Potato-tisement Shakes Up the Idea of a Super Bowl Ad

Confused? So was everybody else.

During this year’s Super Bowl, the Falcons’ loss of a 25-point lead wasn’t the only surprise. While many ads made a splash, this particular one really had people talking.

So the company wasn’t even listed in the ad. And the confusion of the public flooded social media until Cards Against Humanity, the company that makes the “party game for horrible people”, broke their silence.

Just in case you weren’t sure, the people who make this game are really funny. They released a parody article on the publishing website Medium entitled “Why Our Super Bowl Ad Failed”. This fake postmortem detailed, in ludicrous dramatics, their “misunderstanding” on what their audience would want to see. Complete with a graph comparing “most commonly consumed vegetables”, they pull in exactly who they want: people who appreciate stupid, outrageous humor.

Graphic from CAH's postmortem
Graphic from CAH’s postmortem

Considering that at a 30-second ad during the biggest game of the year is $5 million, many firms would not choose to take such a large risk. Well, excuse my language, but Cards Against Humanity has never been a company who gave a damn. So the move, for them, makes absolute sense. A company that prints “poorly-timed Holocaust jokes”, “not giving a shit about the third world”, and the like on their product doesn’t seem to really be in the business of convention. In fact, their money flows from shock value. People don’t play CAH because it’s good, wholesome family fun. A bold advertisement choice for a bold company is really, at this point, what we should have expected: expecting the unexpected.

According to February 2017 numbers from Forbes and EMarketer, 75.1 million people are using ad blocking services.  Click-through rates [1] reflect little public interest in being sold something.  Ads can really annoy people and everybody’s increasingly making this clear.  Because of this, marketers are turning to a method of “anti-ads“. To break this down, let’s look at what it means to be an advertisement: “Paid, non-personal, public communication about causes, goods and services, ideas, organizations, people, and places… advertisements are public notices designed to inform and motivate.”  For example, those J.G. Wentworth commercials are advertisements because I know who to call when I have long-term payments, but I need cash now, AND no one motivates me like a bunch of singing vikings.  However, I, as a 21-year-old, have never called 877-CASH-NOW so maybe other members of CAH’s core demographic, like myself, would be better approached with something unlike this.

Other companies have gone the non-ad ad direction for the biggest game of the year.  Take this Newcastle Brown Ale commercial from 2014 for example:

So that was basically a commercial about how they weren’t going to make a commercial. It’s clever, it stands out, people talked about it.  Great! By not saying “buy our product”, people were then motivated to buy the product.  However, our CAH video takes this concept to a whole new level.  Not only did they not say “buy our product”… we didn’t even know what the product was or who was selling it.  They pushed the envelope and I truly believe it paid off.

If it’s on-brand, a bold move with a multi-million dollar investment can be the perfect choice. Unfortunately, we can’t monitor their stock price (they’re not publicly traded), but if we avoid the whole “profit” goal of a firm, it did something that ads are supposed to do: grab attention and get people talking.

[1] Click-through rate: the percentage of people visiting a web page who access a hypertext link to a particular advertisement






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