3 Feb 2015

Branded Entertainment Extravaganza: Super Bowl 2015

What does Apple’s iconic ‘1984’, Reebok’s ‘Terry Tate: Office Linebacker, VW’s ‘The Force’, Snickers ‘Betty White’ and Old Spice’s ‘The Man Your Man Could Smell Like’ all have in common?

They were all Super Bowl ads. That fact alone goes some way to explaining why here at Branded Arts Review, we love the Super Bowl.

Let’s be clear though, it’s has nothing to do with the football (which we’re not sure many people outside the USA actually understand) and everything to do with the Branded Entertainment extravaganza that The Super Bowl has become.

The event delivers one of the largest US television audiences, this year’s Super Bowl was predicted to deliver 113 million people, making it the largest audience in the history of US Television. 

Clearly that’s a lot of eyeballs to get your brand in front of. It’s no surprise that the Super Bowl has become the biggest event in the US calendar but it’s popularity is expanding with the game now screened in 180 countries around the world.

Arguably this popularity has been driven by the entertainment. Forget the game. Between the half-time show, the advertising spectacle and the pre-game build up of teaser ads, The Super Bowl is one of the most anticipated events in the global calendar.

This year the price tag on a 30-second advertising spot hit an eye-watering record US $4.5 million. At that cost it is no surprise that so many brands turn to online seeding and PR as well as creating teasers and previews to drive and measure engagement around their ads.

No matter how much noise an ad creates though, getting ROI on a Super Bowl spot must be a major challenge. However that is part of the beauty of Super Bowl advertising – in many ways it’s more about turning up than anything else. Brands benefit from a huge amount of kudos from the association and the massive awareness they buy with a (hopefully) memorable ad.

Here is the kicker though. While we revel in the entertainment factor of the event, it is important to note that the Super Bowl is not a showcase celebration of the world’s best advertising. It is, in fact, far from it. 

While the good can be great, the majority isn’t. A Super Bowl Ad is all about good ol’ fashioned entertainment, American style: big, loud and showy.

The Super Bowl ad strategy is simple: Entertain the masses on game day. Make ‘em laugh, make ‘em cry and make ‘em feel proud to be American. You can forget the groundbreaking creative and strategic thinking, just make a big ad for the big game.

This is the third time Branded Arts Review has covered the Super Bowl – you can check out previous posts here and here.  Here’s how Super Bowl XLIX went down. 


Super Bowl ads are made to be blockbusters. With Big Budgets, Big Celebrities and Big Hype. The attitude is to go big or go home, and this year's collection did not disappoint.

Brands created a number of epic productions: Turbo Tax recreated the Boston Tea Party for its 'Big Game Commercial' to promote its free tax lodgements, Game of War enlisted Kate Upton for the epic 'Who Am I' adventure to flog its game to men and Bud Light created a life size game with 'Real Life PacMan'.

Mercedes Benz revealed an animated twist on the Tortoise & The Hare ‘Fable’ and Mophie pulled out all the stops with its epic, apocalyptic ad All Powerless’.

There were, of course, maximum celebrities: Kia called on Pierce Brosnan, SquareSpace turned to Jeff Bridges, while T-Mobile tapped up Kim Kardashian in one of three ads it aired during the game. Esurance enlisted both Lindsay Lohan and Bryan Cranston, who channeled his notorious Walter White character from Breaking Bad.

Among along list of celebs: there was William Shatner for Priceline Negiotiator , Salt ‘N Pepa for Geico, Arnie was back this time in a trailer for yet another Terminator film,  Matt Damon and Mindy Kaling for Nationwide, while Liam Neeson owned the day with his appearance as AngryNeeson52 for the Clash of Clans game.


Humour when done well can be a huge hit with Super Bowl viewers, sadly this category either fires or tanks.

T-Mobile turned to edgy comedians to help push its data stash message enlisting Sarah Silverman and Chelsea Handler for a spot, but given these women thrive on polarising and offensive material this ad failed to fire. However, T-Mobile's 'Vulture' spot proved more popular with audiences.

Eat 24 called on Snoop and Gilbert Gottfried to create a stoners delight ad with 'Hangry', Grub Hub featured flying burritos in 'Because Burrito', Doritos 'Crash the Super Bowl' platform continued to deliver, scoring a hit with ‘The Middle Seat’ but it dropped the ball with the 'Pigs Flying' spot. 

Skittles delivered a quirky on-brand spot with 'Settle It', Avocados from Mexico’s ‘First Draft Ever’ ad was brilliant, albeit crazy loco, and Newcastle Brown Ale’s ‘Band of Brands’ campaign to crash the superbowl delivered a spot that poked fun at the entire advertising spectacle – again.

There were football gags from Pizza Hut and WIX.com, while Fiat's 'Blue Pill' was a crowd pleaser and Mindy Kaling’s 'Invisible' spot for Nationwide was also a hit. Super Bowl favourite Go Daddy, known for creating risky ads pulled its ad last minute after internet audiences responded negatively to its parody of Budweiser’s puppy ads.


There is a very fine line between playing our heartstrings and overplucking and many brands struggled with this category at the 2015 Super Bowl.

Among the many other brands hoping to win over audiences: McDonalds nailed heartwarming with its ‘Pay With Lovin’ spot, while Coca-Cola missed the mark with ‘Make It Happy’.

Jeep played the patriotic card with its ‘Beautiful Lands’ spot, Microsoft returned with it’s ‘Empowering’ message with two spots that went straight for the heartstrings: 'Estella's Brilliant Bus' and 'Braydon O'Neill' . Michael Hill created a heartwarming tribute to love with this 30-second 'What Would You Do For Love?"spot and an online film. Nationwide’s ‘Make Safe Happen', took the make em cry mantra a little too far, earning the title of the biggest downer of Super Bowl.


2014 brought us the new dad-vertising trend of ads made to target men. Super Bowl 2015 gave us three ads designed to appeal to dads, as well as tug the heartstrings of their families. Dove Men + Care lead the pack with the tear-jerking 'Real Strength' which showed the brand has learned a thing or two about how to play our emotions. Toyota unleashed it's own effort ‘My Bold Dad’, and Nissan turned to a cover of Cat Stevens 'Cats In the Cradle' for its ad ‘With Dad’.


Super Bowl ads featuring powerful voiceovers have a positive history of performing well with audiences. Chrysler’s work with Clint Eastwood and Bob Dylan were strong as was last year’s standout ‘Farmer’ ad for Dodge. 2015 saw Carnival’s ‘Come Back To The Sea’ deliver a strong showing with this reflective ad featuring the words of John F Kennedy, while Toyota turned to the master of speeches Muhammed Ali for its ‘How Great I Am’ spot. 


This is a new category for The Super Bowl and one that a couple of brave brands embraced with gusto. P&G brand Always' surprised many with the move to air its  'Like A Girl' platform at the Super Bowl. Many observers questioned the environment for the message, which is clearly exactly why it was right to screen it there. This platform is a Branded Arts Review favourite (see review) which delivers an empowering message to young girls, screening to such a widespread audience at The Super Bowl is a huge sign of the intent and support that P&G is putting behind the campaign. Interestingly reports show the ad received the highest online engagement of any brand or ad during the Super Bowl. 

BMW teamed up with Katie Couric and Bryant Gumbel to create a great ad 'Newfangled Idea' designed to leave audiences thinking about electric cars. The smart spot features a 1994 clip of the two breakfast television hosts trying to understand the internet before jumping to the modern day where we find the two pondering the electric car. This ad is a really nice piece of work that positions the car well and shows some smart strategic thinking and great creative execution. 

  • 5. Chevy 'Black Out'

Oh how we laughed. Unless we didn't. Chevy played a fun little trick on Super Bowl viewers with its fake TV black-out ad. The gag unsurprisingly fooled many, striking fear into the hearts of many football fans. The ad instantly polarized audiences spilt between between those who enjoyed the rouse and those who hated it. The ad is the latest in an ongoing campaign by Chevy to promote its trucks and there is a superb online film that really drives the Chevy message home. This ad captured the cheekiness of the campaign well and linked back to the infamous black out of Super Bowl 2013. A fun entertaining ad made to engage with audiences. 

  • 4. No More '911 Call' 

No More is an advocacy group against Domestic Violence. That alone makes it an unlikely candidate for a Super Bowl ad, nothign about this ad is fun or light but if you want to take a very important message to a mass audience, well it speaks for itself. Sobering, intense, quiet and not at all what you expect from a Super Bowl ad. For this reason it stood out, but it was the delicate treatment which really made this spot memorable. This is the sort of ad which not only stays with you, but returns again and again for contemplation. This spot was created by Grey Advertising and uses real audio from a 911 call. The ad is the culmination of a seven month long campaign by No More and the NFL to raise awareness of Domestic Violence. This ad is not a piece of fun entertainment but it is an important message and one the NFL needs to push. A very worthy inclusion.  

  • 3. Budweiser 'Lost Dog'

Budweiser has become the king of heartwarming ads at the Super Bowl and its spots featuring horses and puppies have become the audience favourites. This year's effort did not disappoint the masses. Budweiser stuck firmly to its winning formula with a heart-melting film about the world’s most adorable puppy and his best bud the Clydesdale horse. Throw in an emotive cover of a popular song and that's your magic Bud Super Bowl formula. This year's ad went for The Proclaimers '100 Miles' which was an interesting choice, although it fit the story. This ad may not have hit the heights of previous spots but the shot of the puppy in the box in the rain is guaranteed to melt even the toughest of hearts. A lovely spot which was bound to win over the masses.

  • 2. Snickers 'The Brady Bunch'

We are all familiar with Snickers "You're not you when you are hungry" format, kicking off originally with the Betty White execution at the Super Bowl, this execution had big shoes to fill. However this is a recurring challenge for Snickers, which needs to lift the bar with every new ad. Creating something that is both worthy of the ad before it and also better than it, is no mean feat. This Brady Bunch addition though has nailed it. All the ingredients combine perfectly to create that extra special something that elevates this to the top of the pile. Nostalgia, humour and the surprise factor of Steve Buscemi. The editing is brilliant, the script works well, it is entertaining and humourous. A superb execution, perfect for the Super Bowl.  

  • 1. Dodge ‘Wisdom’

Superb, smart and unexpected. This Dodge ad balances attitude and wisdom in equal measure. It roars with attitude and grit that you expect from a car ad but it also delivers plenty for your mind and soul to ponder with these words of wisdom from a selection of people aged 98 and over. It is charming, wise, and packed full of attitude, like many of the people in the ad. I love it. Perhaps I’m sentimental as my 99 year old grandmother just passed away however this ad is brimming with respect and reverance, both of which are rare in advertising. We don't see a lot of older people in ads, let alone treated with such respect and humanity. This is a wonderful ad full of sage advice and well wisdom. A strong idea and a really well made ad. Great work from Dodge. 

Oh yeah, The Patriots won and Katy Perry smashed the Pepsi Halftime show but it was Missy Elliot who stole the show. 



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