12/02/2016 Superbowl musings, from an Englishman in L.A
I recently touched down in L.A, just in time for #SuperBowl50. So today, with a beer in one hand (don’t worry Helen Mirren and Budwesier, I’m not driving) and Twitter in the other, I’ve been celebrating America’s biggest event in advertising. I’ve spent the past 4 hours glued to the TV feasting my eyes on some exciting, evocative and memorable commercials – which is jolly good news for those marketers paying millions of dollars for the airtime. This year I was here to see it live for the first time. With genuine amazement, surprise, some disappointment and a few misfires here is a quick round-up of the ads in Super Bowl 50.
Let’s start with one of the main reasons I tuned in – to see some exclusive new content from some of the biggest movies that will be releasing over the next few months – X-Men: Apocalypse, Independence Day Resurgence, Jason Bourne, The Secret Life of Pets, The Jungle Book, Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justiceand star of the Super Bowl Deadpool.
X-Men: Apocalypse brought action, jeopardy and almost the entire ensemble cast of the movie into 20 seconds – and looks absolutely spectacular. Universal Pictures finally revealed the title of Matt Damon’s return to the role he made most famous in Jason Bourne. Fox unveiled a brand new trailer for Independence Day Resurgence, integrating the Super Bowl into the ad creative just as the first film did 20 years ago. Thanks to Turkish Airlines’ partnership with Warner Brothers, we were treated to two new ads for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice announcing ‘new routes’ to Gotham City and Metropolis. An expensive, but smart and well executed move for the airline. Finally, Disney’s reimagining ofThe Jungle Book used some great 3D effects in the ad and included an online call to action at the end (one of very few advertisers to do so).
The Coca-Cola spot featuring Marvel’s Hulk and Ant-Man fighting over a can of Coke Mini was a personal favourite. The ad is charming, in-character and strategically spot on in terms of brand values for the small cans that are reshaping Coke’s marketing strategy. Just like Ant-Man, the current trend in consumer behaviour to down-size their intake of sugary drinks is perfectly captured.
Sticking with soft drinks, Mountain Dew Kickstart scored a big hit with ‘PuppyMonkeyBaby’ – not the stuff of nightmares, but 3 awesome things combined just like the ingredients of its new drink. Surrealist ideas in advertising carry some risk, but this one definitely looks to have paid off with more than 50,000 tweets for # PuppyMonkeyBaby during the first half of the game and the hashtag trending on Twitter long after TV transmission.
Automotive is a ubiquitous category in Super Bowl commercials but there were some real treats this year including commercials from Audi, Jeep, Kia and Hyundai (not the bear one, but the one that featured 13 different characters played by Ryan Reynolds).
Jeep produced a beautiful 60 second film celebrating 75 years of its brand, featuring incredible photography, Steve McQueen, Marilyn Monroe and B.B. King (who all owned or drove a Jeep). It felt like a beautifully curated, living, breathing Instagram album.
Bowie’s Starman lent a soaring and inspiring edge to Audi’s ad for the R8, with the message that ‘choosing the moon brings out the best in all of us’. I’ll be booking a test drive with my SoCal Audi dealer this week.
Christopher Walken brought some star quality – and great socks – to the Kia Optima ad, whilst Ryan Reynolds appeared 13 times as different characters in ‘Ryanville’ where an accident is prevented thanks to the automatic braking system when the Hyundai detects a pedestrian played by Ryan Reynolds before the driver who is being distracted by another Ryan Reynolds, or two.
Given the huge cost associated with Super Bowl spots and the focus on new, exclusive content, it’s easy to overlook the fact that to FMCG marketers including Persil, Advil, Carls Jnr and Honest Company cleaning products, the Super Bowl is a tried and tested way of reaching millions of eye-balls and aiding brand recall, without the need for fancy bespoke creative. Some of these brands came under fire on Twitter for running ‘boring’ commercials, but with plenty of outstanding creative work on offer during the breaks, for FMCG brands it’s largely about having a presence and maintaining awareness. Judging by the huge queues in Whole Foods earlier, with everyone buying beer I’m imagine that Advil will experience a nice surge in sales tomorrow morning.
The half time show is one of the main reasons for tuning in to the Super Bowl, growing in scale and notoriety over the past few years. This year was billed as a celebration of past, present and future. Apparently Coldplay were on, but I blinked and must have missed them as Beyonce quite literally stole the show. The closest we came to a Janet Jackson style wardrobe malfunction was a slight wobble from Beyonce mid-dance routine, but she recovered perfectly like the absolute professional she is and rounded the appearance off very nicely with the first ad in the break that followed announcing tickets for her new world tour. Perfect placement.
A few other highlights include Amazon Echo. A celebrity heavy ad, featuring Missy Elliot and Alec Baldwin amongst others but featured repeated use of the voice activated technology; The T-Mobile spot featuring Drake; Heinz Ketchup and the super hot-dogs; Colgate (every drop counts, encouraging viewers to turn off the water when brushing their teeth); And Axe, taking a new direction with their campaign and celebrating a more inclusive take on masculinity.
Like most other Europeans, I usually read about Super Bowl the following morning and watch all the ads on YouTube before analysing the numbers and forming an opinion about the real winners and losers, but, this year it was good to see it happen in real time.
Tomorrow will be all about the data, the buzz and the views but for now it’s good night from L.A and #SuperBowl50
Written by Daniel Heale