad or embarrassing or whatever.

Guy Bauer:

So I’m going to… Maybe I’ll take a little bit of a controversial stance.

Tory Merritt:

All right, take it.

Guy Bauer:

Everyone was giving WeatherTech such great credit, right?

Tory Merritt:

No, I didn’t like that one.

Hope Morley:

Mm-mm (negative).

Tory Merritt:

I like cats, so…

Guy Bauer:

So in case you haven’t seeing the spot, the WeatherTech thing is, apparently this dog was used in a Super Bowl commercial last year, but then it got cancer and they wanted to put the dog down. But then the WeatherTech CEO said, “No, let’s save the dog.” And then the University of Wisconsin…

Tory Merritt:

Their vet school.

Guy Bauer:

Yeah, saved the dog. And that’s cool. Right? But-

Hope Morley:

Umault: We don’t want dogs to die.

Guy Bauer:

Yeah, yeah. We definitely don’t want dogs to die. And we’re a fan of saving dogs.

Hope Morley:

Yes.

Tory Merritt:

But it was a pat on the back to yourself.

Guy Bauer:

Yeah.

Tory Merritt:

You spent money and did this thing and it had nothing to do with WeatherTech. I thought it was boring.

Hope Morley:

And they got all this buzz that people are like, they paid $6 million for-

Guy Bauer:

To say thank you.

Hope Morley:

To get people to donate to University of Wisconsin. I’m like, no, they paid $6 million to say go to weathertech.com/donate.

Tory Merritt:

Right.

Guy Bauer:

Right.

Tory Merritt:

And they didn’t say anything about matching either. I think if they had thrown the match in I would have believed… Maybe they did, but I didn’t see. Where hey, we’ll match it. There’s some kind of hey, we’re doing something with you versus… I would love to see the numbers on how many people actually, maybe they did, went and donated, but I’d be curious.

Hope Morley:

They didn’t even send people straight to the University of Wisconsin.

Tory Merritt:

To WeatherTech.

Hope Morley:

They paid $6 million to get people to go on their website.

Guy Bauer:

Well, in the first 10 seconds too, you see the dog going through the WeatherTech factory and all that stuff.

Tory Merritt:

Was that from the ad? Is that why that was in there or was that added?

Guy Bauer:

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. To me, you got on the Super Bowl, we’re talking about you, but I’m not going to remember this ad. And actually maybe it did some damage to the brand because now I’m kind of like, I don’t know.

Hope Morley:

I felt neutral about them before, I feel neutral about them now.

Tory Merritt:

It feels a little yucky.

Guy Bauer:

Well, you’re taking advantage of a sick dog.

Tory Merritt:

It feels a little yucky.

Hope Morley:

A sick dog.

Guy Bauer:

Yeah.

Tory Merritt:

PR-wise to me, you could have solved this by saying we’ll match a certain amount. Just throw some BS on there about like we’ll match up to X amount.

Hope Morley:

We’ll match the first 500 donations, yeah.

Tory Merritt:

Right. Something which makes it feel like it’s a dual effort versus we already did our part, you can do yours and buy our (bleep) stuff.

Hope Morley:

And also buy dog bowls.

Guy Bauer:

We’re going to have to bleep that.

Tory Merritt:

I know!

Guy Bauer:

Tory, what has gotten into you?

Tory Merritt:

Who was it that swore?

Guy Bauer:

We never curse here.

Tory Merritt:

I know. Was it the Oscars? Who was it? Someone, they did.

Hope Morley:

I didn’t watch the Oscars.

Tory Merritt:

They swore up there and they had to bleep it and they’re like, this isn’t Netflix. I forget who it was. But…

Guy Bauer:

Yeah, I think like the takeaway with… I mean, no matter what we can all agree the WeatherTech spot was bland at best, even though it tried to have a very emotional connection, to me it was bland at best. And what I think too is-

Hope Morley:

Because I think it didn’t come across as authentic.

Guy Bauer:

Correct.

Hope Morley:

And I think that’s the issue.

Tory Merritt:

Which means this strategy, my favorite, the strategy was hollow, right?

Guy Bauer:

Yes.

Tory Merritt:

You weren’t thinking through who was the hero of this… who am I speaking to who… And if I’m making this about me, what else am I doing?

Hope Morley:

Yeah.

Guy Bauer:

Yeah. I agree with you. It had no… It just seemed like pandering, or whatever the right word is.

Tory Merritt:

So that one was actually probably more unintentionally, more selly, less entertainy.

Guy Bauer:

Correct.

Tory Merritt:

Which is why I didn’t like…

Guy Bauer:

And their commercials have always been pretty darn lean and bland and-

Tory Merritt:

Car interior…

Guy Bauer:

I guess this is them flexing their creative and stuff. But yeah. I think the takeaway there is you have to be yourself and don’t try to just…

Tory Merritt:

Unless yourself is too self-centered then don’t be yourself.

Guy Bauer:

Yeah.

Tory Merritt:

Really be not yourself if it’s…

Guy Bauer:

Don’t be yourself.

Hope Morley:

Hey, kids. That’s our new slogan. 

Guy Bauer:

Don’t be yourself, wait, be yourself unless yourself-

Tory Merritt:

Sucks.

Guy Bauer:

Sucks.

Hope Morley:

Maybe be someone else.

Tory Merritt:

But it’s the strategy, right?

Hope Morley:

Yeah.

Tory Merritt:

Okay, here’s who we are. That’s more of an existential crisis I feel like, figuring out as a business what your goal really is.

Guy Bauer:

Right.

Tory Merritt:

But who is this about? I’m putting this out there for the world to watch. Am I adding value? Again, entertaining is adding value. Just selling without any entertainment is not adding value. This was a case I think where they didn’t add value and it made you look yucky.

Guy Bauer:

Yeah. I concur.

Hope Morley:

Agreed. So your controversial opinion was shared by all of us.

Tory Merritt:

We’re all controversial.

Hope Morley:

Well, because you feel weird being anti-dog-

Guy Bauer:

Life being saved.

Tory Merritt:

Well we’re not anti-dog, right?

Guy Bauer:

Yeah.

Hope Morley:

Yeah.

Tory Merritt:

But that wasn’t really… their point was like, we… It wasn’t the life being saved it was actually we saved the life. Even though, they also weren’t the veterinarians. We took him to the vet’s and his life was saved. And you’re like, well they saved his life, not you.

Guy Bauer:

Yeah. And the other one… To me the other one I didn’t like too was the Verizon 5G where they’re like, 5G doesn’t save lives, firefighters do and nurses.

Tory Merritt:

Yeah, it was very pandering.

Guy Bauer:

But it was so-

Tory Merritt:

And then here’s our end tag.

Guy Bauer:

Yeah, yucky. Don’t be emotional just because you think people like emotion. You know what I mean?

Tory Merritt:

Yeah.

Guy Bauer:

Because to me, it’s dangerous if it’s not coming across like you really do believe that. To me that was $5 creative. To me that was literally like, oh let’s do a tie in where-

Hope Morley:

You know who needs to have their phones work? Firefighters. So, yeah.

Guy Bauer:

But let’s pay homage to them. And to me it’s like taking advantage of those people. It’s not honoring them. It’s like using them to sell.

Tory Merritt:

Well we talk about that with our clients a lot too is… Because a lot of them do save lives. Lives, lifes, lives.

Guy Bauer:

Lives.

Hope Morley:

Lives.

Tory Merritt:

But it’s remembering don’t overstate your role sometimes. It’s okay to only state what is actually true. When you overstate is when you risk like, I actually respect you for kind of playing in your bounds of what you do and being excellent at it. But to go beyond what you’re actually doing and start taking credit for something that is not really in your wheelhouse is when it starts to feel kind of yucky. Which I think is also the case in both of those examples which are, yeah their phones should work, but at the end of the day if they… And they’re like, well it’s their courage running in. And you’re like, yeah, that’s the actual point.

Hope Morley:

If their phone died, they could still save people.

Tory Merritt:

Which is what they were trying to get across is like, it’s not us it’s them! But here’s us again.

Guy Bauer:

But they’re enabled by us. To me I think you got to speak softly and carry a big stick. Why don’t you tell a real story? I think although bland, Microsoft with the first female coach, that was a real story. I thought execution-wise, it wasn’t that entertaining. You know what I mean? But it still told a real story.

Hope Morley:

But she’s an inspiring person and an inspiring story.

Tory Merritt:

Who uses the device to do a great job at her job.

Guy Bauer:

Correct.

Hope Morley:

And the focus was not on the device really at all. It was just about her and her story.

Guy Bauer:

Yeah. So actually what I’m-

Tory Merritt:

Good job, McCann.

Guy Bauer:

Yeah, exactly. That was good. It’s the same thing that Verizon was going after that were like these heroes are enabled by our tech. Both wanted to say the same thing, Microsoft did it a million times better. Even though, again, in the net result of all of it I don’t think you’ll remember that commercial five years from now.

Tory Merritt:

Although that’s spot was ranked-

Guy Bauer:

Really?

Tory Merritt:

In most of the-

Hope Morley:

Well I think that’s one of the spots where I’m going to forget who made it.

Guy Bauer:

Correct.

Hope Morley:

I might remember the spot. I’m not going to remember who the brand was.

Tory Merritt:

You’ll remember it was a tablet. And that may be because… Now my mom uses Surface, but depending on which area you work in, do you use them?

Guy Bauer:

Right.

Tory Merritt:

Right? It’s like when I think of a tablet who do I think of?

Hope Morley:

You’re like, iPad.

Tory Merritt:

And that’s just… I don’t know how much of that you can control but…

Hope Morley:

Yeah.

Guy Bauer:

All right. Good discussion. Lots of takeaways there.

Hope Morley:

Yeah. So let’s talk about some of those takeaways.

Tory Merritt:

All right. I’m ready. Sum it up.

Guy Bauer:

I don’t know.

Hope Morley:

So the biggest takeaway we’ve talked about, right, the Super Bowl ads aren’t just great because they have a lot of money. It’s not just great because you paid Bill Murray a lot of money to drive around in a Jeep. It’s great because it has a story, it has a connection, and it entertained people.

Tory Merritt:

And the Jeep was orange so I knew where it was the whole time.

Hope Morley:

Yeah. And any brands can take this away from the Super Bowl ads. If you tell an authentic story, you think about… We talked about “Smaht Pahk” a lot where they talk about taking a feature and building a story around it, or finding an inspiring real person who uses your product and building a story around that and telling a story and entertaining people.

Guy Bauer:

Cool. I agree. I concur.

Hope Morley:

Any other takeaways?

Tory Merritt:

Good food. That’s my favorite part of the Super Bowl.

Guy Bauer:

Yeah. Pizza.

Tory Merritt:

Did you eat pizza?

Guy Bauer:

Yeah.

Tory Merritt:

I figured.

Hope Morley:

We did tacos.

Tory Merritt:

You love the pizza. Oh, you did tacos?

Hope Morley:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Taco bar.

Tory Merritt:

Oh. I was on a plane so I had pretzels and Ritz crackers that fell on the ground.

Hope Morley:

Gross.

Guy Bauer:

Good.

Hope Morley:

Good for you.

Guy Bauer:

Nice job, Tory. We’ll be talking after this episode about that curse.

Tory Merritt:

Oh, the curse? Okay.

Guy Bauer:

Yeah.

Tory Merritt:

It’s going in my performance review.

Guy Bauer:

Yeah, it is. It sure is.

Hope Morley:

Thank you for listening and watching to this episode of So You Need a Video. For more information and for links to all the different things that we talked about, lots of good spots talked about in this episode. Visit our website at umault.com. That’s U-M-A-U-L-T.com. And if you’re listening to the podcast, please like and subscribe.

Tory Merritt:

Do it.

Guy Bauer:

On YouTube. Ooh, I always wanted to say this, give us… Smash that thumbs up button and hit subscribe-

Tory Merritt:

Below.

Guy Bauer:

Below. And hit the alarm bell-

Tory Merritt:

Yeah, so that you’ll be notified when there’s a new video posted.

Guy Bauer:

And leave a comment of what your favorite color is.