With Super Bowl 53 having come to a close at the beginning of this month, it’s safe to say that most of the general population has likely seen the advertisements. This year, we were met with nostalgia with the Budweiser Clydesdales, confusion followed by excitement watching the Bud Light/Game of Thrones Crossover, and subjected to some ads that can only be described as ‘okay’ (or okurrrrr #CardiB).

As much as North America enjoys the football game, as marketers, our attention is usually 90% focused on who’s advertising and admiring the creativity in ads. In addition to the obvious competition between the two football teams playing to win the Super Bowl, there has become an unspoken competition between advertisers during the commercial breaks to see who can create the most successful and talked-about ad. The commercials during the Super Bowl have become a phenomenon across North America, though with this said, it hasn’t always this way. It’s been through years of marketing development that the Super Bowl has come to what we know it as today.

In the early days, the ads started with 30 second time slots costing roughly $37,500 (USD) in 1967 with around 45 million viewers, a large difference to the $4+ million cost of today with over 100 million viewers. During this beginning, ads lacked the quality and creativity that’s considered a staple in the Super Bowl advertisements now seen. A prime example of this can be seen in the 1967 ad for Goodyear, featuring a damsel in distress looking for a man to help her fix her flat tire. When this ad was produced, it’s likely that the producers weren’t expecting women to watch the Super Bowl, explaining the messaging in the ad.

It wasn’t until the 1980’s that the dynamic of Super Bowl commercials changed, starting with Coca Cola’s approach with celebrity endorsement, featuring “Mean Joe” Greene in the famous “Hey Kid, Catch” ad. From this, celebrity endorsement became a ‘need-to-have’, marking the first change in Super Bowl ad history.

From there, the next change came with Macintosh’s “1984” ad, creating a higher standard for competing ads at the Super Bowl, with this having a more cinematic approach. Uniquely, this ad didn’t even feature (or show at all) the product they were trying to sell, but instead focused on the plot of the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. After the release of this advertisement, we can observe not only a change in the format of future ads, but the prices for the 30 second time slots rising exponentially.

In today’s climate of advertisers, the expectations of advertisements is continually being raised, with the expectation of commercials being cinematic (or near cinematic) quality. In the hopes of gaining audience attention, it’s standard for companies featuring messaging accompanied by humor or drama, though more and more risk-taking is occurring with advertisers basing ads around global issues or directly addressing competitors, sparking rivalries. Needless to say, the competition for advertising slots during the Super Bowl is fierce (and expensive) with over 100 million viewers in North America, and will continually develop as our pop-culture evolves and global events occur.

With this said, adHOME had some definite favourites this year. One of the most notable ones we found was Budweiser’s “Win Never Felt Better”, containing the perfect mix of nostalgia with the Budweiser Clydesdales and environmental sensitivity, as they announced their new use of wind power in brewing operations.

Another favourite of ours, though it received mixed reviews in North America was Pepsi’s “More Than Okay” ad, featuring Cardi B, Lil Jon and Steve Carell. With the star-studded group and playfulness of the message, we can’t help but love it.

Finally, the best ads are the ones that take us by surprise. The one that took us (and most viewers) by surprise was the Bud Light/Game of Thrones crossover commercial. The creators took two unrelated brands and made something captivating and funny (see: the Bud Knight), leaving everyone wanting more.

As an advertising agency who focuses on strategy and creativity, we look forward to these ads every year, and like many people, critique and rate them against each other. As entertaining as it is in itself, we can use each ad as a lesson on creativity, ‘out-of-box’ thinking, or simply to know what not to do. Regardless of what the outcome was for each company from their Super Bowl ad, we can say with absolute certainty that we’ll be sitting on the edge of our seats come next 2020’s Super Bowl, ready to see what the biggest brands have come up with next.

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