Monday, February 3, 2020

A Review of the #Ads from #SuperBowl54

Unlike some previous big games, Super Bowl 54 was full of football action. But, if you live and breathe marketing, the game is just background noise. Your focus is the ads that take place in between the snaps, kicks, and runs. With a staggering cost of nearly six million dollars for 30 incredibly short seconds, is it possible for a brand to tell its story effectively? Were there any ads that rivaled Apple’s 1984 ad? Were there any Tweets that rivaled Oreo’s Tweet during the 2013 power outage? Can you RECALL any of the ads?

This quote from Landor Associates is timeless: "Here are three tips to help you, your dad, or even your football-crazed grandma decide which brands scored a touchdown with their commercials: Is the ad on-brand? Will you remember the brand tomorrow? And, does the ad speak to the times?”

During the game, New York-based brand guru Jim Joseph (@JimJosephExp) hosted his annual #SuperBowlExp party on Twitter (minus chips and guacamole), and since 2014, I've chimed in. Although it's always fun to see what fellow branding and marketing folks say about the ads in real time, there are a couple of challenges. First, some ads run in regional or local markets. Second, there are so many hashtags that draw attention to the ads that it’s sometimes a challenge to keep up (#BrandBowl, #AdBowl, etc.).

For the third year, I simultaneously followed along with the Kellogg School's TweetChat using the hashtag #KelloggBowl led by Tim Calkins (@TimothyCalkins), Professor of Marketing at Kellogg. This group of marketing folks had interesting comments throughout the ads.

This year for the first time, I also followed the Tweets by Pantone (@Pantone), the the global authority on color, as it shared comments using the hashtag #BigGameColorCommentary. For instance, when a referee threw a yellow flag on the field, Pantone tweeted the specific color Yellow. At the conclusion of the game, Pantone tweeted both teams' specific colors of red with the final score - great marketing!

This year, I didn't see my favorite brand spokes-characters. There were no M&M's, no Coca-Cola polar bears, and no Budweiser Clydesdales with their pal, the adorable Dalmatian. These icons have become part of the Super Bowl advertising tradition - and in the process, part of the Super Bowl itself. Perhaps, next year, these icons will return.

Without further ado, here were my five favorite ads:


Seats were not even warm as this ad began. It featured women playing football, and its message was let's "Kick Inequality." The hashtag #KickInequality became a theme throughout numerous ads including Olay, Microsoft, and Tide (which featured Wonder Woman's Gal Gadot).


This ad introduced Katie Sowers from the San Francisco 49ers, the first woman to ever coach in the Super Bowl. What an inspiration!


Do you remember when Budweiser changed its name to "America" from May through November 2016? This ad aligned with that marketing campaign because its theme was that all of us are "Typical Americans." The much-loved Clydesdale horses may have been absent, but the message that we all have something in common - in this era of disagreement in Washington, D.C. - came through loud and clear.


Spokes-canine Scout received excellent treatment from the angels at the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine, and this ad told his story. With the hashtag #PetsMakeADifference, viewers were asked to make a donation. All fans of dogs and animals were touched by this ad.


Viewers of this ad who work in the information security industry might have wondered why Facebook didn't use the opportunity to talk about privacy and new ways to protect users' data. Instead, Facebook used its ad to promote its "Groups" - specifically groups with the word ROCK - ranging from rock climbers to senior citizen porch rockers. The ad ended with a group of runners running up the stairs of the Philadelphia Art Museum just like Rocky Balboa did in the "Rocky" movie in 1976 - and then, surprise! There was Sylvester Stallone!

It seems as if most of the other ads fell flat. I don't want to share any political commentary, but Michael Bloomberg spent a reported 11 million dollars on his ad. Tide's constant reminders to do #LaundryLater were a little annoying. As some people wrote on Twitter, "Even we wouldn't do laundry during the #SuperBowl, #LaundryLater."

And lastly, Jacques de Cock, a faculty member at the London School of Marketing, said the game will have been watched in half of US households.

"The Super Bowl is a phenomenon unsurpassed in the world. It is one of the few national social events, which is also why social media traffic during the game is so high...What is also remarkable is that advertising is not viewed as something to skip, but is seen by 77 percent of viewers as part of the entertainment and therefore more watched and engaged with than any other television advertising during the year."

Are you counting the days to Super Bowl 55, scheduled for February 7, 2021, in Tampa, Florida? Or, are you planning a party to review the ads instead?

For more commentary on the Super Bowl's Ads, I recommend the following reading:

2020 Ad Meter Results

Jim Joseph's blog post:

Kellogg School's recap:

Pantone recap:

Tom Fishburne's blog post:

If you want to read my previous annual recaps starting in 2012, search my blog using "super" for the links.

Image Credit: Pantone via Twitter.

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