As an advertising Creative Director, a football fan and a music lover, it doesn’t get much better than Super Bowl Sunday.
For the past three years, I’ve opted out of traditional Super Bowl parties and instead, joined a virtual party—a Tweet Up hosted by The 3% Conference, a wonderful organization dedicated to championing female creatives, and seeing more women holding leadership roles in advertising agencies.
During the Tweet Up, both men and women from the ad industry used the hashtag #3PercentSB to focus the conversation on how brands treat and engage women. Topics included whether women were involved in the creative process, how women were portrayed in the ads and if brands were including women in their target market.
This year, the tone of the commercials was notably different than years past. There was a lot less comedy and a lot more inspiration, and it was impossible to ignore the political undertones. While only a few brands made a direct play at politics, there was a definite theme of what it means to be American, celebrating diversity and inclusion.
Here’s what made my Top 10 list, in no particular order:
While the NFL babies are always cute, I was moved by this spot. For a sport that’s all about competition and putting one team against another, it was a nice reminder that there’s more that unites us than divides us. The copy is beautiful and filled with standout lines like this one: “Inside these lines, we’re not only defined by our victories, but by the way we handle our defeats. Inside these lines, we can bring out the best in each other and live united, inside these lines.” The writing was poetic and a good lesson for life, not just football.
One of the best uses of celebrities, this could have easily been an ad for the #ItGetsBetter movement a few years back. The message of “keep going” and “moving forward” was subtle and eventually tied back to the brand helping people chase their dreams. The connection could have been stronger, but the spot made me laugh, it made me smile and it made me think a little more fondly of Honda.
This was one of my favorite spots of the night. It got me from the first line, “What do I tell my daughter?” The insight here couldn’t be more true or relevant: what a man thinks about women’s equality changes as soon as he thinks about how it affects his daughter. Bravo to Audi for making such a strong statement about supporting equal pay for women. Now the brand just needs to make sure it puts its money where its mouth is—the impact was somewhat lessened once pictures of their all white, all male board started making rounds in the Twittersphere.
Who doesn’t love Melissa McCarthy? Seriously, she’s on fire. And congrats to KIA for putting a strong, funny woman at the helm of a car brand. It was refreshing to see a woman empowered to make a difference and help save the world, even if it went hilariously wrong. Unlike the Honda spot where the connection between the concept and the brand was a little iffy, the pay off for this spot worked perfectly to cap off the story and make a statement about the brand: driving a KIA is the easiest way to be an eco-warrior. I’m sold.
When most brands are trying to out-shout and out-shine each other, it’s a bold move to put something on the air that’s soft and quiet and practically unbranded. I read every word of this Airbnb spot. Twice, since I rewound it to make sure I wasn’t imagining things and they really did run a Super Bowl spot with just a small logo at the end. A logo that doesn’t even spell out the name of the brand. Bold move. Powerful spot. I got their message of equality and inclusion loud and clear.
While the spot itself was entertaining with a good use of celebrities (and I always love a good pun, Terry-aki!) what made this spot earn a place on my list was what happened before it aired. When Fox cut to a shot of hosts Terry Bradshaw and Curt Menefee toward the beginning of the second quarter, it was hard to miss the giant stain on Bradshaw’s shirt. Viewers noticed and started tweeting about it right away, not realizing they were playing into the campaign and helping set up the spot. Very fun and clever prank!
Between the :60 and :90 second epic spots that played during almost every commercial break, this :10 spot really stood out. Like the Audi commercial, this one echoed back to the #Dadvertising trend of two years ago, and it also tapped into the growing #GirlPower movement. In the first three seconds, I was completely won over by this adorable little girl and her dry delivery of the line: “They’re relying on the blitz too much.” It’s amazing how much one line can say. And finishing it off with the juxtaposition of the song “My Girl?” I loved everything about it.
When Ron Howard directs a Super Bowl commercial, you know it’s going to make all the top lists. It was pure genius having Einstein almost “out-Gaga” Lady Gaga after her amazing halftime show. The contrast between her songs on the big stage and here, performed by Einstein on a violin was the definition of stopping power. A great non-trailer teaser for the new show, Einstein, starring Geoffrey Rush. I can’t wait to check out the show—and that’s the first time I’ve said that about anything airing on the National Geographic channel. So, congrats!
I had to Google the name of this brand after the spot aired—but I cared enough to Google the brand. It was a bold move that paid off for a first time Super Bowl advertiser, going right at the politically charged tension. They got me from the first line, “America, we’re in for at least 4 years of awful hair. So it’s up to you to do your part by making up for it with great hair.” Smart, relevant and funny. This is the kind of spot that often doesn’t make it out of an agency. Kudos to all who were involved. Like the brand, the spot was a 10.
Schuyler Sisters / America The Beautiful
The last spot on my Top 10 list goes to something that wasn’t a commercial, but it was brilliant. I got goosebumps when the Schuyler Sisters from Hamilton sang “American The Beautiful.” It wasn’t their flawless performance that got me, but their inclusion of the words “and sisterhood” after the lyric “with brotherhood.” Brilliant, simple, powerful. One of the best Super Bowl moments I’m sure I won’t forget. Standing ovation for that one.
There’s one more ad that didn’t make my top 1o list, but it does deserve an honorable mention:
Poop jokes are always good for an easy laugh, but this spot from Febreze caught my attention for another reason: the media placement. An ad talking about a bathroom break during halftime could only work right before halftime. A lot of agencies talk about collaboration but don’t always pull it off. In this case, it’s clear that the creative department and the media department worked together to make this ad happen. And that’s no small feat.
What were your favorite ads of the night?