On Sunday, February 5, chances are you joined the 100 million-plus audience tuning in to watch the Super Bowl. Whether you’re truly a fan of the teams competing for the Lombardi, or you get wrapped up in the social element of it all (nacho smorgasbord, anyone?), you can’t deny that the commercials are as anticipated as the game itself.
With a price tag of $4 million for a 30-second commercial and $8 million for a 60-second spot to air during The Big Game, brands are expected to bring some serious A-game and go all out. It’s not enough to merely market your product or service during these coveted spots, you need to reinforce your brand, be extremely memorable (2016’s “PuppyMonkeyBaby”—what was that?!), and now, more than ever, entertain and create intrigue to build brand loyalty.
So which brand can claim king, resonating with the hundreds of millions glued to the television this past Sunday? Time will tell. In the meantime, here’s each of our picks for Super Bowl advertising gold:
Molly F. McGill, Senior Writer
Executing messaging in a short 30- or 60-second window that hits with as broad an audience as the one watching the Super Bowl is tough. Do you go comedic? Narrative? Epic? Playful? Or, in the case of Anheuser-Busch, do you take something memorable from your past and hope it becomes your future?
Anheuser-Busch nailed it with not only a retro/nostalgia vibe combined with humor (always a big hit with audiences), but what could also become the “Wassup” soundbite takeaway of 2017 in “BUSCHHHH.” Playing off their 1978 campaign introducing the can-crack, startled wildlife and narration from a “mountain-man,” Anheuser-Busch delivered an effective updated version—with legs to expand the campaign in the future.
And there’s this…
I also have to plug 84 Lumber. Totally different approach than the commercial above, but definitely a top pick of mine that deserves mention. Their beautifully filmed narrative of current political issues (spoiler alert: immigration and “The Wall”) is not only as well done as it is brave and commendable, but it’s effective in pulling at heart strings while telling an important message. So effective, in fact, that the two-part commercial’s conclusion—which could only be viewed at the company’s website (smart… drive traffic to your site)—saw such a number in site visits that it crashed after the spot aired. Now, that’s how you become the commercial everyone is talking about around the water cooler the next day. If people didn’t know 84 Lumber before, chances are they do now = nailed it.
Kayla Quesnel, Content Strategist
Ford’s “Go Further” commercial is about a lot more than car sales.
In this commercial, Ford works to reinvent its image to consumers as more-than-just-an-automaker to a true transportation company (ride sharing, bike sharing, autonomous vehicles, etc.). With an uncertain future in the age of driverless cars, I’d say this is a smart move. But the reinvention of Ford’s image alone isn’t why this commercial is one of my top picks. “Go Further” is storytelling at its finest. The opening clips are all so relatable: stuck in traffic, struggling to get a zipper up, and to my surprise my significant other was able to relate to the stuck-in-a-chain-link-fence woe (I didn’t ask why or how). The commercial made me smile, even laugh. It was inspirational. I mean, there are few feelings better than when you finally get that back zipper up all by yourself, am I right?!
AND because I love Stranger Things, I was extremely excited for the season 2 trailer. The only thing I’m not happy about is that I have to wait until Halloween to binge-watch this addictive drama.
Aimee Goodwin, Principal + Creative Director
As a woman and mother, Audi’s “Daughter” about gender equality speaks to me the most.
This spot is among other 2017 Super Bowl commercials in which brands choose to sway from straight marketing to take a stand in addressing social/political issues, such as immigration, gender equality, and diversity. (Perhaps that’s the bigger story here.) A big shout out to Airbnb, Coca-Cola, Anheuser-Busch, Google, 84 Lumber, and even Hamilton’s Schuyler Sisters who sang “America the Beautiful” with the addition of “sisterhood.”
Sarah Morgan Karp, Senior Designer
While my love of nachos makes me a fan of the Super Bowl no matter who’s playing, fun with a hydraulic wood-splitter and six cords of free firewood kept me from watching the game. (Ouch, I hurt.) Instead, I’ve been taking in this year’s surprise outcome and commercial reactions via trending hashtags. So, excuse me while I crack open a frothy Budweiser, pursue molding details on 84 Lumber, and pick out the trim color of my dream Audi. These companies bravely put their advertising dollars where their values are and, in turn, earned brand loyalty. #VoteWithYourWallet
Jennie Malloy, Principal + Director of Story
I typically seek out funny Super Bowl ads. As an agency gal, I respect others who get humor right. Not an easy thing to do in 30 to 60 seconds (or ever, for that matter). Happily, “Avocados from Mexico” and “Snickers Live” made me smile.
But this year, I was struck by the emotional tone of the commercials overall. Sound bites and catch phrases were replaced with more thoughtful stories. There was more aspiration and less ridiculousness; more of the profound, less of the absurd.
Along those lines, the Expedia “Travel” ad caught my attention. Admittedly, I was moved. I happen to agree that travel changes you profoundly, opening you up to people, places, experiences—opening you up to difference. And, while I love the art direction and overall message of the Expedia ad, after visiting their website post-Super Bowl and finding it devoid of any of the “travel changes the world” messaging and claimed values, I feel taken advantage of. It’s as if the company exploited a particularly emotional and polarizing time in our country’s (and world’s) history in order to make a buck. That leaves a bad taste in mouth. Maybe I should just stick to the laughs. Bring on the avocados and chocolate.
Change, reinvention, authentic storytelling, aspiration. Cool themes. Brands were committed to letting consumers know where they stand on our country’s current policies and political direction. It was a year for touting brand values, not pushing sweet products. Promoting a company’s core values can be good, as long as it’s done in an authentic—not manipulative—way, and are legitimately carried out through the company’s brand promise. Now, we sit back and see who upholds their messaging, and how consumers will respond.