If ever there was a time to talk about advertising as entertainment, it’s the Super Bowl.
Even before the kick off, before the players take the field and before the first notes of Star Spangled Banner ring out, it is the advertising that underpins the majority of noise about the event. Well, unless you support the Seahawks or the Broncos.
Each year the stats are bandied about in the pre-match build up, 30-second ad spots worth US$4 million, 100 million viewers in the US alone, live broadcasts in more than 180 countries around the world.
Then come a whole lot of research and statistics revealing how many people prefer the ads to the game. This year we heard that 70% of Super Bowl fans seek out the ads before the game, and 78% look forward to the ads in general (loads of stats here). This year among the pre-game chatter was research revealing Canadians prefer the ads to the game, a view which would no doubt be echoed around the world where many find the actual game of American Football to be mystifying.
These days Super Bowl advertising is as much a part of the entertainment as the game and the half time show. This is not about a loo-break, this is part of the event. The advertising activity kicks off weeks in advance with teasers, previews and interactive campaigns. In a sure sign of the increased entertainment value of the advertising Hulu runs a dedicated channel to the Super Bowl ads, the Hulu Ad Zone, which was this year sponsored by Toyota.
It is fair to say the Super Bowl has become one of the most anticipated events in the global advertising industry calendar.
However, it’s important to note that the Super Bowl is not a showcase of the best advertising, this is not about great strategic thinking, groundbreaking creativity or even about shifting products: the Super Bowl is about good ol’ fashioned American entertainment.
The strategy is simple: entertain the masses. Make a big ad for the big game. Make ‘em laugh, make ‘em cry, make ‘em hug (Honda took this literally) and make ‘em feel proud to be American.
At the Super Bowl anything goes, and while many in the industry may bemoan the quality of the ads and the treatment of audiences, this is an exercise in entertainment and when the good is good, it’s great (see last year’s post on iconic Super Bowl advertising) and when it’s not… well it’s just a huge waste of money.
Super Bowl advertising is more about turning up, than impacting the bottom line. Brands get a lot of kudos from the association and they join the pre-game chatter and take a place in history.
Obviously actual sales results help, but it seems clear that the results from the ads that run during the game will focus more on brand awareness, recall, the number of eyeballs, free media, PR and social chatter rather than sales and the impact on the bottom line.
Last year’s post looked back at the overall branded entertainment spectacle of the Super Bowl while this year Branded Arts Review has decided to showcase the ads as art and entertainment, and with that lens applied the best work quickly rises to the surface.
But first a quick recap of how well the brands ticked the strategic boxes.
Big budgets, big celebrities and big hype. These are the ads that get people talking they are the blockbusters of the Super Bowl ad world and like the big budget summer release these ads even have trailers designed to drum up excitement. This year we were teased with Arnie for Bud Light, Carmen Electra for VW and Sarah McLachlan for Audi to name only a few.
The big ads were dominated by the car brands: Kia, rolled out the Matrix inspired ‘The Truth’ complete with Laurence Fishburn, Jaguar turned to British villans including Ben Kingsley, Tim Hiddleston and Mark Strong for “Rendezvous”, while Toyota enlisted Terry Crews and The Muppets to promote its Highlander vehicle and Ford had Rob Riggle and James Franco to deliver double the entertainment with its spot.
VW ‘Wings’ is a wonderful ad, irreverant, humorous and keeping with the brand’s light fluffy fun Super Bowl ads. Audi ‘Doberhuahua’ was a bizarre spot guareenteed to get the laughter and become a viral hit, although I didn’t love this one. Heinz Ketchup was cute and would definitely hit the family target, Chobani’s 'Ransacked' was a great entertainer, while Go Daddy steered clear of its gross-out spot from last year, going for laughs with its BodyBuilder spot.
Budweiser went straight for the jugular with their ‘Hero’s Welcome’ ad, this tear jerker rightly asserts that every soldier deserves a hero’s welcome. While a beautiful sentiment it left me slightly hollow as I couldn’t help but wonder if Budweiser were going to replicate that experience for all returning servicemen, it is only fair, or better still put their money towards establishing a program.
Chevrolet were also on a mission to collect tears. ‘Life’ was quiet, poignant and emotional, it is the opposite of everything you would expect in a Super Bowl ad. Does that make it stand out? Does it work? The ad is promoting World Cancer Day and given the huge and indiscriminate nature of cancer, it’s likely to strike a cord with many. However, I’m just not sure that message gets through when it’s delivered at the Super Bowl.
Microsoft joined the party with “Empowering”, a great ad which celebrated the empowering role of technology in our lives. It achieves heartwarming nicely, but there is restraint, either deliberately or due to the computerised messaging this falls short of being the tear jerker that I think they might have been hoping for.
In a major surprise move from the kings of “lads ads” Axe's ad for new deodorant Peace carried the powerful message “Make Love Not War”. Falling squarely into the heartwarming category and a startling surprise from the brand, this ad is so far away from the usual Axe territory but it’s well done and leaves you with the warm fuzzies.
This formula has been tried and tested by Doritos with its ongoing “Crash the SuperBowl” platform, which continues to pay off for the brand, this year’s winner was ‘Cowboy’ however they also aired finalist 'Time Machine', which was clearly a prefered ad. This year we saw H&M try out the interactive campaign with the David Beckham spot, asking audiences to choose between seeing him covered or uncovered … I wonder what they will vote for, asked no one. Perhaps the most interesting was Bank of America’s tie-up with U2 to preview the band’s new single ‘Invisible’ which was available free to download from iTune for the 24 hours around the Super Bowl and for every download Bank of America donated $1 to charity RED.
This is an interesting new category but one which was in full swing this year as a number of ads played on nostalgia and the good ol’ days to get the audiences attention. Sony’s Crackle promoted its online series ‘Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee’, with a brilliant mini-Seinfeld episode featuring Jerry, George and Newman (you can watch the full video here). Yoghurt brand Oikos gave us the Full House’s triple act with John Stamos, Bob Saget and Dave Coulier in ‘The Spill’, while Radio Shack delivered Alf, Chuckie, Cheers and more when the 80’s called and asked for its shop back in ‘The Phone Call’.
No country lays it on as thickly as America and it’s fitting that Super Bowl ads should celebrate all things great about the land of the free. Coca-Cola kicked a conversation starter with its multi-lingual version of “America, The Beautiful” with ‘It’s Beautiful’ ad which quickly elicited many ugly comments from Americans, Budweiser’s ‘Hero’s Welcome’ also deserves mention in this category although Chrysler’s ad featuring Bob Dylan was probably the biggest pride peddler with its commercial, beginning with the line “There’s nothing more American than America”. See more on this below.
Soda Stream created a viral masterpiece by getting its Super Bowl ad banned, the ad, which starred Scarlett Johansson, ever so slightly dissed Coke and Pepsi, the network refused to run it and it got more attention that it ever would if it had run. Newcastle Brown Ale and its “Mega Huge Football ad’ was probably the strongest ambush ad. The campaign itself, while hilariously spoofing the entire Super Bowl advertising process was good, but it was the video starring Anna Kendrick that went viral and has been a major hit.
Use of a cute fluffy animal is always going to help any ad become a winner, and this heartwarmer from Budweiser is no exception. Following last year’s ‘Brotherhood’ was always going to be tough, however Budweiser and its agency Anomoly have stuck to the formula bringing back the Cyldesdales and the farmer, who is a masterpiece in casting. Then add another tale of friendship and bonding an emotive soundtrack “Let Her Go” by Passenger and Budweiser have nailed it once again. This ad was crowned the favourite at the Hulu AdZone, as voted by thousands of Super Bowl viewers. It was also the pick of the bunch on the Scamp blog, which judged it best craft ad of the Super Bowl.
I’m not that familiar with American football but I know a touchdown when I see one. This ad might as well come with an end note reading “BOOM”. This latest ad packs a punch and ticks almost all the requirements for a Super Bowl ad. Chysler has made a thing of doing big gutsy Super Bowl ads and this year’s effort lives up to the predessors. It’s got the celebrity factor with Mr Bob Dylan and it is dripping in American pride. That’s exactly what Chrysler’s Super Bowl ads are all about: America. And what’s more American than a car, made in America, by Americans? There’s a point where these ads will start to resemble parodies but I think they are managing to keep the right side of the thin line between awesome and awful. It might not pack the gritty punch of Clint Eastwood’s ‘Half Time America’ but what it lacks in the emotional crescendo of Eminem’s 'Imported from Detroit', it makes up for in heart, soul and a man who is synonymous with America. This spot nails American Pride.
This is beautiful, this is art. Beautifully shot and evoking, intriguing and impressive. It screams quality, class and style. 'Strike' is an epic film, cinematic, evoking and just beautiful.I like a brand that is confident enough to let the ad weave away for 1 minute and 10 seconds before it shows you the product - which it then features for just ten thrilling, heart-racing seconds. In this case the product is the new US$70,000 Maserati Ghibli, the luxury car brand’s first ever mid-sized four door luxury vehicle. While Kia rolled out The Matrix’s Morpheus miming Nessan Dorma to try and sell luxury, Maserati created a masterpiece oozing with class, style and quality. The ad sells the American dream, work hard and buy a status symbol car. This is an ad and a car for modern America, where the BMW or the Mercedes are no longer the status symbol cars, you want to buy a Maserati. This is amazing work from Wieden + Kennedy Portland. As one blogger put it “Jaguar just made a huge deal about buying their first car commercial [at the Super Bowl]. Maserati told no one and just dropped the mic on them.” I think it’s fair to say that Maserati won the Super Bowl.
Oh, and the Seahawks won the game... I think?