Big Game – Big Brands: Did this year’s Super Bowl ads live up to the hype?

Monday, February 6, 2017

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With nearly 120 million viewers, 64 million fans talking about it on Facebook alone, and $5 million for a half minute of airtime, the Super Bowl remains an enduring real-time event, with brands clamoring to get a piece of the action. As you get back into another week of work, we offer some thoughts on who won the game that played out in 30-second increments off the field.

Dave Townsend, Intrinzic President

This year, the game and the halftime show actually outshined the ads and it ended up being a memorable night of TV. Although it was fun to watch, there was a lot of seriousness going around. Seems like many advertisers decided to use this expensive time slot to take a stand on a variety of issues. Regardless of where you stand, there were a lot of heavy topics to digest – from Audi, to 84 Lumber, to Kia, Airbnb, Coke, Anheuser-Busch and even the NFL itself. This seems like a significant shift from the humor that usually reigns in one of the last moments of collective TV viewing we have left.

The best spots told engaging stories that strongly reflect the cultures of the brands they represent. To that point, 84 Lumber seemed to win the game and the long tail of the event. Beautiful storytelling that was deeply relevant to the values of the company and the people associated with it. The story resonated well beyond the in-game spot - so many people went to the website that it crashed.

On the other hand, the elephant on the treadmill spot for Wonderful Pistachios was the worst of storytelling – a cheap joke that we all have seen a thousand times. I thought it was a weak effort on a very big stage.

Abby Otting, Senior Content Strategist

I thought the best executed spot was Ford’s “Go Further” ad. I loved how Ford brought this universal insight of feeling “stuck” to life in such a raw, funny and endearing way. All of us have felt “stuck” — literally and existentially — and Ford nailed it in connecting that feeling to the products they offer with vignettes that were a mix of timeless and of-the-moment life scenarios.

I wouldn't call it the worst, but I found Audi’s “Daughter” spot the most disappointing. I admire the statement they are making and the ad was beautifully shot, but the leading message about pay inequality, while true, was so heavy handed that the twist in the narrative was lost on my 8-year-old daughter who was sitting next to me on the couch. She’s not part of Audi's consumer base now, but she is a member of the generation that Audi says they want to empower, and I think what she heard were the barriers to her success, rather than a father’s resolve to change the future.

Rob Pasquinucci, Senior Public Relations Strategist

Not an “ad guy” by trade, I am interested in which ad causes the most earned media attention and organic social media buzz. From my perspective, it’s better to be the “worst” or “best” ad than a middling effort that blends in. To that end, Kia, Honda, Audi, Budweiser and Tide garnered attention and lead the USA Today AdMeter rankings. But, also credit the “worst” commercials in the AdMeter for getting buzz for being bad.

Interesting to note this year is the timing of the Budweiser ad coming on the heels of the kerfuffle over President Trump’s executive order on immigration. Viewers might have thought the ad was making a statement on the issues of the day, but it was actually produced long before Trump took office. I’d call this an “incidental” newsjacking that resulted in additional attention to the spot.

84 Lumber (along with AirBNB, Audi and others) did weigh in on the immigration discussion, to the point that Fox refused to air the original iteration of 84 Lumber’s spot. A company taking on a controversial political issue is a risky PR move in this climate, but it’s clear this is a well-thought-out plan, and the storytelling happening in the ad is compelling, well-executed and beautiful. This will have legs beyond the big game.

 

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