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

Super Bowl musings from an Englishman in LA, 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 $5Million 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 BaywatchGhost 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.

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


1st break

  1. Google Home
  2. Michelin
  3. Avocados from Mexico
  4. Intel


2nd ad break

  1. Mobile Strike
  2. H&R Block with Watson
  3. Skittles


3rd ad break

  1. Busch beer
  2. American Petroleum Institute


4th ad break

  1. Life Water
  2. Intel
  3. AirBnB
  4. World of Tanks
  5. Yellow Tail


5th ad break

  1. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
  2. Get Crackin’ pistachios
  3. Buick


6th ad break

  1. Logan
  2. T-Mobile One


7th ad break

  1. Honda
  2. Transformers  – The Last Knight


8th ad break

  1. Tide
  2. Sprint


9th ad break

  1. Coke
  2. Hulu – The Handmaids Tale.
  3. Weather Tech
  4. Febreeze


10th ad break

  2. Michelob Ultra


11th ad break

  1. Turbotax
  2. Lexus
  3. The Fate of The Furious #F8


12th ad break

  1. Square Space with John Malkovich
  2. Wendy’s
  3. 24


13th ad break

  1. APB series premiere
  2. Toyota
  3. Imposters / Bravo
  4. Lady Gaga for Tiffany & Co


14th ad break

  1. Empire
  2. Legion
  3. 84 Lumber
  4. Pepsi
  5. GAGA


15th ad break

  1. Genius / National Geo
  2. Expedia
  3. Carl’s Jnr


16th ad break

  1. NFL Babies
  2. Visa


17th ad break

  1. AUDI
  2. Mr Clean
  3. 24
  4. Snickers – live


18th ad break

  1. Budweiser
  2. T-Mobile One (with Martha Stewart / Snoop Dogg)
  3. Persil Pro Clean


19th ad break

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


20th ad break

  1. A Cure For Wellness
  2. Battle of Evony Game
  3. The Walking Dead
  4. Fiji Water
  5. NFL


21st ad break

  1. Baywatch
  2. Alfa Romeo
  3. T Mobile One (with Kristen Schaal)
  4. Daytona 500
  5. Genius – Nat Geo


22nd ad break

  1. NFL
  2. Dunkin Donuts
  3. Toyota
  4. Spectrum


23rd ad break

  1. – with Gal Gadot and Jason Statham
  2. Turkish Airlines
  3. Amazon Echo
  4. Kings Hawaiian
  5. Legion


24th ad break

  1. Bud Light


25th ad break

  1. T-Mobile One (with Kristen Schaal)
  2. Nintendo Switch


26th ad break

  1. Mercedes AMG
  2. Daytona Day


27th ad break

  1. Alfa Romeo
  2. Sprite
  3. KFC
  4. Tide
  5. Samsung Gear (24 Legacy prequel)
  6. APB


28th ad break

  1. Hyundai
  2. Pepsi
  3. Macys
  4. Metro PCS
  5. 24 Legacy


Originally published on LinkedIn