With each passing year, the challenge to create memorable Super Bowl advertising becomes increasingly complicated as brands try to navigate their way through social hot topics, political issues, and finding the right celebs to help sell products.
The ads are usually as eagerly-awaited as the big game itself; particularly unusual in the era of on-demand television where most of us tend to skip the advertising – if we can – to get to the shows we’re trying to watch. And if it’s a low-scoring game, as it turned out to be on Sunday, the ads need to work even harder.
I watched so many Super Bowl ads yesterday that I have to sit in a dark room for a bit today. While I’m busy doing that, below are the categories I’ve split some of this year’s ads into. As always, these examples only scratch the surface; but they’ll give you a good idea of the broad themes. I’ve not included film trailers by the way; they’re a given. And I think it’ll take a separate blog to cover some of the ads that outraged various groups of people.
Before we get into the categories, let’s first watch an entertaining game…
Bud Light/GoT – ‘Joust’ Judging by the Twitter reaction, this one gave viewers quite the shock. At first, you’re merrily following the standard ‘Dilly dilly’ malarkey when, suddenly, the Bud Knight faces a new challenger – cue skull crushing and deadly flames.
Doritos – ‘Chance the Rapper x Backstreet Boys’ An ad for nachos featuring BSB. That’s good enough for me. <<Drools over AJ>>
Pringles – ‘Sad device’ Okay, it’s not really a brand mashup but let’s pretend that they’re talking to an Amazon Alexa device.
Stella Artois – ‘Change Up the Usual’ Dude from The Big Lebowski hanging out with SATC’s Carrie Bradshaw. The ad supports Stella’s clean water campaign with Water.org and uses these iconic characters to change up their usual drinks and do good.
Amazon – ‘Not Everything Makes the Cut’ In a follow-up to last year’s ‘Alexa Loses Her Voice’, Amazon gives us a list of Alexa ‘fails’. Though it highlights the fears that many people have about artificial intelligence, including Harrison Ford getting angry at a dog makes it a bit of a comic highlight.
Bubly – ‘Can I have a Bublé?’ One from the PepsiCo family. A sparkling water brand featuring Canada’s Mickey Bubbles (or Michael Bublé as the rest of the world knows him) convinced that the drink is named after him.
Pepsi – ‘More Than OK’ Quite the bold move mentioning the Coke brand in the opening seconds (and reminding people that many prefer it to Pepsi). But there are only so many times a brand can hear the question ‘is Pepsi OK?’ and not answer it unashamedly – which is why Pepsi also covered Atlanta (Super Bowl host city and home of Coca-Cola) in blue with outdoor ads.
Hulu/The Handmaid’s Tale – ‘Wake Up America’ What starts out as being very similar to Ronald Reagan’s 1984 campaign ad quickly develops into a dark promo for the upcoming third series of The Handmaid’s Tale. Yikes.
Washington Post – ‘Democracy Dies in Darkness’ No doubt of mixed reactions during this era of ‘fake news’. But Tom Hanks is the voice of WP’s first ever Super Bowl spot which honours murdered and missing journalists, while highlighting the importance of fact-gathering and the risks the profession involves.
Coca-Cola – #TogetherIsBeautiful With Atlanta being the home of Coke (and Pepsi being plastered all over the place during Super Bowl) it seems odd that Coca-Cola chose this year to scale back the advertising. Rather than run ads during the game itself, Coke ran its commercial just before kick-off.
Google Translate – ‘100 Billion Words’ Captivating and definitely on brand. It’s easy to view an ad like this through cynical eyes but I’ve chosen to remain hopeful for humanity.
Microsoft – ‘We All Win’ An uplifting ad showing off accessible game controllers for passionate young gamers. Truly a great example of how technology can help those who need it. (No, YOU’RE crying!)
AND FINALLY (It’s not an ad but still…)
Have you ever wondered what happens inside the control room during the Super Bowl halftime show? Well wonder no more. I watched a bit of Coldplay’s 2016 performance and had a mini heart attack trying to keep up. Hats off to all the hard-working people behind the camera; especially those in live TV.
*Read our previous Super Bowl blogs:
Super Bowl 2018
Super Bowl 2017