Super Bowl Sunday might as well be an official holiday in the United States, as it marks the culmination of the NFL season and is the perennial most-watched television event of the year.
Last night’s Super Bowl 50 was no exception.
The event has evolved beyond the football game itself to become as famous for its half-time musical performance and its ads—which this year purportedly cost $5 million for a 30-second spot.
Because they are so expensive—and so heavily watched—Super Bowl ads bring out the most creative, clever, and celebrity-laden concepts of the year.
Past years have given us such classics as Apple’s “1984” ad that introduced the Macintosh, the classic Budweiser “Whassup?” ad that launched a ridiculous catchphrase into the lexicon, Volkswagen’s adorable Darth Vader kid in 2011 and even the weird but entertaining Claymation California Raisins.
Speaking of catchphrases, fellow children of the eighties may recall that Wendy’s “Where’s the Beef?” dig at rival McDonalds also started as a Super Bowl ad in 1984.
Another favorite classic came in 2010, with Isaiah Mustafa’s iconic Old Spice commercial (“Ladies – This is the man your man could smell like.”).
This year, while no exception, seemed a bit of a letdown, as—with apologies to PuppyMonkeyBaby—no true iconic ad emerged.
Still, my work and passion lies in branding, marketing and reputation management.
The thread that ties all of this together is simple – through clear and messaging and strategic, targeted media outreach, increase the profile and public reputation of our clients.
Step one is awareness. If customers have not heard of your clients, they cannot patronize them.
For building universal brand awareness, few things can match a Super Bowl ad in power or immediacy.
Thus, here are my picks for the
10 best ads of Super Bowl 50
Pokemon 20 – This one came out of left field for me, but with a rousing soundtrack and a theme of universal inspiration, this ad echoes the classic Nike tagline “Just Do It” by showcasing a diverse group worldwide who offer variations of “I can do this.” The reveal? It’s a celebration of Pokemon for its 20th anniversary. Weird, subtle and moving.
Heinz Ketchup Weiner Stampede – With schmaltzy music and a slow motion take of weiner dogs dressed as hot dogs running through a field, this Heinz commercial pokes fun at the weiner hotdog wordplay. It’s cute and family friendly in its emphasis on how perfectly hot umm…dogs, ketchup and mustard all fit together. Can I get an awwww…?
Axe – Find Your Magic – Axe attempts to expand its user base from the traditional good looking lady magnet to a celebration of diversity – from odd-looking blokes to those with unusual style –in shoes, hair or beards. Showcases the diversity of men (and thus their hoped-for consumer base beyond vanilla “bros”) similar to the fellow Super Bowl introduction of Dove Men’s Care several years ago. Good luck, Axe but you’ll forever be the scent of choice for Clarendon frat boys and bros everywhere.
Hyundai Elantra – Ryanville — Clever set-up anchors this suburban driving fantasy where a young female driver is distracted by suddenly seeing hunky movie star Ryan Reynolds everywhere. The twist? Hyundai’s new auto breaking mechanism, which stops cars prior to collisions just in case the drivers are distracted. “What a Man” indeed.
Bud Light Party – Comedians Amy Schumer and Seth Rogen star in this faux political speech endorsing the new “Bud Light” party. Also starring Michael Pena and Paul Rudd, it’s clever but not as arresting as Budweiser ads of years past (remember the talking frogs?) The most interesting thing is seeing relative newcomer Amy Schumer paired with long-standing comic star Seth Rogen. Schumer’s got her place, but she’s not close to Rogen’s level in terms of proven longevity.
Budweiser–GiveADamn – Few things are better than seeing British actress Helen Mirren preemptively scolding potential drunk drivers. A unique concept that is brilliant in its simplicity, this one stood out.
Audi R8 – Commander – Not sure if this works more as a tribute to David Bowie or is simply opportunistically tugging at our heart strings so soon after his passing, but this ad—of a retired and morose former astronaut recovering his mojo via a drive in a new Audi R8—was well done. Also, FYI – the Audi R8 starts at $116,000. First time I can recall a Super Bowl commercial for such a high-end automobile.
Hyundai — First Date – This was probably the best-received ad of Super Bowl 50. Set to Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” it features comedian Kevin Hart as a suspicious dad following the new boy whose taken his daughter out on a date, courtesy of Hyundai’s new car finder feature. Clever, funny and taps into the mindset of dads everywhere.
Coca-Cola Mini – Hulk/Ant-Man – In a weird meeting of two iconic brands (Disney’s Marvel Superheroes and soft drink giant Coca-Cola), we’re treated to Ant Man vs. The Incredible Hulk. Ant-Man steals a Coke mini & Hulk chases him. However, he ultimately can’t open the can with his Hulk-sized fingers because because it’s too small. Hah! Well-played Coca-Cola. Well-played.
Subaru – Dog Tested — Subaru’s new car is “Dog-tested. Dog approved.” Cute, simple. Fun.
Jason Bourne – Okay, this one doesn’t count because it’s a normal movie trailer that just happened to premiere during the Super Bowl. But dang if the return of Matt Damon to the Bourne franchise didn’t surprise and delight me. A well-crafted trailer with a blink-and-you-miss-it appearance by Tommy Lee Jones, I can’t wait to see the return of the spy whose first appearance back in 2001 instantly rendered the cartoony Pierce Brosnan-led James Bond franchise obsolete.
Mike Tyson – Michael & Son — This was a clever and totally unexpected ad that ran only regionally – in the Washington DC area and a few other East Coast states. For DC area plumbing and heating company Michael and Son Services, it features boxing great Mike Tyson first cheering, and then bailing his son out of, a boxing match. Disconcerting to see Tyson appear in such a low-budget local ad, but one of the better surprises of the night.