If you paid attention to media coverage and spending, you might come to the conclusion that the Super Bowl is just about the ads. And while there was a game on, it’s the ads that are really generating buzz. Here are some of the biggest Super Bowl ads, and what made them so notable.
Jeep’s Groundhog Day Spoof
Jeep ran a Groundhog Day spoof starring who else but Bill Murray himself. This one resonated with the crowd not only because it was comedic but also because it played upon nostalgia. Many older millennials are fans of the film, and they’re the ones in the perfect Jeep-buying Super Bowl-watching demographic. Now, what that actually has to do with Jeep in reality is anyone’s guess.
Rocket Mortgage with Jason Momoa
It’s possible that no one actually remembers what this ad was for, which is questionably effective — people loved this ad for the visual gag of Jason Momoa being nothing more than a scrawny weakling in a suit. This highlights something interesting about the Super Bowl ads. Like the rest of the Super Bowl, they were largely pageantry, and many of the commercials didn’t have much to do with the product at all.
Google’s Tear-Jerker Play
To some manipulative, to others sweet, Google’s ad features a man remembering his late wife. When people remember that this is all being used to sell goods and services, of course this is a little pat. But Google managed to have the ad come off as mostly earnest rather than disingenuous, and that’s why people have been talking about this ad well after the Super Bowl.
Hyundai Sonata’s Whirlwind of Stars
If you’re going to use stars in your ad, go all out. Hyundai’s ad featured Chris Evans, John Krasinski, and Rachel Dratch, to create an ad that was as charming as it was not really about cars. Still, they were able to highlight some of the technological features that their brand is becoming known for, rather than just getting distracted with their talent.
Let’s Talk about Planters’ Baby Nut
Weeks ago, Planters made waves around Twitter by killing off their long-standing Mr Peanut mascot, a mascot that they had held for over a century. Their intention was to kill him off during a car crash, which was delayed in the wake of Kobe Bryant’s tragic accident. During the Super Bowl, it was revealed that he lived on as a baby version of himself, dubbed “Baby Nut.” Whimsical and disturbing, the cultural reaction to this was huge… Hugely negative.
The “Baby Nut” campaign shows what happens when brands go a little too far and become a little too self-important. While Google may have hosted an emotionally manipulative ad, the ad was ultimately about the ties that bind family members and spouses. The Baby Nut campaign had to presume that people cared about their mascot when, in fact, most people don’t remember that they have a mascot.
A cautionary tale: Don’t assume that your audience has an emotional investment in something if you don’t have the evidence to support it.
Tide’s Mild Misfire
Tide’s been running an interesting campaign about stains, but that’s about all the public knows. After Tide’s ads, people were asking on social media: Why can’t Charlie Day clean off the stain? Well, it’s a long-running gag about laundry day being after game day, but you wouldn’t know that if you weren’t already following ads. In a world where a lot of people only see ads during the Super Bowl, that’s something that could be easily missed. And that’s another thing advertisers need to increasingly consider: people are avoiding their ads to an alarming degree.
There were some big winners and losers for the Super Bowl this year, and it really shows the temperature of current marketing advertising. The Super Bowl is where advertisers bring out their best, and we can see that many ads are trying for comedic and entertaining undertones or empathy, emotion, and pathos. Ads are no longer designed to sell projects, but rather to anchor the overarching brand with a certain tone or identity, and this is something that can also go awry.