Some Super Bowl ads mean more than others
The Short Version
We all know that Super Bowl ads are special. They’d better be. At $5 million a pop for a 30-second ad, those commercials have to deliver a significant return on investment or they company won’t be back next year. A lot of advertisers find that value not by directly emphasizing their product, but by making a statement. This year, eight such ads ran during the big game. They came from It’s A 10 haircare products, AirBnB, Donate Life, FurKids, Audi, 84 Lumber, Budweiser, and Land O’Lakes.
Why Message Ads Work
Super Bowl advertising is so important that some brands have separate creative teams just for that one spot. The production takes thousands of hours over several months. They are tested on focus groups, modified, and then tested again. Everything has to be as close to perfect as possible. Even then, there are no guarantees. Not every ad works.
One of the biggest challenges to creating a Super Bowl ad is making it stand out. Viewers are not always paying attention. By half-time, interest is starting to wane and a fair portion of viewers are intoxicated. If the game’s not close, the second half can be a dead zone (obviously not the case with this year’s game). Getting viewers to stop and pay attention is challenging. A message ad works by interrupting the flow and getting viewers to think for a few seconds.
A significant difference this year, however, was the sensitivity viewers had to ads with a message. Regional ad spots, which don’t factor in national comparisons, tended to be more political than others and every region had them. That put viewers on edge so that their reactions tended to be more extreme whether viewers were for or against the message.
However, any controversy associated with an ad only helps brand recognition. That is why brands are willing to step into that dangerous territory of making a statement. Sometimes stirring the pot is a good thing. Several companies have had success with such ads, so there’s a reasonable precedent for doing something that is not product-centric.
The Video, Please
Going through this year’s ads, we found eight that stand out because of the message they share. Some are funny. Some are serious. All manage to make a point.
It’s A 10
When the ad says we’re in for “four years of awful hair,” we know to whom they’re referring. The ad then goes on to celebrate people whose hair style are … unique.
The company that uses people’s homes as hotel rooms has raised a lot of ire in places where regular hotels worry about losing business and neighbors worry about “undesirables” coming to visit. AirBNB takes on the controversy of the president’s travel ban head on, though, with an ad directed toward a specific audience.
I have to admit, when I first saw this ad I really didn’t understand where they were going until the last 15 seconds. This one might have been more effective in a 30-second format. Still, the whole concept that even an asshole can do something good offers everyone a chance for some level of redemption.
People have a soft spot for animals, especially kittens. Yet, animals shelters across the nation are still overwhelmed with the number of cats and kittens available for adoption. FurKids is a chain of animal shelters and, as such, have some who think they charge too much and question how their animals are treated. I can’t speak to those allegations. However, as an ad that makes a point about the need to adopt these animals, they’re spot on. Again, though, it could have been just as effective in a shorter version.
Wage equality is a significant issue and Audi waded into that topic head-on with an ad titled “Daughter.” While the ad features a father talking about how to explain wage inequality to his daughter, the ad is targeting the politically active group of feminist involved in the issue. The ad is extremely well done and drives its point home with clarity.
You wouldn’t necessarily think that a lumber company would be into political controversy unless it was maybe about deforestation or some other environmental cause. 84 Lumber took on the entire immigration debate, though, with a poignant and moving ad that has anti-immigrant groups all kinds of upset. Note: this ad is a revision of the first run that actually showed a wall. The NFL nixed that one as being too political. Go figure. So, what we’re showing you here is the full short film, including the part with the wall.
The self-proclaimed “King of Beers” has produced some memorable Super Bowl ads over the years, especially those involving their trademarked Clydesdales. They didn’t go that direction this year, though. Instead, they went with the presumptive story of the beer’s founder, a German immigrant who suffered the stigma of being an immigrant at another time in our nation’s history when immigrants weren’t cool. The ad was produced and already in the can long before the current immigration issue even came up, but its poignancy can’t be missed. So much so that when the full ad was released last week, the hashtag #BoycottBudweiser came up. There is no indication that the hashtag had any effect on sales, but the commercial certainly has.
Again, a dairy company doesn’t seem like it would be the likely source for a commercial as serious as “The Farmer.” We tend to expect something softer—with cows. However, Land O’Lakes is actually a farmer-owned co-op, so the ability of smaller, independent farmers to survive in an atmosphere where corporations seem about to consume the entire industry is a bit of a big deal. They don’t even mention a specific product, just the brand. Chances are, though, you’ll remember this ad the next time you’re wandering down the dairy aisle at your local grocery. Here’s the full version of the ad. The poem, by the way, is by Amelia E. Barr.
As for the rest …
Sure, there were plenty of ads that were loud and entertaining. A number of lists are ranking the Wix ad with Jason Statham and Gal Gadot as the best of the lot, and it certainly is an exciting 79 seconds. There were a couple of nostalgia pieces as well, with Bud Light bringing back the ghost of Spuds McKenzie and Xerox updating it’s “Miracle” spot with Brother Dominic from 40 years ago. There were plenty of entertaining ads to be had.
Still, these are the eight that carry the most weight and are likely to make the most difference. Who cares what size Big Mac® you get? Sometimes, how we respond to humanity matters more.