Monday Morning Quarterbacking the Super Bowl Ads
By Jim Bosiljevac, VP, Head of Creative
It's true that a lot of people watch the Super Bowl just for the commercials, but holy cow last night's game was amazing! I had to leave home at halftime for the airport, so a huge personal shout-out to the Yahoo Sports team who allowed me to flawlessly stream the second half to my phone and not miss a play.
And now it's Monday, which means all the judgmental Super Bowl commercial lists are out. What was funniest? Most moving? Best use of a talking animal? Who approved that lame-o concept? It's all very subjective (though, objectively, I'm sure the trailer for the Han Solo Star Wars trailer gave you the tingles too).
I'm going to take a slightly different angle on this year's Super Bowl commercials: Brand love.
At CES last month, Oath launched the Brand Love Index—an effort to put some objectivity behind brand affinity. We surveyed 150,000 consumers and then identified the top six drivers of brand love. What do consumers most look for in brands?
Let's look at the Super Bowl commercials through the lens of the top six brand love drivers: Shares values, builds trust, sets trends, elevates experiences, respects the consumer, and exceeds expectations.
Shared Values, Trust and Respect for the Consumer
Consumers love brands that share their views of what's important in the world. This might be the most noticeable shift in the Super Bowl ads. What once was a stage for talking dogs and crotch kicks now has brands stepping up to support causes, celebrate heroes, or tout their own heroics.
Over the past three decades, Budweiser has bottled over 79 million cans of drinking water for disaster relief around the world. So while a Super Bowl spot celebrating that fact may be a little self-serving, it's hard to argue it's not values-driven or authentic. And as much as everyone loved the Clydesdales (absent for the second year in a row), this commercial gives us a better sense of what the brand really stands for.
Toyota also struck the right chord with a moving spot about Canadian Paralympian skier Lauren Woolstencroft. Toyota is a sponsor of the Olympics and Paralympics, which gives them a right to tell this story.
And, at the risk of sounding like I'm pandering to the audience, I thought Verizon's spot celebrating first responders worked (see it below) because they found an authentic role for the brand with their line, "They answer the call. Our job is to make sure they can get it." It has a sense of humility, of authenticity in the use of recorded phone calls, and puts the spotlight where it should be—on the first responders. (Full disclosure: Oath's parent company is Verizon).
But the words have to be backed by actions and rooted in truth. If a brand tries to step up to the podium with a message it hasn't earned the right to deliver, it can backfire. Dodge took a drubbing on Twitter for their use of a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. audio clip. It felt off-tone and disrespectful to associate Dr. King's words with a message to buy trucks.
Brands need to be authentic and true to who they are. Their words need to be backed by actions and the values rooted in truth. Three of the drivers of brand love—shared values, trust, and respect for the consumer—are all a part of this equation.
Sets Trends and Elevate Experiences
Consumers love brands that innovate and set trends, and brands that create surprising, memorable experiences.
Super Bowl commercials have long been the most expensive, most scrutinized ads around. It's hard to turn any commercial into a provocative experience. And it's really really hard to do something that hasn't already been done in the Super Bowl.
But there were a surprising number of brands that played with the notion of "The Super Bowl Commercial." They were self-referential, they broke the fourth wall of the ad with a wink-wink acknowledgment that "hey, we know this is just advertising," and turned the commercial into a surprising experience.
The clear and surprising winner of the Super Bowl was Tide. The first Tide spot (see it below) strung together parodies of commercial tropes (car ad, beer ad, insurance ad, "whatever kind of ad this is") with spokesman David Harbour (Stranger Things) telling us that each was actually a Tide ad. And each one did have clean, bright clothes—most ads do.
But then it left us with this little gem: "So, does this make every Super Bowl ad a Tide ad? Watch and see."
The parodies were fun, but the real genius is that while we were watching non-Tide ads, we kept wondering, Is this a Tide ad? The clothes sure are clean.
Tide created an experience that transcended the Tide commercials. The brand "owned" a share of the other spots in our minds. And it all hinged on a very functional product message—clean clothes = Tide. Brilliant (as brilliant as the whitest whites in a Tide ad).
*I'm required by our legal dept. to remind you to not eat laundry detergent, pods or otherwise.
Another great "this is not an ad" moment came from the trailer for the remake of Crocodile Dundee. Mid-way through the trailer, stars Danny McBride and Chris Hemsworth reveal to us that the commercial, along with the whole marketing campaign that had been going on for weeks, was actually for Tourism Australia (disappointing thousands of fans who were hoping for an actual Crocodile Dundee remake).
Finally, Jeep called BS on the car manifesto commercial by creating a simple demo— an unedited shot of the Jeep Wrangler crossing a river and driving up a waterfall—while the announcer asks, "How many car ads have you seen with grandiose speeches over the years? Big declarations making claims to some overarching human truth. Companies call these commercials manifestos." Jeep is trying to build trust by pulling the curtain back, leveling with us and showing us nothing but the product and what it can do, in contrast to all those other car brands with all their anthemy anthems. And what we see in this case is a good example of the final driver of brand love— a product exceeding needs.
There were other very good ads and plenty of funny jokes in Super Bbowl LII—Danny DeVito as the red M&M, Peter Dinklage spitting flames, Tom Brady trying to catch a pass, Chris Elliott's cameo in the Avocados from Mexico biodome...
Which commercials won your brand love?For more on the Brand Love Index, visit love.com.