The Super Bowl: The annual event that’s now known as much for what happens on the field as what happens in between plays. When brands take advantage of a captive 100-million-person audience to run ads that help them break new ground, gain new customers or recognition or just simply break out into a new level of existence. We’ve seen our fair share of winners—and losers—over the years. And this year was no exception.
For me, Super Bowl LIV ads fell into three categories:
- Funny: Tried and true, these kinds of ads never disappoint—when they hit the mark. Using celebrities, like Jeep did with their “Groundhog Day” reboot, was a home run. Kudos to whoever realized that Groundhog Day and the Super Bowl fell on the same day this year and rounded up the actors to reprise their movie roles. Same with the “MC Hammer/Cheetos” and “Little Nas X/Doritos” spots. Other ads like the Snickers spot were cute, but left people at my watch party scratching their heads.
- The Feels: Google nailed this category with their “Loretta” ad featuring a widower using Google Assistant to remember things about his beloved wife. I was surprised at how many people reacted to this in real time on social media during the game, since the ad had been released online days before. I also counted four spots about women’s empowerment this year that were well done, but spots like “Throw Like a Girl” from years past did it better. The NFL/Microsoft team up that lauded 49ers Coach Katie Sowers as the first female coach in a Super Bowl stood out this year as well, with a direct tie-in to the game everyone was watching (though they missed cutting to her on the sidelines immediately afterward).
- Effectiveness: These are the spots that had the most bang for the buck, and it was Hyundai’s “Smaht Pahk” by a Boston mile. This brilliant and funny ad (see category 1, above) drew on the nostalgia and familiarity of SNL alum Rachel Dratch, The Office’s John Krasinski and Captain America himself, Chris Evans, all channeling comically authentic sounding Boston accents, with the product and the technology at center stage.
Of course, it’s not a championship game without an MVP, and for my money, Google was the clear winner, because it made a product that might have only been appealing to a narrow audience (techies) more approachable to a wider segment of the population.
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