Super Bowl Sunday. It’s a day of heightened emotions, held breaths, animated shouts and maybe even a few tears.
We’re not just talking about football, of course. It’s the game of all games for advertisers, too. When companies shell out $5 million to borrow thirty seconds of the nation’s attention, they’re going to pull out all the stops to make those thirty seconds worth our time – and theirs.
Humor had a place as always, but emotional appeals found strength in numbers yesterday. Themes of unity, family, equality and hard work were peppered throughout a collection of compelling and heartwarming narratives.
We also knew that ads would get political this year, as companies paying for the spotlight jumped at their chance to make a statement. And while politics surfaced as a subtle undertone in many of the ads we saw, several companies took a more direct approach in stating their stance – and good or bad, those are the ads that have been most talked about in the hours since the game ended.
Super Bowl Sunday continues to hold hard-earned victories for some companies and unfortunate fumbles for others. Here are the ads we think admirably accomplished their purposes in Super Bowl LI:
7. SKITTLES: “ROMANCE”
Skittles brings the humor in this creative storytelling piece as we see a girl’s entire family – and then some – enjoy the skittles a boy is throwing through her window in lieu of rocks.
6. MICHELIN: “I NEED YOU”
Michelin’s commercial tells a story of reliance, and it’s a prime example of benefit-focused advertising. The features of Michelin tires are that they’re strong and durable, but it’s because they’re strong and durable that you make it to your destination to be there for a friend that needs you, comfort your homesick son or hear your partner tell you she’s pregnant.
5. BAI: “BYE, BYE, BYE”
If you weren’t sure how to pronounce the name of this beverage brand before, your confusion was cleared up in this star-studded 30-second spot. After Christopher Walken recites the lyrics to NSYNC’s “Bye, Bye, Bye,” the camera zooms out to show Justin Timberlake nodding approval. With one swift (and expensive) move, Bai made one of the catchiest songs of our generation the soundtrack for its product – and told us how to pronounce its name once and for all.
4. BUDWEISER: “BORN THE HARD WAY”
Budweiser uses most of its sixty seconds to depict German immigrant Adolphus Busch’s harrowing journey to the United States. This man became the founder of Anheuser-Busch. Budweiser’s refusal to shy away from a contentious topic has generated heated debate but has also given the company a spotlight as one of the most talked-about ads in the days leading up to the Super Bowl.
3. AUDI: “DAUGHTER”
Audi came to make a statement, and they did. George Clooney narrates the part of a father asking tough questions about what he will have to tell his daughter about her perceived value. As we watch this young girl outsmart her competitors to win a soapbox car race, we hear a note of hope in Clooney’s voice as he comes to the conclusion, “Or maybe I’ll be able to tell her something different.” Audi ties up the package with an on-screen text committing to equal pay for men and women.
2. NFL: “INSIDE THESE LINES”
One of the most powerful 60-second spots came from the NFL itself in Sunday’s lineup of commercials. An inspiring narrative about the hard work and unity required to succeed in football makes a surprising turn at the end. We see that the “lines” being painted throughout the spot were not outlining a football field – they were outlining our nation. This spot reminds us that our country is about overcoming challenges by coming together as one.
1. HYUNDAI: “A BETTER SUPER BOWL”
Many of us eagerly anticipated this ad, following the hype surrounding the announcement that it would be filmed and edited during the game itself. What we didn’t know is that it would virtually allow US troops deployed in Poland to watch the game next to their families. The reactions are priceless, and its nearly real-time nature rings of authenticity.
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