Super Bowl musings from an Englishman in Los Angeles, part 2 #SB51

Super Bowl musings from an Englishman in Los Angeles, part 2 #SB51


At no other time of year are TV ads such a hot topic of conversation as they are before, during and after the Super Bowl. This is one of the reasons why it cost advertisers a jaw-dropping $5 Million to buy 30-seconds of airtime during this year’s Big Game.

As well as record-high advertising costs, there were a few other ‘firsts’ during the 27 (yes, 27) commercial breaks and 93 ads that aired during #SB51 today –

·     Snickers took almost as many risks as Lady Gaga, delivering the Super Bowl’s first ever live commercial with Star Wars actor Adam Driver. To prove the ad was indeed live, it started with Driver confirming the actual half time score (21-3 to the Falcons) before accidentally (intentionally) demolishing a film set in real time. Impressive action.

·     Australian brand Yellow Tail was the first ever wine maker to feature in the Big Game, cleverly challenging beer brand Anheuser-Busch’s long standing Super Bowl monopoly in the alcohol category through a loop-hole in the complicated National versus Regional ad buying rules. Bravo to the Aussies for ringing the changes!

·     Hyundai filmed and aired their entire commercial during the Super Bowl, using 360-degree camera technology to reunite 3 soldiers posted overseas with their families, enabling them to watch the Super Bowl virtually together.

·     And I think it was the first time that Lady Gaga had flung herself from the roof of a football stadium onto a waiting stage below, complete with poker-face and sparkling silver suit … I think.

But firsts aside, it was an enjoyable 4 hour feast of TV advertising with enough innovation and smart creative thinking amongst advertisers including Tide, T-Mobile, Turkish Airlines and Square Space (featuring John Malkovich!), to keep me glued to the TV all afternoon.

In the car category, Kia’s much discussed ad featuring fearless eco-warrior Melissa McCarthy gets better each time I see it. Mercedes’ big budget, Coen Brothers directed ad features Peter Fonda in an homage to Easy Rider that will appeal to Generation X and Millennials alike. But the automotive winners this year in terms of both creative innovation and emotional engagement were Honda and Audi.

Honda’s ‘celebrity yearbook’ features a host of entertainers including Missy Elliot, Steve Carell, Viola Davis, Amy Adams and Jimmy Kimmel. Using their real high school year book photos, smart dialogue and some clever post production, we are encouraged to believe in the ‘Power of Dreams’. The Honda ad had great social media integration – releasing online last week to coincide with #ThrowbackThursday and with some of its stars interacting live on Twitter and Instagram today, after the ad was aired on TV.

Audi produced a highly memorable film highlighting the issue of gender pay inequality and confirming their commitment to progress and equal pay in America. It’s an inspiring commercial and taps in to the heart of the reason why many of us were marching in cities around the world on January 21st this year. The ad has received a largely positive out-pouring of sentiment on social media so far.

Drawing further cues from very present political issues around immigration and intolerance many advertisers – including Budweiser, Coca-Cola and 84 Lumber – used these themes to demonstrate emotional engagement and ‘being in touch’ with their audiences. Some were heavy handed, some fell flat and missed the point entirely but the simplest, most believable and least expected (because it wasn’t released on the internet beforehand) came from AirBnB who used the Super Bowl to launch their #WeAccept campaign.

The brand is already helping to house children and families who have been displaced by war and conflict and today pledged “to provide short-term housing over the next five years for 100,000 people in need”. The creative is simple, inclusive and very powerful. For me if was one of the highlights of today and likely to have a positive and lasting impact on the brand.

In former years the Entertainment category has always been dominated by Film. This year was no exception, with highly anticipated new TV spots for Sony’s Life, Universal’s The Fate of the Furious, Paramount’s Baywatch, Ghost In the Shell and Transformers: The Last Knight, Disney’s Pirates 5: Dead Men Tell No Tales and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 (big shout out to Baby Groot!) and Fox’s Logan and A Cure For Wellness.  But alongside the big budget Hollywood blockbusters were ads for Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale, Netflix’s Stranger Things 2. As content distribution models are rapidly evolving these newer players are entering the big budget TV advertising game with ads about their original shows, rather than just about the existence of their services. I expect that by #SB52 we will see a lot more 30 second Super Bowl spots from Amazon, Netflix, Hulu and friends.

Finally, as Super Bowl Sunday draws to a close there is a lively Twitter feud on-going between Verizon and T-Mobile. The latter brand featured heavily in the Super Bowl, with a total of 4 spots and a strong consumer insight around pricing and transparency, which is whipping up a social media storm for poor old Verizon right now. More drama than a Gaga concert.

Tomorrow we will be publishing some further data and analysis specifically on the Film and TV spots featured in #SB51, but for now it’s good night from LA and #SB51.

-Daniel Heale

Here is a complete list of all 93 ads that aired during #SB51 today (in game):

1st break

Google Home
Avocados from Mexico

2nd ad break

Mobile Strike
H&R Block with Watson

3rd ad break

Busch beer
American Petroleum Institute

4th ad break

Life Water
World of Tanks
Yellow Tail

5th ad break

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
Get Crackin’ pistachios

6th ad break

T-Mobile One

7th ad break

Transformers  – The Last Knight

8th ad break


9th ad break

Hulu – The Handmaids Tale.
Weather Tech

10th ad break

Michelob Ultra

11th ad break

The Fate of The Furious #F8

12th ad break

Square Space with John Malkovich

13th ad break

APB series premiere
Imposters / Bravo
Lady Gaga for Tiffany & Co

14th ad break

84 Lumber

15th ad break

Genius / National Geo
Carl’s Jnr

16th ad break

NFL Babies

17th ad break

Mr Clean
Snickers – live

18th ad break

T-Mobile One (with Martha Stewart / Snoop Dogg)
Persil Pro Clean

19th ad break

KIA (with Melissa McCarthy)
It’s a 10 Haircare
Stranger Things 2 – Netflix

20th ad break

A Cure For Wellness
Battle of Evony Game
The Walking Dead
Fiji Water

21st ad break

Alfa Romeo
T Mobile One (with Kristen Schaal)
Daytona 500
Genius – Nat Geo

22nd ad break

Dunkin Donuts

23rd ad break – with Gal Gadot and Jason Statham
Turkish Airlines
Amazon Echo
Kings Hawaiian

24th ad break

Bud Light

25th ad break

T-Mobile One (with Kristen Schaal)
Nintendo Switch

26th ad break

Mercedes AMG
Daytona Day

27th ad break

Alfa Romeo
Samsung Gear (24 Legacy prequel)

28th ad break

Metro PCS
24 Legacy