After several consecutive years of brand activism and political statements dominating the discussion surrounding Super Bowl ads, we were pleasantly surprised to see advertisers take a different approach in 2018. In stark contrast to recent years, Super Bowl LII ads focused predominantly on light-hearted humor and all-around fun with very few divisive topics, commentary or sexual innuendo throughout the program. Even Justin Timberlake’s halftime performance was devoid of bold stances and provocative imagery (unlike his last go-round in 2004, but #JanetJacksonAppreciationDay still trended on Twitter!), and instead left the audience with a general feeling of unity and togetherness.
As marketers, we’d like to think that brands decided to respond to audience fatigue over the typical barrage of socially-charged topics and scantily clad women and instead focus on humor to bring us back together. While inevitably there are still a few areas of debate surrounding a few #SB52 moments, overall this year’s game was a breath of fresh air in terms of marketing appeals for wider audiences.
For fresh produce marketers, we’d like to highlight a few of our favorite themes we picked up on that can offer you marketing inspiration for the year to come!
If a person that we trust as an authority or an expert on the subject says we should do something, we’re more likely to do it. This year’s Super Bowl ads used quite a bit of celebrity authority to capitalize on our willingness to take action. The Amazon Alexa ad was one of our favorites. The spot starred Amazon founder Jeff Bezos who solved Alexa’s lost voice crisis by calling upon the help of pop culture favorites and the highly recognizable voices of Gordon Ramsey, Cardi B, and Rebel Wilson to show us how helpful the original Alexa really is.
Two other brands took a satirical approach to the use of celebrity authority in ads. Tourism Australia’s ad began as a movie trailer, showing Danny McBride and Chris Hemsworth on an adventure through Australia. As the ad develops, Hemsworth inserts a few lines that highlight Australia’s biggest attractions, including 37,000 miles of pristine beach and some of the finest wines in the world. McBride finally catches on to the intention of the ad, ending the spot with the line, “Dude, I get it, it’s not a movie, it’s a commercial.”
Michelob Ultra also satirized the use of celebrity authority in ads. The spot began with Chris Pratt preparing for the Super Bowl role of a lifetime, only to learn that he’ll be an extra in the ad instead of the celebrity star. Michelob Ultra and Tourism Australia broke the traditional approach to advertising by poking fun at themselves, and in doing so stood out amongst the other million dollar ads they competed against for viewer’s attention.
Storytelling through Advertising
Storytelling is a hot topic amongst marketing gurus and was prominently featured during the 2017 Brandstorm Conference for Fresh Produce Marketers. We learned that the best marketers focus not on telling their products features, but on telling a bigger story that their products exist within. This was demonstrated throughout the 2018 Super Bowl ads, with brands creating universes and stories where their product exists as a piece of the overall puzzle.
Jeep’s 2019 Cherokee spot tells a story most Jeep fans will relate to: “taking the road less traveled.” Starting with an aerial view of what day-to-day life looks like for many drivers, the brand focuses on what ‘the road less traveled’ looks like to them in an off-roading experience.
We also loved brands that invited viewers to continue to engage with their story online or by “staying tuned” through cliffhanger endings. For example, Bud Light kept viewers hooked with their Dilly Dilly story, bringing us along on an epic battle for cases of their popular beer. Their “to be continued” series began with a king giving his people a pep talk to go into battle, against all odds, to achieve victory and bring home the Bud Light. The next ad in the series introduced us to the Bud Knight, the hero of the story, who saves the town dressed in Bud Light blue armour.
By creating continuity in their Super Bowl ads, Bud Light encouraged viewers to stay tuned for more and to anticipate the finale of the series. If viewers missed a segment of the series when it aired live, they were motivated to find the ad online.
Team USA Pride
Speaking of storytelling, a unique feature for this year’s Super Bowl included a series of ads telling the stories behind the thrilling athletes competing on behalf of Team USA in this year’s upcoming Winter Olympics. The ads took us into the lives of these all-American athletes with stories about sacrifice, overcoming setbacks and defying gender roles. Brands also tapped into the upcoming Winter Olympics, including Toyota with their story of Lauren Woolstencroft an incredible gold medal winning paralympic skier.
We have to applaud NBC Sports, the marketing team behind these ads and Toyota too - we’re now anxious to tune into this year’s Winter Olympics to cheer these athletes on!
We’re firm believers that when brands work together, we achieve better results, and these marketers likely agree! We saw Doritos and Mountain Dew team up in one of the most talked about ads of the Big Game. Peter Dinklage and Morgan Freeman represented Doritos Blaze and Mountain Dew Ice, respectively, in the rap battle of a lifetime. The banter was entertaining and suggested that Mountain Dew Ice and Doritos Blaze are best enjoyed together.
While Tide dominated the advertising schedule throughout the Super Bowl, we couldn’t help but notice how the brand’s parent company, P&G, took the opportunity to team up with one of their previous (and popular) Super Bowl advertisement stars, the Old Spice Guy.
If you’re ever in a position to have to outrun a T-Rex, Jeep should be your getaway automobile of choice, or at least that’s what last night’s advertisement wanted us to know. Jurassic Park and Jeep have been a dynamic duo since the movie first aired in 1993, so as they prepare to release a new Jurassic Park film, we’re looking forward to seeing more ads featuring Jeeps and dinos soon!
Nostalgia in Marketing
2018 Super Bowl advertisers brought us back in time for several ad spots. Jeep continued to take advantage of Jurassic Park and brought us along for a test drive with Jeff Goldblum, showcasing the longevity and timelessness of a Jeep Wrangler. Kia encouraged viewers to “feel something again” by driving in reverse and traveling to Steven Tyler of Aerosmith’s younger years. Pepsi showed us they are the soda brand for every generation by showcasing their brand throughout the years of drive in movies, Cindy Crawford, Michael Jackson, and Back to the Future. And how could we forget our favorite 2018 nostalgic moment? We love the NFL’s Dirty Dancing commercial with Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr.
So what did these brands achieve with their use of nostalgia in this year’s ads? For one, these brands reached viewers on an emotional level, bringing generations of consumers back to special moments in their lives. These ads also highlighted that each brand has stood the test of time, and that throughout decades of halftime shows, touchdown celebrations, and moments in pop culture, we’ve always been able to depend on them.
Feisty Social Media Follow Ups
Social media is a huge place to be for brands during the Super Bowl, milti-million dollar advertising spot or not, but we couldn’t help but notice how clever some of this year’s advertisers were with their post-ad social media banter.
Febreze hilariously owned their product’s use in a commercial titled, “The Only Man Whose Bleep Don’t Stink,” and while the ad itself was funny, it likely wouldn’t have stood out on anyone’s top 10 list for #SB52 if it weren’t for their hilarious use of Twitter following the ad. The brand took to social media to taunt other advertisers about their products affect on people’s “bleep” and the need for Febreeze. Sounds like a potential hot partnership for 2019 in the making!
Wendy’s continued embracing its relatively new sassy and bold brand personality that began on Twitter about a year ago with a cheeky TV ad shaming McDonald’s for its frozen beef patties. Interestingly, there was no voice over in the ad but rather solely text and video--mirroring the brand’s popular Twitter presence. Then, immediately after the 30 second blackout occurred during one of the commercial breaks, @Wendys embraced the opportunity to further antagonize their rival, McDonald’s with this sassy tweet:
Y'all freeze that live feed?— Wendy's (@Wendys) February 5, 2018
Social Media MVPs
Each year we come across brands who use social media to their full advantage to create connections throughout the Super Bowl. We loved seeing our industry’s own Avocados from Mexico take Twitter by storm with their #GuacWorld hashtag to drive traffic to an interactive world existing on their website. The brand encouraged Twitter users to post the #GuacWorld hashtag for a chance to win prizes throughout the night.
But if a multi-million dollar commercial isn’t in your marketing budget, marketers should still be encouraged to stay present on social media throughout the game to gain connections for much, much less! We noticed quite a few brands who chose to not run ads opting to be active and engaged on social instead. One of our favorites here was Skittles who created an “exclusive” ad that was only shown to one person, Marcos Menendez. Instead of airing this ad during the big game, they recorded a Facebook live stream of Marcos watching the ad at the end of the first quarter.
Brands also took to Snapchat to engage with audiences by creating filters to coincide with their ads. We saw one for the Mountain Dew and Doritos’ Fire and Ice commercial as well as one for Bud Light’s Dilly Dilly campaign.
Brands that Give Back
The average American connects strongly to brands when they feel as though their purchase, in some way, contributes to a greater cause or purpose. For example, Hyundai’s 60-second spot ad pulled at all our heart strings with charity "Hyundai Hope On Wheels" benefiting pediatric cancer research. Dean Evens, CMO of Hyundai Motor America, said exactly what we were thinking. “What we’re trying to build is a brand that people want to buy because they have something like being proud to own the vehicle.”
Verizon has strayed away from Super Bowl ads since 2011, but this year they made what was arguably one of the most touching impacts with an ad celebrating the first responders who have worked especially hard after a year of disasters in 2017. The ad called for visits to All Our Thanks, where you can thank a first responder for all they do or donate to the American Red Cross.
Finally, we can’t mention #SB52 ads without highlighting Tide. Poking fun at the stereotypical ads we’re used to seeing during the Superbowl, Tide owned their multiple spots and air time by telling us “it’s a Tide ad” - a creative departure from detergent commercials we’re used to seeing! With spokesperson David Harbour reenacting everything from the typical beer, lotion, insurance, and perfume ads all the way to bringing in familiar aspects like Coke-shaped bottles, Alexa, the Old Spice guy, and Mr. Clean - the brand did a great job making fun of itself and other like-minded brands in order to connect with viewers and make us laugh.
While these certainly aren’t the only examples of great marketing that happened during the 2018 Super Bowl, we’re confident that these are timeless advertising tactics that resonate strongly with audiences and will for years to come. We hope to see advertising in 2018 as a whole embody the unifying and funny ads we saw this week. Fresh produce marketers can find encouragement in the shift toward light-hearted humor by finding ways to create your own videos to feature across social media that share this side of your brand and company.
Did we miss your favorite #SB52 ad? Tweet it to us @TheCoreBlog and share with us why you love it!