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Volume 27 No. 13
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Super Bowl LIV Ads Use Celebrities, Nostalgia To Strike Lighter Tone

Super Bowl LIV advertisers did their "best to serve up an antidote heavily spiked with fun" in a time when "political primaries are looming, impeachment is ongoing and heavy news never seems to stop," according to Mae Anderson of the AP. Even though political ads "did invade the game," advertisers mostly "struck back with millions spent on celebrities, humor and even some weirdness." Advertisers "stayed away from social-cause messages and focused on lighthearted ads, stuffing them with popular celebrities, hit songs, funny dances and other gambits to appeal to Americans." If ads "starred one celebrity, they often had more." But a "tinge of weirdness crept into this years barrage of humor and celebrities." Advertisers also "worked hard to avoid the return of 'sadvertising' from a few years back" and "generally steered clear of polarizing issues like income inequality or immigration" as was seen in '17. But there were still some "serious messages in the mix" (AP, 2/3).

WELCOME TO THE NEW AGE: In N.Y., Tiffany Hsu notes the commercials yesterday "were mostly light and bright." Nostalgia was a "big theme, with companies marketing their products with ads that showed love for the '80s and '90s" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/3). CNN's Brian Lowry wrote there was "probably not" a Super Bowl LIV commercial that "people will still be talking about years from now, like Apple's '1984' ad or Coke's Mean Joe Greene commercial." Still, a number of them "played quite well in the moment, and generally speaking, most avoided the missteps that have characterized some past disasters" (CNN.com, 2/2). In L.A., Lorraine Ali writes there were "so many celebrities," including Martin Scorsese, Chance the Rapper, Bill Murray, Chris Rock, Jason Momoa and Wesley Snipes, but "so many unremarkable ads" (L.A. TIMES, 2/3). VARIETY's Brian Steinberg wrote there was a "softer touch to this year's ad game, after several years of doling out commercials with more overt commentary about how consumers should be feeling about lifestyle and politics" (VARIETY.com, 2/2). MSNBC's Donny Deutsch said, "It was interesting there was no sex, no romance. We're in a different world. If you look at Super Bowl ads five, ten years ago, there was a lot of jiggle, there was jiggle after halftime, but in this 'Me Too' world, nothing. Nothing about romance, nothing about love, nothing about sex" ("GMA," ABC, 2/3).

BETTER TOGETHER: AD AGE's Jack Neff noted the Super Bowl "became the Co-Op Bowl" in '20, as "brands hooked up like never before for multi-brand ads in a practice once frowned upon in the game." P&G "led the charge, incorporating four outside brands into its four Tide ads and at least seven (arguably eight) others into a 60-second corporate ad." But the "biggest multi-brand buzz" came for Kraft Heinz when its Planters Mr. Peanut was "reincarnated as Baby Nut thanks to the tears of his corporate sibling, Kool-Aid Man, falling on his freshly dug grave during a funeral." P&G's Mr. Clean was also "on hand at the funeral." Only two years ago, P&G "had to tread more carefully on multi-brand integrations into Tide ads, when it wasn't allowed to overtly identify Budweiser or its own Old Spice and Gillette brands in the same ad on NBC during the Super Bowl" (ADAGE.com, 2/2). In Chicago, Steve Johnson writes P&G's "P&G Multiverse" was "not Earth's greatest television commercial." Johnson: "But I kind of love the concept here: Cram as many products as possible from the megacompany into one ad, sort of like a Marvel movie that brings all of its characters together." The "set-up is Sofia Vergara hosting a Super Bowl party when the chili spills, upward, into the ceiling fan." Out "come Rob Riggle with Bounty, some Febreze, some Old Spice, Charmin," and Head & Shoulders (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 2/3). In San Diego, Kirk Kenney argues P&G "got the best bang for its buck" by advertising "no fewer than half a dozen of its products" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 2/3).

STANDOUT SPOTS: USA TODAY's Dalvin Brown notes Snickers "took a jab at the tech industry and internet culture" with its spot, and people on Twitter "thought it was pretty clever." The candymaker's commercial spotlighted "modern societal issues like taking selfies" and Twitter users "said it was among the best commercials to air" (USA TODAY, 2/3). In San Jose, Chuck Barney writes Budweiser offered the "best display of feel-good patriotism." The beer brand "challenged stereotypes and celebrated 'typical Americans' with an ad that spotlighted ordinary people engaging in extraordinary real-life acts of kindness and humanity." It was an "uplifting reminder that, in these divisive times, we're all on the same team" (San Jose MERCURY NEWS, 2/3). The AP's Anderson wrote Cheetos "used nostalgia effectively, appropriating the 30 year old MC Hammer classic 'U Can't Touch This'" (AP, 2/3). In Chicago, Phil Rosenthal writes advertisers "must be running out of viewers' favorite old songs to co-opt into sales pitches because they're now drilling down hard on favorite old movies." But the "plays off" of movies last night, such as "Rocky," "Groundhog Day," "Men in Black" and others were "well done" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 2/3). In Cleveland, Marc Bona writes Olay's "Make Space for Women" spot "converges a tern of approaches: It has a serious message, a dose of humor and promotes philanthropy" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 2/3).

REVIEW ON POLITICS: NBC's Hoda Kotb said the ads from President Trump and Michael Bloomberg were a "big thumbs down" ("Today," NBC, 2/3). The L.A. TIMES' Ali notes the political ads were the "biggest duds" in the game (L.A. TIMES, 2/3). But CNBC's Andrew Ross Sorkin said both the Trump and Bloomberg ads "were good" and they were "smart ads in terms of what they were focused on and how they were doing it." But Sorkin said there will be a "debate about who is spending more money on the Super Bowl" ("Squawk Box," CNBC, 2/3).

ROOM TO GROW: YAHOO SPORTS' Busbee & Roscher write of New York Life's "Love Takes Action" spot: "There's room for all kinds of commercials during the Super Bowl, but maybe New York Life should have punched things up a little more before sending over their ad." It "talks about the ancient Greeks' four words for love, which is nice enough, but there's no stirring graphics or personal stories." It feels like a "collection of stock footage, which is bad for a Super Bowl ad, but exactly what you'd imagine an insurance company would do" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 2/2). The CHICAGO TRIBUNE's Johnson writes Mtn Dew Zero Sugar's "As Good As the Original" featuring Bryan Cranston was "extremely tone-deaf," as it portrays a "highly convincing domestic violence scene" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 2/3). In DC, Judkis & Rao grade Audi and Sabra among the five "worst Super Bowl commercials." Sabra's spot featured an "all-star cast" coming together to "shill Sabra hummus on a technicolor set." But the "premise is just a bunch of people dipping snacks into hummus, but calling it 'mus,' which is something that absolutely no one does" (WASHINGTON POST, 2/3). In Colorado Springs, Terry Terrones writes TurboTax' "All People Are Tax People" commercial shows people "doing anything but their taxes." Terrones: "This ad should be audited" (Colorado Springs GAZETTE, 2/3).