Budweiser ran the most brilliant ad of the 2018 Super Bowl

Budweiser’s self-congratulatory “Stand By You” commercial is the most brilliant ad from the 2018 Super Bowl. The 60-second spot ranked 3rd on USA TODAY’s Ad Meter results. You might have noticed that most Super Bowl commercials make an emotional, rather than informational, appeal, and Budweiser is no exception. Feelings over features.

Emotional appeals are more interesting to a broad consumer base, generate more buzz on social media and morning talk shows, and help sell products in categories with little differentiation: soft drinks, beer, snacks, internet services, insurance, consumer goods (product categories that make up the bulk of Super Bowl ads). Budweiser, of course, belongs here and should expect significantly more profit with successful emotion-based campaigns relative to rational or mixed campaigns. Nobody wants to hear about Budweiser’s hops.

Social causes and philanthropy are trending hot in advertising. Budweiser was lauded for its “Stand By You” commercial thanks largely to authenticity, despite a fake news report and dramatic re-creation of events. The ad showed the real Cartersville, Georgia brewery with real employees halting beer production to manufacture and ship safe drinking water for hurricane victims. Budweiser undertook an excellent cause worthy of thanks and attention. In fact, Budweiser has been doing this for a long time all over the world and periodically halts production to have a store of water available. Since 1988, Budweiser has produced close to 80 million cans of water for disaster relief. I made this short “pop-up” video to highlight Budweiser’s cause-related marketing effort.

Cause-related marketing is no slam dunk. Other brands that weren’t as successful had loose and sometimes missing connections to the social causes on display. Dodge Ram’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spot and T-Mobile’s #LittleOnes ad come to mind. Budweiser’s intrinsic connection to the Emergency Water Program leaves no room for the consumer to question authenticity.

Often with emotion-based ad campaigns, brands are engaged in “transformational advertising” to change consumer perceptions about using the product. This probably sounds like a powerful tool and, of course, it is. Consider Anheuser-Busch InBev’s competitive landscape today. The rivalry among craft beers and big brewers is intense. Smaller craft beers send messages of authenticity and community. “Stand By You” enacted a remarkable counter to this advantage of craft brewers in the minds of consumers.

Budweiser now feels far more local than its “Big Beer” image, especially to disaster relief areas it served in Texas, Florida, California, and Puerto Rico. Three of those happen to be gigantic markets. Will our association of Budweiser with local relief be enduring and immediately accessible in memory when we hear the name or take a sip? Time will tell. But this was a strong creative effort well worth the $5-10 million risk.