With Super Bowl Sunday comes not only the NFL championship game, but one of the biggest nights in advertising all year. Well-known are the exurbanite price tags for just 30-seconds of airtime during the big game and the lofty concepts that have ads feel more like short films. With the game complete (Congratulations to the Kansas City Chiefs) it is now time to assess which commercials left lasting impressions and which ones left something to be desired.
From the death (and rebirth) of a famous mascot to the breaking of fourth walls, this year offered no less big ideas than other years. But what kind of attention are these efforts receiving? Is there no such thing as bad press? What emotions can corporate extolling actually evoke?
As is more and more common, some commercials attempted to arouse nostalgia by recreating classic set pieces. Bryan Cranston made his way through the Overlook Hotel of The Shining Fame, embodying different characters while enjoying Mountain Dew. Jeep had Bill Murray again living through a looping Groundhog Day, but it was more bearable as ‘every day with a Jeep is different’.
Some brands went for a more meta approach, crossing the lines of advertisement and reality. Planters had announced earlier in the week the passing of Mr. Peanut, their longtime mascot. Social media was quick to deride the move as silly, while still abjectly playing along. The campaign came full circle during Sunday’s game as other brand mascots, like the Kool-Aid Man and Mr. Clean, were gathered for Mr. Peanut’s funeral. But soon a new peanut-being emerged, a baby peanut with the familiar, middle-aged cadence of its predecessor. Did Planter’s need a new, baby-aged mascot, or was this just shameless latching on to trends like Baby Yoda and Baby Groot?
Charlie Day, from Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia, became very concerned with his laundry and its worrisome schedule. So much so that he began crashing through to other commercials still concerned with when his laundry should be done. Snickers, taking the ‘you’re not yourself when you’re hungry’ theme to the extreme, decided to feed the world, literally the Earth, a Snickers. The spot is evocative of the classic 70s commercial ‘I’d like to buy the world a Coke’ but leans into the satirical humor.
Jason Mamoa, Aquaman himself, is known for his large physique and toned muscles. Thus, his Rocket Mortgage commercial where he slowly sheds his known look for a frailer physique as an analogy for simple mortgage plans gave off an absurd air. About as absurd has the Cheetos spot where MC Hammer helps prevent a Cheeto dust-fingered individual from making a mess by repeating his iconic lyric: ‘can’t touch this’.
Of course, not all of the commercials went for humor, instead looking more to pull on the heart strings. Google showed an elderly man able to remember his late-wife with reminders from his Google Assistant like her favorite movie or flowers. Budweiser provided a small vignette into American lives by showing great deeds of everyday people, an affirmation of our connections as people. The NFL opened the game with a kid running all the way across America, avoiding NFL legends along the way, arriving at the stadium, then actually (live, during the pregame) running onto the field to bring the referee the game ball.
Sometimes brands want to move past a certain public relations nightmare and use the large Super Bowl audience to do so. Verizon caught flak when they throttled the cellular connections of firefighters during the recent California wildfires. Perhaps using firefighters and first responders in a touching TV spot could help them move past that, or it just reminded people of the problem and looks like a half-hearted PR move.
There are so many ways in which we can sell products and the Super Bowl ads exemplify that more than ever. What were your favorite spots? Did any not click for you? Comment on our Facebook post, we want to hear from you!