Bigfoot, Big Wheels and Big Walls: 2017’s Super Bowl Ads

We saw three key trends in Sunday’s Super Bowl ads: themes of inclusion, digital integration and live engagement. As we’ve seen in the past, the slapstick comedy seems to win the day for Super Bowl advertising. Kia got top honors in the USA Today poll. But it was the political theme that seemed to get all the buzz. Themes of immigration, inclusion and a multi-cultural America were prevalent in new commercials and even a three-year-old spot from Coke.

The use of digital integration was as strong as ever, with brands directing consumers to websites for the continuation of a story or to extend their engagement. Others used Twitter in real time, tying their product or service back to the game and other advertisers (ex. H&R Block, Eggo).

In-game or live spots also played a role with Tide, Snickers and Hyundai. Tide won the day by actually “getting” viewers. We think there is more to come with this approach, but not sure viewers really appreciate the aspect of “Live” commercials, or at least as much as us advertising types do.

Jeff Chase, Creative Director | Avocados from Mexico – Secret Society
As a writer who appreciates how difficult it is to create a genuinely funny spot, my favorite ad was for Avocados. It had so much going for it. There was a simple, clear message: Avocados are good for you. The concept was cleverly deceptive: A secret society is angry because the public has discovered this news about avocados. Next came the script. I wouldn’t have changed one word. It was written perfectly, having fun with all kinds of conspiracy theories. Finally, it was performed to perfection on a reasonable budget. No visual effects required.

Sure, this cute spot for avocados didn’t elevate our social consciousness or make a statement about diversity or inclusiveness or American values or immigration (though they are from Mexico, so I guess we’ll see a tax on those suckers soon enough). It was just good fun.

Heather Knight, Growth and Communications Officer | 84 Lumber – Journey 84
This pick is a departure for me. I’d generally go for the simple execution, the quick hit of humor that works, the easy laugh over nachos loaded with processed cheese. Thing is, this year I’m tired of processed cheese. I’m tired of glib answers and the media circus. My hat is off to the relatively unknown company that took a risk on a story that matters with a universal message that hits the hearts of many Americans today, “The will to succeed is always welcome here.” Here’s to building doors and making friends out of strangers.

Nick Main, Senior Copywriter | Amazon Echo – Just Ask, Febreze – Odor Odes, Alpha Romeo – Riding Dragons
Amazon Echo had a win by using quick, simple ads and repetition. No celebrities. No politics. Just fun short stories with the solution to every dilemma being their product.

The Febreze “Odor Odes” commercial was the great combination of timing right before halftime. It was on brand and on product. Proof that timing is everything, and good copy still works.

Alpha Romeo’s spot had the best voice over of the night. They promised flying cars and riding on the back of dragons (a great nod to their logo) and delivered. And the sound design was spectacular.

Kelli Oestreich, Senior Art Director | Mr. Clean – Cleaner of Your Dreams
I laughed out loud at Mr. Clean! It caught my attention right away and held it with the great dancing scene. They really knew how to target their demographic and their pain points in life. The kicker at the end, with Mr. Clean being her husband, really nailed it. The underlying message of “Your wife will love you more if you help her clean” should be a national movement.

Angela Presnell, Director of Client Services | It’s a 10 Hair Care

I love the underdog, those brands that make the investment and a statement to build a brand. With the opening line “America, we’re in for at least four years of awful hair,” it’s touching on politics but with a humorous take. Unique and memorable with an edge of inclusion. We’re called to action on doing our part with great hair, with the product as the solution.

Honorable mention: Honda, Squarespace and Ford

Anne Fundakowski, Digital Project Manager | Ford – Go Further, Bai – Bai, Bai, Bai

Ford: Funny, relatable, engaging. Everyone was saying things like, “Been there!” We looked for clues to the brand, trying to figure out what it could be for…insurance? Health care? Duracell? Once it was revealed, it was like a sigh of relief….Ahhh, now we understand. Ford keeps us moving. Good message. And we learned about a lot of things we didn’t know Ford was doing.

Bai: Everyone at the party stopped talking the second this commercial came on, and we all laughed out loud. We could not figure out what they were selling until “Bai” came on the screen in sync (or should I say *NSYNC?) with the song lyrics, but we will forever know how to pronounce that drink’s name. Brand awareness to the max!

Kendyl Alexander, Associate Digital Media Specialist | Verizon
Sprint and T-Mobile both bashed Verizon in their Super Bowl commercials. After the game, I got on Facebook and saw a very funny Verizon video playing off Sprint’s Super Bowl ad. They directly called out Sprint using the hashtags #SB51 and #SprintFails. It was a clever use of their budget. Sprint released their ad early, so it was smart thinking on Verizon’s part to respond. The only part that might have backfired is now they have a bunch of angry Facebook comments.

Tony Foster, Art Director | 84 Lumber – Journey 84, Budweiser – Born the Hard Way
84 Lumber: Best by far. The site journey84.com crashed because so many people wanted to see the ending of the story. Very political, and probably the most blatantly controversial, but extremely impactful and heartfelt. Even though some people probably hated the commercial, it very much spoke to its base.

Budweiser: Really well done. Beautifully edited and shot. Great music, and simple dialogue. Controversial, even though there is no real reason it should be, but also concepted and put together long before immigration became a hot topic.

Honorable mention: Avocados From Mexico. Just a really funny and perfectly timed, considering current events. The dialogue was genius and the comedic timing of the editing and acting was right on. Good actors > famous actors.

Katie Knox, Account Supervisor | Honda – Yearbook, Buick – Cam Newton
Honda’s yearbook commercial, with celebrities talking about their dreams, was a clever departure from talking about the vehicle’s features and the literal meaning of a car taking you somewhere. Also, it was a unique execution that I had not seen before. It held my attention.

Buick’s commercial (“If that’s a Buick, then my kid’s Cam Newton”) was also very clever and expanded on their approach of people being surprised to find the car is a Buick. The ad spent most of the time not focused on the car, but the on-field action was funny and definitely got the point across.

Joe O’Neil, Associate Art Director | Avocados from Mexico – Secret Socity, Budweiser – Born the Hard Way

Avacados from Mexico: Really clever writing. Rally simple set, no celebs. It’s funny and the humor covers a variety of ages, from “50 Shades” to Bigfoot. One important thing about ads, would you watch it again? And would you share it? Yes and yes.

Budweiser: This took balls to make. Production-wise it was expensive. It would take balls to pitch, write, shoot, and pay for. To make your audience/customers think and impact them is massive. While walking a fine line on politics, it sends a message. Told a story in just 60 seconds.

Honorable mention: Snickers with Star Wars guy, Kia Niro commercial

Jessica Jones, Account Executive |  SoFi, Tide
This year was refreshing in that I saw a lot of brands I had never heard of or don’t normally see in the Super Bowl and also a lot of brands that are very familiar (Anheuser-Busch) taking a different approach. Other than Mr. Clean (loved!), here are my favorites.

The SoFi spot struck a chord with me, being a millennial buried in student loan debt. It was extremely successful in depicting the burden student debt puts on young adults while positioning SoFi as a resource for financial freedom. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a student loan commercial in the Super Bowl but it was relevant to me and the friends I watched the Super Bowl with!

At first I thought the Tide commercial was just not very funny. That is until I heard that Terry Bradshaw actually had a stain on his shirt in real time leading up to the commercial, and after, it was gone. I think that was a very creative way to incorporate the Tide product into the real life happenings of the game and broadcast. The execution definitely changed my view on the success of the commercial. Well done.

Lajean Rau-Keene, Senior Copywriter | Coca Cola – It’s Beautiful (aired 2014), Mr. Clean – Cleaner of Your Dreams, Ford – Go Further, Budweiser – Born the Hard Way
For pure entertainment value, I’ll take the fourth quarter over all the ads. But a few spots did stand out for their effectiveness and emotional pull. I was moved as much by Coke’s retread “It’s Beautiful” spot as any of them, a reminder for me that Super Bowl commercials used to be better.

No spot did a better job of melding concept and message than Mr. Clean. I’ll never look at Mr. Clean the same again. I predict a bump in sales. Money well spent.

Tom Brady, Lady Gaga…my favorite character of the night was the kid in the tipped-over Big Wheel. If the zeitgeist in this divided nation is a need to move forward, Ford’s “Go Further” struck a chord and made them look both smart and human.

Know what’s even more refreshing than a hand-crampingly cold beer? A beer commercial that’s not painfully annoying. Anheuser Busch had two: “Buschhhhhhh!” (talk about brand awareness) and that terrific Adolphus Busch story.

Honorable mention: Honda (made me like Honda, though I’m not sure what it had to do with cars), Squarespace (a terrifying and hilarious peak into John Malkovich’s mind, facial pores and dental work).

See all the Super Bowl 2017 commercials here.