Happy Super Bowl Monday.
Enough about Greg Brady or whatever his name is... Time to get down to what really matters. It's every marketer's favorite day of the year, when armchair advertising quarterbacks everywhere line up to rate the spots from Sunday night. I have been waiting for today like a kid on Christmas Eve... It's one of my favorite conversation topics, and this year did not disappoint.
Because I love this day so much, I observe a tradition to rate and rank the ads. And while I have a more intense and scientific roll-up than this, I'm going to spare you the gory details and share a few that stuck out to me. But first... The trends I spotted from my couch cushion:
Super Bowl LV Ad Trends
Hello, newcomers. Another bright spot in these dark times is that many of the "usual suspects" – brands whose Super Bowl buys can almost always be counted on to appear – took a back seat this year. The Budweiser Clydesdales and Kia Hamsters of the world made way for some new ideas, which are always welcome, in my book. It was a refreshing change of scenery and may have reset the stage for years to come. I don't thank the pandemic for much (elastic waist pants, Hamilton on Disney+), but I think we can tip our hats here for opening doors to brands that wouldn't otherwise get their fifteen minutes.
Goodbye, tired tropes. With some exceptions (looking at you, Klarna #smh), the celebrity-appearance-for-the-sake-of-celebrity-appearance theme pretty much dried up this year. Instead, when a celebrity was featured, it was done in a way that reinforced the idea or at least added to the storytelling in the ad (Don Cheadle for Michelob Ultra Seltzer, Shaggy for Cheetos). And it was refreshing to see brands like UberEats use them in ways that poked fun at worn-out memes like babies, puppies and monkeys.
Is this what woke feels like? Gratuitous sexiness seems to have faded away... Hopefully for good. Don't get me wrong, I'm not NOT a fan of Danica Patrick, and I know there are many out there that don't mind seeing David Beckham in his skivvies. But isn't that what the internet is for? Watching the big game in my house is a family affair, and I'm personally glad that the art of ads at least seems to be getting more wholesome. Or at least a little less body-shaming, objectifying and painting unrealistic image expectations for my offspring to have to fight through their whole lives. On top of that, I don't remember seeing a more diverse collection of actors and models before this year. Kudos to (most of) the industry for stepping up this year and reflecting a more inclusive version of ourselves back at us.
With all that as background, here are the good, the bad and the meh, according to your favorite suburban lumberjack:
Reddit. In an incredible zag, Reddit did what it was famous for doing... breaking the internet. If you blinked, you might have missed Reddit's 5-second placement that was basically a forum post on your TV screen. They hijacked the medium, made it work for them in a way that reinforces what they stand for, and took credit for something no other brand could: Being a place where "underdogs can accomplish just about anything when they come together around a common idea." Like the brand or not, it's hard to disrespect this attention grabber that barely grabbed our attention.
Oatly. In a beautifully magnetic spot, Oatly's CEO played a precious rendition of the brand's perspective on what milk should be: "For people, not cows." An idea this simple deserves an equally simple ad, and Oatly delivered. It was sticky and well played.
Indeed. Again with the simplicity winning, but in a completely different way. Indeed tugged on the heartstrings this year, reminding us how difficult something we used to take for granted – employment – can be. But they also reminded us that when the going gets tough, the tough need tools to get going. The way they incorporated relatable talent, reinforced by the simple copy and moving music, makes this one a top contender.
Other goods: TurboTax Pros, Rocket Mortgage, Bud Lemon Seltzer, Paramount+ Star Summit, Squarespace 5 to 9, Pringles, Modelo
- Logitech. Thanks for reminding us what we love about Apple. This rebranding spot did nothing for the brand and instead was a reminder that most hardware companies are basically doing the same thing... Catching up to one another on the long and dirty race to the middle.
- Mountain Dew Watermelon. I realize I'm probably not the target for this, but seriously? A contest? In what could have been beautiful eye candy, MD snapped defeat from the jaws of victory and asked people to "count the bottles" in the ad. What is this, the State Fair?
- Huggies. See #2 theme above... Babies for the sake of babies. Don't get me wrong, they're super cute. But could have been an ad for Pampers, Gerber, Fisher Price or literally any brand targeted to parents of small kiddos. Total waste of media and money because they didn't use the platform to tell us anything we didn't already know.
- Doritos. Flat Matthew is a good idea, but it was a pretty long walk for a pretty short drink. Maybe it's the product more than the ad idea, but "something you like, now with more dimension" just doesn't really get me going. Felt entertaining, but cheap.
- Robinhood. One of the exceptions to the "welcome, newcomers" theme above. Robinhood showed up to the party and instead of bringing the celebration, they read us to sleep. Wildly forgettable, for a brand that's been very present in the press lately.
- Toyota. I love a good "rising above our challenges" story. But please let's connect it to cars in some way. This ad was pretty shameless IMO.
Until next year,