What do partisan politics and streaming content have in common? They both send us all on our own separate ways in our own sweet time. A shared event is a powerful communal experience, bringing us together on the same day at the same time (tweeting about the same micro-happenings). Events like the lunar eclipse, 4th of July or the Oscars bring millions of people to the same moment for the same reason. This Sunday, it will be the Super Bowl that draws eyeballs, sports fans and partiers together to take part in one shared event. Even if we’re not supporting the same team or watching for the same reasons it’s a moment we have together.
This kind of hyped up, high stakes, everybody’s watching environment is also, quite obviously, a potent time to show viewers commercials. Many fans won’t watch the ads, but because of the quality of the work, the unexpected celebrity appearances, and reliable humor, more and more people will watch them. And if you’re with friends or family, you’re in the perfect frame of mind to be influenced by a well-constructed and executed commercial.
Advertisers want us to feel. Specifically, they want us to feel something about their product. Based on the Super Bowl ads released early, here’s the real feels for this year’s crop of spots.
SUPER TECH IS YOUR FRIEND
No need to be afraid of the apocalyptic warnings from experts. AI and robots won’t take your job (well, at least not this year). That’s silly. They’re cute, have a sense of humor and feelings.
Harrison Ford, Mark and Scott Kelly, Ilana Glazer, Abbi Jacobson and Forest Whitaker are the unsuspecting guinea pigs in the Alexa-focused “Not everything makes the cut.” Surely inspired by every voice-assisted epic fail you’ve seen on Facebook and from AI scaremongers, these celebrities navigate a hilarious spectrum of what you shouldn’t do with Alexa and AI.
Samsung 75” TV
Samsung is introducing something called “ambient mode” that blends the really big black flat-screen in to your wall—wonder how? Maybe it should be called chameleon mode, as it disappears into your wallpaper.
Michelob ULTRA makes light of the coming AI invasion showing a robot that can do everything better than you can, but can’t enjoy a beer with friends. Poor robot.
The “Sad Device” spot revives the brilliant Pringles stacking concept as two dudes contemplate the number of stacking options while the nearby voice-assisted device is sad to be left out. Bring back Bill Hader!
WE CAN CHANGE THE WORLD
More and more consumers and employees expect big companies and brands to help solve social ills. So far, only a few spots speak to the biggest issues plaguing society.
Don’t worry they’ve still got the horses and the dog. This year, they use Dylan’s Blowing in the Wind to put some real money muscle behind their sustainability mission. Tag line: “Now brewed with wind power for a better tomorrow.” Let’s see if the winds of change sweep the industry and consumers’ mindset.
While I LOVED the Melissa McCarthy and Steven Tyler campaigns, I’m interested to see how this timely, real-people, heartfelt strategy works for Kia. The big celebrity fees go instead to a scholarship for “the rest of us” to “get a foothold in higher education.” Straight ahead, right for the heart.
Ludacris rolls up to Ron Clark Academy surprising the kids for being outstanding citizens and awards 2 kids with a trip to the Super Bowl. It’s not clear if this is their ad for the big game, but I never get tired of seeing great kids get rewarded.
Bumble draws on the electric strength and beauty of Serena Williams to reinforce Bumble’s startup rallying cry “the ball is in your court.” #InHerCourt will surely be a new anthem for women power everywhere. The behind-the-scenes piece and the 30 second teaser
At a time of bitter partisanship, Coke offers a soothing message. “A Coke is a Coke” and “difference is beautiful” and “together is beautiful too” reminiscent of the iconic “I’d like to teach the world sing.” A perfect note for the most recognizable global brand.
JUST MAKE ME LAUGH
This is why we watch, right. These 3 are getting their own category for standout humor. Hopefully we’ll see more of what some brands have held back for Sunday, and we’ll get the laughs we’re after.
Why do I like this cultural mashup so much? Chance The Rapper delivers his Dorito-ized remix of the BSB 90s hit I Want It That Way with 90’s glammed up supercharged “funny” cars spewing Holi Indian powder, a pink pit crew, and the BSBs busting older boy band 90s dance moves. Why do I like this?
Taco Bell’s Nacho Fries
As a sci-fi fan I loved Interstellar. This fake movie trailer is a beautifully funny tribute to the movie and Nacho Fries as James Marsden fills Dr. Conrad’s big shoes with “There are fries seasoned in Mexican spices trapped somewhere out there, and I’m gonna bring ‘em home.”
And Amazon’s Not Everything Makes The Cut mentioned in the Tech Is Our Friend theme above, with celebrities as the unsuspecting guinea pigs for the “fails.”
I NEVER THOUGHT OF IT THAT WAY
Locating a product in a setting drastically different from where you might expect it is intended to give it a cooler halo or simply attract your attention. Companies use disassociated icons, celebrities or environments to try to change a viewer’s perception. Sometimes, though, it’s just a funny commercial.
2 Chainz, who has better things to do than collect receipts, and Adam Scott are the stars of a music video/product demo/viewer contest combo that is intriguing as it is fun. They even included an interactive contest. Let’s see if it drives business.
Bon and Viv’s Spiked Seltzer (AB InBev)
Not sure why Bonnie and Vivian are mermaids in this ad but it’s a welcome departure from typical salacious bar scenes. And the mermaid’s pitch to the sharks is a nostalgic reminder of Nemo, Dory, and the gang in Shark Tale (you’ve all got kids, right?). Even though I’m not quite sure what the beverage is, spiked botanicals with no sugar sounds good!
Olay Killer Skin
Horror phenom Sarah Michelle Geller is trying to call for help as a Freddy Krueger wannabe breaks into her house. But her phone doesn’t recognize her face because the Olay product has been so amazing she now has killer skin. She does look really great.
OF COURSE, I LIKE CELEBRITIES
Spotting celebrities in Super Bowl commercials is a fun party game. Whether or not it sells product is another question.
Great concept and execution. Slapping back at the notion that Pepsi is a 2nd choice, Steve Carell inspires Cardi B and Lil Jon to stand up for Pepsi. Pepsi is more than okay!
@TheJeffBridges released a 15 second teaser with a cut line “Can’t be living in the past, man. Stay tuned.” Is he going to tie it all together?
It turns out that the teaser is better than the full spot where two iconic characters “Change Up The Usual” libation for a Stella instead of the cocktail they’re known for. Doesn’t deliver on these two beloved actors.
Mr. Peanut saves Alex Rodriguez the indignity of kale chips with #CrunchTime, complete with a high speed peanut-mobile ride, slo-mo, and a nuts celebrity cameo.
Jason Bateman as an elevator operator that stops on all the floors (life situations) no one wants to go to except when you’re shopping for a Hyundai. Love Jason Bateman in everything (Ozark!).
IF YOU HAVE TO ASK
Sometimes you just need to go with the flow and enjoy whatever is happening on screen
ASMR? Are creatives dragging out every cultural mnemonic to get distracted viewers’ attention? I thought this would be really stupid but it is highly effective approach that focuses everything on the product through a beautiful execution.
Teaser has Michael C. Hall in his therapist’s office unsure about a skittles commercial he thinks is on Broadway and won’t appear on the game. Very fun take on Michael C, Hall’s cred but it has nothing to do with Skittles!
The full spot, Advertising Ruins Everything, has a meta, and timely populist message folding back on itself. Great singing. Who doesn’t love Broadway? (It still has nothing to do with Skittles!)
Avocados From Mexico
They’re back with their post-modern, ironic, you-need-to-be-cool-to-think-it’s-funny style again this year but with Kristin Chenoweth asking dogs to sing the jingle and a dog show competition for Avocados from Mexico.
This one stars a semi-modern Abe Lincoln to make sure you understand the idea of a $5 menu. For everyone who enjoys juvenile humor, at least there is a reason for Abe to be in this commercial.