On a night dedicated to music, visuals—including emoji—grabbed a share of the spotlight.
The 2019 Grammys was a star-studded event with big wins for Kasey Musgraves and Childish Gambino, as well as a surprise appearance by Michelle Obama.
However, many fans say the big winners were advertisers. Brands like Google, Apple, Lincoln, Intuit, Oreos and more attached their names to the awards show despite flagging ratings.
The ratings for the Grammy Awards slid to a nine-year-low last year—but that has not stopped a slew of big-name marketers from buying ad time in this year’s edition, which airs Sunday on CBS. Lincoln, Apple, Oreo, Pepsi and Intuit are among the brands running commercials. Last year, an average of 19.8 million people tuned in, down 24 percent from 26.1 million the year prior, according to Nielsen.
The 2018 audience still outnumbers the top-viewed scripted series of this year—CBS’s “The Big Bang Theory,” which through the first 14 episodes of its final season is averaging 12.8 million viewers, per Nielsen. Last year, CBS fetched about $1.2 million for 30 seconds of Grammys airtime, taking in a total of $96 million, up from $90 million the year before, according to Kantar Media. By comparison, Super Bowl ads lure roughly $5.3 million for 30 seconds on average.
Yet many on Twitter preferred this year’s Grammy Awards offerings to the Super Bowl’s spots.
— Nik Rivers (@thenikrivers) February 11, 2019
So, it could just be me, but aren't these commercials for the #Grammys about a million times better/cooler than the 2019 Super Bowl?
— Deborah 🌲🌿🌲 (@stormtrees) February 11, 2019
I’m sorry but why have the commercials they’re playing during the Grammys been better than commercial they played during the super bowl? 😂🤔 #GRAMMYs
— kayla bendell (@kaylabendell) February 11, 2019
— ShervyseSmiles (@shervysesmiles) February 11, 2019
These commercials… Aladdin!! Flamin hot Doritos! What a time to be alive! #grammys
— Nivea M.G 💙 (@NiveaGMSN) February 11, 2019
Many cited the power of using music celebrities, some of whom opted not to attend the awards show itself.
So did we just get an Ariana Grande performance anyway with that Apple commercial???
— Alex Holley (@AlexHolleyFOX29) February 11, 2019
— 👁🗨 (@witnemotion) February 11, 2019
All of the commercials during the #GRAMMYs are featuring rappers/singers who ditched the actual show 💀
— gina (@jeanuh_) February 11, 2019
A healthy rivalry between Google and Apple boosted the ads’ entertainment value.
Grande starred in one of several Apple commercials for fancy animated emojis that aired during the Grammys broadcast on CBS, while Childish Gambino appeared in a competing ad for next-level emojis from Google’s Pixel phone. (As someone wrote on Twitter, “am I the only one who was unaware of a great arms race in emoji tech?”)
Grande’s singing, pony-tailed Apple avatar — a “Memoji,” in Apple parlance — belted out “7 Rings,” the song she had reportedly hoped to perform at the Grammys before she pulled out in a disagreement with producers.
Google, meanwhile, touted its Pixel smartphone’s interactive “Playmoji,” and its commercial starred Childish Gambino, a.k.a. Donald Glover, doing a mesmerizing dance-off with his emojified avatar. Playmoji have an AR effect; as Google says, “You can add [Childish Gambino] to your photos or videos by simply pointing your camera and dropping him into the scene.” The ad was fun, with great dance moves (obviously).
What does the success of these ads mean for marketers? For one thing, have fun.
The commercials’ success also highlights star power for reaching many demographics. Whether you’re seeking celebrity endorsements or embarking on an influencer marketing campaign, broad messages are best served with big names and plenty of creativity.
Another key: diversity.
Oreo scored big with artist Wiz Khalifa sharing a moment with his son, and Pepsi’s ad work focused on Cardi B, the Latina rap star who is shattering barriers and racking up awards.
Marketers should take note: To be interesting in 2019 is to be inclusive and target broad demographics.
Kareem Gantt wrote for the site Fansided:
Normally, no one pays attention to the commercials during the Grammys. It’s all about the music on this night. But, we can’t really help but notice that the ads for the Grammys have far surpassed the king of ad season, the Super Bowl.
One of the many complaints from this year’s Super Bowl was that the ads were simply not up-to-par, except for the Pepsi commercial, that one was truly lit. Outside of that, though, the Super Bowl ads were duller than paint drying on the wall.
All seemed lost on the commercial front until we got a reprieve from the one event that we didn’t expect it from. The ads on the Grammys have far surpassed that of the Super Bowl. We got a sneak trailer of the new Disney film Dumbo, and it had us in tears.
We also got a new Cardi B-centric Pepsi ad that, as much as it hurts me to say it, was better than the Super Bowl one. We were treated to a warm Oreo commercial that featured Wiz Khalifa and his son having father-and-son time. Then, we had Lionel Richie singing his 1985 smash hit “Hello” to a clearly confused Chance the Rapper. There was also a Donald Glover-Google ad that previewed a new Childish Gambino ad and an Ariana Grande Apple ad that drew immediate attention the pop star’s absence at the award show.
What did you think of the Grammys and their ad partners?