It’s that time of the year when my colleagues at Giant Propeller trick me into coming over for a Super Bowl party only to lock me in a windowless room with a TV and bucket so I am forced to watch all of the commercials without distractions. I should’ve seen this coming, but was so desperate for human connection I let my heart mislead me once again.
Look, we know how this goes: giant corporate brands that have existed for decades drop millions of dollars that could go toward curing cancer or reversing global warming so they can assert dominance in their prospective markets. With the advent of digital marketing and social media, emerging brands are able to thrive without this traditional broadcasting (see our takeaway at the end), so why do the titans of commerce keep going all-in every year? To show off their commitment, their confidence, their relevance, and the size of their wallets?
Is any of this expensive pageantry really worth it? Has anyone ever watched a Super Bowl commercial and suddenly had a change of heart toward a brand they have grown up with? Or are these spots intended to indoctrinate the youngest demographics in order to keep the perpetual march of brand loyalty surging forward one generation to the next?
Probably all of the above. FOX sold 77 national ad slots for Super Bowl LIV for as much as $5.6 million each, and the total sales figures are estimated to top $400 million. So where did all of this F.U. money end up? Let’s take a dive into the rabbithole of Big Marketing and see what some of the world’s top brands came up with this year. In no apparent order…
Martin Scorsese is somehow rolling solo at a party and has trouble convincing Jonah Hill to join him. Hill, who looks like he hasn’t slept since The Wolf of Wall Street, needs to chug an energy drink in order to rally and hang out with one of the greatest American filmmakers of all time. Apparently this is what being famous is like.
Perhaps more startling than the decision to kill off their beloved mascot, Mr. Peanut, only to resurrect him as Baby Yoda’s arch-nemesis, is the revelation that the shelled-creature’s circle of friends includes Mr. Clean, the Kool-Aid Man and… Wesley Snipes. This demands further explanation.
Jeep somehow managed to lure the elusive Bill Murray out of hiding to recreate one of his most beloved movies, Groundhog Day. This is incredibly clever considering the Super Bowl took place on that rodent-worshipping holiday. Well played, Jeep, well played.
Heinz Marketing Team: We have four pitches for the Super Bowl spot. Which should we go with?
Heinz CEO: All of them!
Is what I imagine that meeting was like.
About the only thematic connection I could ascertain between Walmart and sci-fi Hollywood blockbusters is that some of the people who shop there do look like aliens trying to pass as human. Apparently this was enough reasoning to throw $5 million at.
Before this spot, I was unaware that this brand existed. Now I do. And now I forever associate Greek yogurt with male athletes twerking their bubble butts. Because protein? Again, $5 million.
The emotional equivalent of the opening sequence from Up, this spot serves as a gentle reminder during our day drinking that every love story ends in tragedy but thankfully we will have Google to remind us that we were once young and happy… Jesus.
We’re a very average beer brand competing in an ever-growing craft beer market so let’s celebrate how utterly average we are because we ain’t going nowhere. #AverageLivesMatter
I don’t care how many famous people you have speaking in some horrible, unknown dialect: I don’t want to live in a world where people have lost the will / ability to park their own cars.
So the premise here is that the security guards at Porsche are taking the cars they are paid to protect on reckless races through all of Germany whenever they feel like it… And I was fired from a job once for CC’ing the wrong people on an email.
Once again, here comes Big Avocado muscling their way into America’s living rooms to show us what the guacamole dip looked like before it reached our shores. In what may be the strangest flex, they are even offering up Molly Ringwald as a promotional prize – but the look of palpable fear on her face when she realizes this illustrates the darkness behind the Avocado industry. #SaveMolly
MC Hammer reveals his true nature as a mischievous Jinn demon who encourages people to embrace their apathy in moments of human need. Forget 666, orange fingers are the new Mark of the Beast.
Steering clear of the actual trash-covered sponges they pass off as pizza, the Little Caesar’s strategy here is to emphasize the revolutionary concept of “home delivery.” Shockwaves continue to reverberate throughout the pizza industry as other brands scramble to catch up.
I thought the old man reminiscing about his dead wife via Google was depressing, but now we’re being encouraged to drink beer in order to help farmers grow actual, real food. Yes, now I do need to get drunk… but on actual, real beer.
Celebrating the first female coach in a Super Bowl is a worthy endeavor no doubt, but what this has to do with Microsoft does not compute with me… Get it? Sigh.
The casting of Bryan Cranston as Jack Torrance from The Shining is actually pretty brilliant – he would nail the role if there were ever a remake. Unfortunately, the man who played Heisenberg went from peddling neon blue meth to neon green liquid diabetes. From what radioactive mountain does dew glow in the dark? Nothing we put in our bodies should have that color.
Life insurance: because someone should always benefit from our untimely demise. Pass the chips!
There is nothing funny to say about the racially-motivated executions of African Americans by police in this country so I’m just gonna shut my fingers up.
For anyone over the age of 30, Rick & Morty is a weird cartoon that is very popular among stoners and people without mortgages. This spot is actually pretty cool if you know about it. For those that don’t, this is probably one of the strangest commercials you’ve ever seen and a gentle reminder that you are getting old.
All you need to know here is that a candy brand has spent $5 million on a spot that ends with a man walking around with his head shoved up his own ass… and we hear his voice muffled within his colon. Because chocolate.
Winona Ryder is approached by a police officer for laying down by the side of the road under the auspices of “making a website.” When the officer realizes she is a white person, he does not execute her on sight (in a nutshell). This does not juxtapose well with the NFL spot.
I have no idea what a brand that specializes in custom fit car mats, floor mats and trunk liners has to do with removing tumors from dogs’ hearts, but I fully endorse any brand that saves pups’ lives. 10/10.
Reality TV star and avid golfer, Donald Trump, reportedly dropped a whopping $11 million for 2 spots to remind America everything is just fine. Whew. For a second there, I really thought our government and environment were self-destructing at an exponential rate. That said, I feel like there was a missed opportunity for a Trump / Cheetos crossover ad, something to do with his love for Cheetos being the cause behind his orange complexion. Admit it: that would have actually been really clever.
THE TAKEAWAY FOR EMERGING BRANDS
Just because you can’t spend millions on celebrities and special FX doesn’t mean your emerging brand can’t thrive during the Super Bowl or any other holiday / event. With the growth of online platforms and social media networks, there is plenty of opportunity for growth with in-stream ads (such as with YouTube or Facebook). While Super Bowl / TV ads usually have one up-front cost, online ad placements have more flexible costs depending on how long they are, how long you’d like to circulate the ads, and the size or scope of your target audience.
And while televised commercials require a consumer to remember and look up your brand later, online ads often allow audiences to click on them directly when they’re interested in your product or offer. This automatically adds a greater chance of ROI and decreases friction between the brand and the customer. In short: emerging brands might not be able to cast the widest net, but when you know where to fish, quality will always > quantity.
Now will someone please let me out of this room?? The blog is finished and my bucket is full.