Crisis tones down Super Bowl ads

Beyonce in American Express ad

TEXT OF STORY

Kai Ryssdal:
With the economy gasping for air, practical is in.
Christmas parties at businesses everywhere are being cancelled.
Hiring freezes abound.
And the Wall Street Journal reports today that some of the country's biggest names are rethinking their Super Bowl Ads.
Spending $3 million on a 30-second spot doesn't quite set the right tone for the times now, does it? Marketplace's Stacey Vanek-Smith reports that now more than ever it's all about image.


Stacey Vanek-Smith:
Back when gas was cheap, houses were expensive and the government wasn't in the banking business, advertising was all about aspiration, like this American Express ad that follows pop star Beyonce from private jet to press conference to her five-star hotel room.

Tape of American Express Ad: Have you seen much of Hamburg yet? Paris? Turndown service? I don't have time to waste. That's why I'm a card member.

But these days, the good life is a bad advertising tactic says Adam Hanft, CEO of marketing firm Hanft Rayboy.

Adam Hanft: That messaging feels so out of context and such a jarring juxtaposition to the times and to the news that I think it does show you how quickly the mood has shifted.

There's a lot more emphasis on living within your means now, says branding consultant Rob Frankel.

Rob Frankel: When things are really good, you see a lot more: isn't it cool to have one of these? And really cool to overpay for it? As things swing back, you start thinking, I can afford to not be quite as cool if I can save a few hundred dollars.

Take Target. Before the fall, it was touting high-end designers at lower-end prices. Now its ads feature a man giving his son a haircut as "the new barber shop" and date-night with a DVD as "the new movie night."

Tape of Target Ad: A new day. New ways to save.

Ad exec Hanft says the Target ads also show another side of recession advertising: Focusing on the family and things money can't buy.

Hanft: Advertising that cuts through the fluff and tries to get at some real values.

Hanft says recessions give companies a chance to connect emotionally with consumers and send a message that we're all in this together. In other words: less Beyonce more bonding.

I'm Stacey Vanek-Smith for Marketplace.

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