Millions tuned in to the 54th Super Bowl to watch the San Francisco 49'ers play the Kansas City Chiefs last Sunday. It is no secret that a lot of those viewers weren’t just looking forward to seeing who would win or even to watch Shakira and J.Lo take over the Halftime Show, they were looking forward to watching all of the ads. At MHP/Team SI, we aren’t just creators of advertising content, we’re also consumers of it, who tuned in to watch the iconic Super Bowl commercials. That is why we decided to round up our team and ask them what ads they thought had the “it” factor and which ones they felt missed the mark.
Who Stole the Show?
Our team gave Google the ring for the best emotional appeal. In fact, it was so moving that it was almost unforgivable! Google surely brought many viewers to tears with a beautifully simple story of a man using Google’s Pixel and voice commands to help him recall all of the lovely memories he and his wife made throughout the years.
In Super Bowl history, many of the most memorable spots have also been its funniest. In keeping with that theme, Jeep’s iconic take on the nearly 30-year-old film “Groundhog Day” was also one of our team’s favorites. It certainly helped that Super Bowl Sunday fell on the actual date, too. The spot also tops most reviews for the Super Bowl ad crop of 2020. Jeep’s deft use of both nostalgic and comedic themes made its spot utterly memorable along with a stellar performance from the celebrated actor Bill Murray!
We also didn’t forget about Doritos and Sam Elliot’s signature mustache doing the caterpillar (who could forget that?). Doritos brought down the house with their “The Cool Ranch” execution by bridging different generations through popular celebrities and taking us to the Old Town Road with a very clever spin on the classic Western dusty-street showdown trope.
Rounding out our group’s top five, nods went to the heavily Boston-accented “Smaht Pahk” for Hyundai, and Jason Mamoa getting “Comfortable” in his own skin for Rocket Mortgage.
What Were Some of the Biggest Flops?
Heinz Ketchup left many of us scratching our heads with their slick, but overly complicated use of four different split-screens playing out alternative scary-movie scenarios simultaneously. Chip Culpepper, our chief creative director, explained that a good idea doesn’t necessarily have to be a complicated one (witness the Google Pixel spot).
Another disappointment came from State Farm. Don’t get us wrong, our team enjoyed Jake from State Farm when he first aired almost nine years ago. Unfortunately, we felt an updated version with a new ending just didn’t catch our eye as we’d hoped. C’mon, it’s the Super Bowl for crying out loud! It’s time for something new.
Finally, two political ads, one each from the Trump and Bloomberg campaigns also fell flat with our group. With brands spending millions of dollars on placements, it felt more like these two politicians, possibly best known for their individual wealth, were conveying the wrong messages to their viewers — verging on “flexing” their abundance of financial resources instead of effectively communicating their competing platforms.
What Were Some of the Advertising Trends that You Saw?
We now seem to see more dialogue-based content designed for a clever viewer. Years ago, many people would go to a local bar or join their family friends at large Super Bowl parties, and that is when sight-gags and slapstick comedy ruled the Super Bowl ad landscape.
As parties become smaller, such visually driven humor has become less prevalent. We noticed this year’s ads utilized influencer marketing and nostalgia by involving popular apps like TikTok and using older celebrities like MC Hammer and Bill Murray who have decades of notoriety. It is clear influencers are here to stay and are no longer a part of an isolated subculture. They have become mainstream and we will continue to see them deployed more prominently through traditional advertising.
Advertisers are also working hard to get the most ROI. Business Insider reported that the average cost of a 30-second ad placement in the Super Bowl was around $5 million, and then you have to add the cost of production, celebrity-level talent and more (Yikes!). This is one reason why we saw some ads that had been previously released, revitalized from earlier ads or were heavily teased or “leaked” on social media before and after they were aired.
Ultimately, as the premier showcase for advertising, it is important to remember the Super Bowl has always been about getting noticed in THE MOMENT. Whether it’s a black eye or a pat on the back, both the “best” and the “worst” ads are remembered and talked about. The biggest losers were really those advertisers that fell somewhere in the middle and went unnoticed or worse yet, forgotten immediately by the audience. Now, time for some Doritos!
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