The 5 Best Ads From Super Bowl XLVIII

A one-sided game, many emotional moments. Here are the ads that stood out.

While most marketers, rightly, look to build on the once-a-year mass audience opportunity afforded by the Super Bowl, fewer of them actually end up creating something that stands on its own as worthwhile content or warrants the extended play.

If you expect to stoke and sustain people’s interest, there has to be something more than "this is a thing that’s related to a Super Bowl spot, which is interesting in itself." And that’s what most of this year’s Super Plus strategies added up to.

After Oreo’s much discussed "Dunk in the Dark" tweet last year, all eyes were on advertisers' social channels (well, the eyes of people in marketing and the people who follow brands on Twitter, so not really ALL eyes) to see how they would respond to action on the field and on the social platform. Many agency and brand people spent their Super Bowl Sunday nights in "war rooms" around the country, ready to pounce on the conversational opportunities that presented themselves during the game.

But in the end, there was no big catalyzing moment in the game, and none in brands' social feeds. There was a lot of inter-brand communication, and several cute efforts, like JC Penney’s mittens gag. The retailer started tweeting typo-ridden messages prompting some to respond with ridicule before Penney revealed the payoff: "Oops...Sorry for the typos. We were #TweetingWithMittens. Wasn't it supposed to be colder? Enjoy the game! #GoTeamUSA"). The multi-tweet effort was a promo for the company's Go Team USA Mittens.

It was an unexpected brand that perhaps captured the most buzz—Hillary Clinton, who went zing! with: "It’s so much more fun to watch FOX when it’s someone else being blitzed & sacked! #SuperBowl"

And Oreo itself zagged by tweeting the equivalent of "we were doing this before it was cool so we’re going to let you losers go nuts," simply issuing the tweet: "Hey guys…enjoy the game tonight. We’re going dark. #OreoOut."

When it came to the filmed messages, sweeping cinematics, patriotism, and FEELINGS ruled the night. Continuing the trend toward more emo ads, the Super Bowl provided plenty of opportunity for awkward social crying with commercials that opted for Human Moments rather than chuckles. Between Chevy’s World Cancer Day spot, a wordless slice of life featuring a couple driving to the tune of "Don’t Leave" by Ane Brue, Budweiser’s dual weepers, "Puppy Love" and "A Hero’s Welcome," and Bob Dylan reminding us that "you can't import, the heart and soul, of every man and woman working on the line," while making a case for the US auto industry, we had a lot of soul searching to do in between Seattle touchdowns.

And it seemed that among all those big statements, there were missed opportunities, like Budweiser aforementioned elaborate welcome parade for a solider returning from Afghanistan. While our hearts swelled thinking about a happy homecoming for that serviceman, ultimately, the spot may have left many people with a slight hollow feeling. What if Budweiser devoted its resources to helping all returning vets? It would be nice to see an organization of the size of many Super Bowl advertisers do something more substantive for more members of that, or any group—groups that could use a hand and aren't getting it from the institutions that are meant to be providing it (and maybe Budweiser is doing this without fanfare; if so, kudos, and let us know about it).

Here, the ads that stood out during Super Bowl XLVIII.

5. Newcastle "S**** B*** Campaign"

Of course, this really isn't a Super Bowl ad, but a well played Super Bowl ambush. Newcastle has built its persona over the past few years by pricking the pomposity and manufactured cool of typical Big Beer marketing. What better way to take that not-quite-epic approach to the next level (down?) by lampooning the whole Super Bowl ad circus, while simultaneously drafting off of its mighty wind? Newcastle and agency Droga5 launched the campaign with the "Teaser for the trailer for Newcastle's Mega Huge Football Game Ad" and kept going with a site featuring the ads that could have been, and spots showing a hilariously and sadly real focus group and sort of spokesperson Anna Kendrick. During the game, the brand's Twitter poked good-natured fun at real Super Bowl advertisers (sample: "Didn’t see that end coming in your bodybuilder Ad @GoDaddy. And you won’t see it coming in our version #IfWeMadeIt http://youtu.be/RM-lDsZudG4").

4. Axe "Make Love Not War"

After last year's campaign which entailed sending average guys to space, Axe returns with a play for world peace.

3. Coca-Cola "It's Beautiful"

There was much celebrating of America during the game, unsurprisingly, and Coke's addition to the patriotic festivities was a one-minute film showing peoples from a wide range of cultural groups singing "America the Beautiful"—in seven languages in all (and apparently, the ad also featured the Super Bowl's first gay family). A nice, simple spot that, of course, provoked impotent, silly rage from the mad minority on Twitter (sample tweet: "You can't sing an American song in another language! #boycottcoke"). We salute both Cheerios (which revisited its interracial family for this year's Super Bowl) and Coke for putting unremarkable yet lovely reality in people's faces. Racists' food choices are dwindling by the day, and for that, advertisers, we thank you.

2. Chobani "Ransacked"

What a relief to see something with a sense of humor instead of an earnest meditation on, and obligatory images of healthy lifestyles and white swells of milk. Instead we have a giant bear who just wants to pay for his yogurt. That’s what the Super Bowl is all about.

1. Budweiser "Puppy Love"

Once again, Budweiser and agency Anomaly create a beautiful bit of emotional manipulation that everyone can willingly, happily wallow in. There’s nothing subtle here—Majestic Clydesdales! Puppies! Inter-species love!— but it’s all done so well you just sit back and enjoy the tear-soaked ride—repeatedly. Like last year's spot, "Brotherhood," "Puppy Love" was highly re-watchable. And, as it did last year, the team behind the ad just nailed the music. The track, "Let Her Go" by Passenger makes the commercial, as did last year’s musical accompaniment to Bud’s tale of man/beast bonding, "Landslide" from Fleetwood Mac.

If I were the creative director: the main dog character would have been a mutt. A litter of champion labs is a little on the (adorable) nose. A big-pawed, non-breed-specific mutt would have been a great counterpoint to the majesty and triumph of breeding that is the Clydesdale, would have made a statement about dog adoption and would have been a little zag that would have created extra interest.

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3 Comments

  • @tiezzi thanks for a great review. Your point of "mutt" casting is dead on, I'm surprised the ECD missed that one.

    An ad I'd give an honorable mention to is the Cobert Pistachios double feature. It was another classic humor gag that surely created chuckles... Though not sure it will generate sales.

  • Alejandro Collados-Nunez

    Interesting how each brand sells something unrelated to their product. Grand powerful things, like peace, creating a better world, the american national anthem/freedom, true interspecies love and the hope of seeing Anna Kendrick in her first nude scene.

    I love America so i love Coca Cola, I want world peace so i use Axe - the scary thing is that this manipulation technique of association actually works on us susceptible consumers.

    Maybe i'm over reacting; I'll go have a Newcastle and day dream about Anna now.