There’s a reason why brands spend millions of dollars just to air a single ad during the Super Bowl. Not only is it by far the biggest TV audience every year, but it also might be the most highly engaged audience. For what other event do you regularly hear people say, “I only watch for the ads?” But even with such a huge investment, it’s hard to stand out among a crowded field of brands fighting for every inch of buzz.
At LRW we spend a lot of time thinking about, analyzing and consulting on ads. So as you might imagine, our team has some opinions about which brands hit their marks. Here are the ads that we felt delivered the biggest impact during the big game.
Verizon – “The Coach Who Wouldn’t Be Here”
Apoorva Kelkar, Research Director: Verizon demonstrated a really powerful ad, capturing the natural emotions of a tough ex-football player at his most emotional state, overridden by shock, elation, and gratitude in meeting the first responders who saved his life. Verizon put everyday heroes into the spotlight and smartly tied in how they are the medium that connects first responders to those who need them most. Truly inspiring!
Dana Elliott, Administration Assistant: Emotional ads always make an impact, and this one was a great reminder of how much we rely on first responders to save lives and the impact those saved lives can go on to have. I also think it was more impactful given that the coach met the actual first responders that saved him. Often those saved don’t get the opportunity to ever thank first responders, and often first responders don’t learn about the outcome of their calls once their part is done, so seeing that connection was very emotional and, I think, impactful.
Microsoft – “We All Win”
Mike Garbose, Research Manager: “We All Win” highlighted an aspect of equity and inclusion that could land with everyone. Even if you yourself do not have a disability, the message was conveyed in a way that could resonate in each viewer’s heart.
Jeff Gangemi, Director of Digital Marketing: This Microsoft ad had an emotional appeal that was universally relatable – with a message that held up even without audio (a feat in itself). It was inclusive in a way that didn’t feel forced, because the message of the ad used an emotional appeal that directly supported the company’s goal to get more people playing video games. In creating a product aimed at improving access to play, Microsoft has expanded the pie, while differentiating their company against other video game companies that are known for toxic, exclusive cultures. At the same time, the makers of this Microsoft ad treated viewers to an inspiring story to make even the staunchest of video game haters feel more open to their possibility for inclusion, even joy. Great ad!
National Football League – “The 100-Year Game”
Nancy Jagou, Executive Vice President: It was fun to see all the greats from the past and all the inside jokes (Brady with his rings!!). It made me laugh and realize how much positive impact football personalities have had on culture.
Lowell Abellon, Visual Design Manager: This ad might have only left a big impact on true NFL fans, but I thought having all those great players in one ad was pretty cool. and honestly, who doesn’t love a hungry Marshawn Lynch.
Washington Post – “Democracy Dies in Darkness”
Lauren Murphy, Research Scientist: I think the WaPo spot had the greatest impact because it had a strong, important message and it came from a reliable, meaningful source. This is in contrast to the Verizon first responders ad (“the team that wouldn’t be here”), and some others, which have emotional messaging that’s in conflict with the brand perception. This touches on the “brands as stereotypes” idea, that having alignment between messaging and how your brand is perceived is critically important.
Amazon – “Not Everything Makes the Cut”
Sandy Wax, Chief Operating Officer: First, Harrison Ford (timeless cool). Second, an adorable Boston Terrier who just wants to order what he needs from doggy Alexa. What could be better? The ad reinforces what’s great about Alexa ordering while poking fun at the same time. Super Bowl was flooded with “robots taking over the world” ads, but this was human, relatable and fun. Most of all, it was memorable in a sea of “no corn syrup” (is that really a problem?) and “you died and got the dream car” (huh?) clutter. And did I mention Harrison Ford?
Bud Light and Game of Thrones – “Joust”
Jennifer Yu, Project Manager: It was freaking epic!! It continues the concept of story-driven advertising AND shows how awesome crossovers can be. I am, at this point, so invested in the Bud Light king after seeing him in so many ads throughout the season. And then, to cap it all off, they end with an epic and seamless Game of Thrones crossover ad, which I didn’t see coming. I’ve never seen that type of crossover advertising before, and I really hope companies continue with that trend.
T-Mobile – “Are You With Us?” campaign
Sarah Hambro, Research Associate: Quite possibly more entertaining than the first three quarters of the Super Bowl, T-Mobile’s “Are You With Us?” campaign likely scored more points with viewers than the entirety of the game’s scoring plays. T-Mobile’s texting interludes were not only relatable and entertaining (pulling viewers’ eyes away from their own screens), but also a breath of fresh air compared to that of competing network providers. T-Mobile’s light-hearted and engaging outtakes occupied the corner that served them best – perhaps not the best or most reliable network, but definitely good enough to hang with.
Bumble – “Ball Is in Your Court”
Hilary DeCamp, Chief Research Officer: The social good message in this ad was both inspiring AND integral to a core characteristic of the brand being advertised. And while relevant to both male and female viewers, it was one of the few female-targeted ads to ever run on the Super Bowl. It also helps that it was created by an all-female team behind the scenes in record time.
Pampers – “Stinky Booty Duty”
Aaron Lewis, Marketing Communications Director: Look, I’m biased: I have a nine-month-old infant at home. So I related to this ad incredibly hard. I have to admit, I didn’t see the ad during the game, but I saw it in my social media feeds more than any other. It underscores a larger point in this day and age that an expensive TV ad buy won’t go very far unless you have a strong digital strategy (with precise targeting to dads like me) to reinforce it. That goes double for the Super Bowl when so many viewers are also heavily engaged online during the game. We’ve been a Huggies family, but at least now I’ll consider Pampers for our next diaper refill.
Bud Light – “Special Delivery”
Matthew Parsons, General Manager: That CORN SYRUP barrel is imprinted on your mind. It made Bud Light’s two competitors look like they implicitly had something to hide in their ‘fortress.’ And I love the hilarious allusions to Monty Python.