Even if you’re not a fan of American football—or football in general—we’re betting dollars to doughnuts that you’ve heard of the Super Bowl. You might have heard about it while listening to the radio in peak hour traffic, or in an obscure article you were scrolling through online.
The Super Bowl is the most-watched live telecast in America almost every year, as football fanatics—and advertisers—flock to stadiums and sit in front of screens with feverish enthusiasm. The figures and impact of the sport have only grown stronger over time.
In 2018, for instance, the Super Bowl was the most-watched live telecast of the year, attracting 104.1 million viewers (a figure that grew to 115.1 million by 2023). An average 30-second advertisement sold for an astounding $5.24 million—jumping to a $7 million price tag by 2023.
The point is, Super Bowl advertising presents a lucrative opportunity for the world’s biggest brands to showcase their products in some of the most creative—and viral—advertising concepts ever conceived. In 2018, “Alexa Loses Her Voice” was one of the most talked-about spots that pushed the envelope.
How did Alexa lose her voice?
To come up with what is arguably the most viral Super Bowl advertising campaign of the year, Amazon kept it simple (marketers, take note!)—they wanted more people to use their smart products.
Their master plan? Showcase Alexa’s capabilities by removing them—completely! After all, what better way to get people to focus on something they take for granted every single day than by abruptly taking it away?
But they didn’t just reserve their big ideas for a one-time 90-second Super Bowl ad. Amazon built it up in the days leading up to the big game by getting their virtual assistant to cough and ‘lose her voice’.
Alexa finally loses her voice
The Super Bowl ad opens with a woman brushing her teeth and asking Alexa for a weather update. Being the trusty virtual assistant, Alexa starts reporting the weather but ends up coughing and drying up.
Next, the scene cuts to a shaken Jeff Bezos watching a ‘Breaking News’ segment reporting that Alexa has lost her voice. He turns to his team only to have them reassure him that they’ve got stand-ins ready to take control.
The stand-ins? A star-studded who’s who of Hollywood and popular media, including Gordon Ramsay engaging in one of his trademark verbal assaults on a man asking how to make grilled cheese, Rebel Wilson enjoying a bubble bath while trying to help a guy set the mood for a dinner party, Cardi B trying to figure out why anyone would want to go to Mars in reply to a girl asking how far the planet is, and a nod to the infamous Hannibal Lector by Oscar Winner Anthony Hopkins in the presence of a majestic peacock.
Here’s the 90-second Super Bowl advertising marvel for a quick peek (and maybe even a chuckle).
The end goal?
Aside from getting more people to buy their smart products, Amazon believes that for people to stay loyal to a brand, you have to give them something irreplaceable. All the featured A-list celebrities put their best foot forward (or at least tried to), but couldn’t replace Alexa and that’s what they wanted to prove—and did.
Lessons for everyday marketers—or aspiring Super Bowl advertising superstars
If you’ve seen the “Alexa Loses Her Voice” Super Bowl ad then there are a few things that even the world’s largest online global retailer still sticks to. It’s a good reminder that no matter how successful or innovative a company becomes, the basics still matter.
Laughter is the best medicine: Whether it’s Gordon Ramsay screaming at a guy who just wants to make a sandwich or Rebel Wilson trying to help someone set the mood while relaxing in a bubble bath, it’s instantly funny. 90% of us are more likely to remember ad campaigns that are funny but only 20% of businesses rely on humour. Somehow, that doesn’t seem quite right—right?
A lot of brands want to convey their serious side thinking that their consumers won’t take them seriously or it reduces their credibility when in reality a little bit of humour helps consumers relate to you and remember you in a sea of ads that are using the same language and tone.
Speak to everyone: From getting a simple weather report to playing a song, calling a friend, or learning something new, Alexa proves that it isn’t a one-trick virtual assistant and is a smart product that can be used by anyone for just about anything.
It isn’t about speaking to a single demographic or your top 3 demographics. It’s about talking to everyone. Make sure that your consumers know that you’ve got something to offer everyone. Plus, make sure your campaigns don’t leave out or alienate any particular demographic. If you’ve got a product that can be useful for anyone then put it front and centre.
Forget the hard sell: As marketers or even salespeople, a lot of us go for broke and turn into stalkers who lurk behind smart screens waiting for any expression of interest to start pounding in the sales pitches. 50%-90% of all purchasing decisions are made before a sales rep even comes into the picture.
Talk about your product/service. Show people what they’re missing. Give them a taste of what life would be like if you didn’t exist. Talk about their pain points. If you can nail all this without shoving your brand in your consumer’s face, then you’re well on your way to advertising superstardom.
Super Bowl advertising—the basics done exceptionally well
2018 was a long time ago but we’d bet good money that just about any company out there today would grab at the opportunity if they could replicate the originality, creativity, and boldness to try something new the same way that Amazon did back then.
For them, it was the Super Bowl, but not everyone has a spare $5 million lying around for a 90-second ad. But that doesn’t mean you should abandon all hope.
The point isn’t the money they spent or where the ad was shown because there are a lot of Super Bowl ads that pay millions for the same amount of seconds of air time and end up bombing on a national stage. It’s about picking the right marketing strategy—whether it’s adding some pzazz to your email marketing campaigns or turning your social media posts on their heads—and putting something out there that’s memorable, different, engaging, and original.
If you can find the right balance and create campaigns that invoke an almost visceral emotional response then you may be on your way to bringing the next big idea to life.