Innovation at the Super Bowl

The 30 second spot still rules the Super Bowl, but brands are finding new ways of having fun during the big game.

by Mark Tungate , Adforum

The Super Bowl is the most American of sporting events, but of course everyone in adland knows that it’s also a annual showcase of US advertising creativity. With a 30 second spot costing US$5 million, there’s a lot at stake – which is perhaps why even Jeff Bezos deigned to make an appearance in an Amazon ad this year.


Trying to analyse the best digital innovations of the Bowl is no easy task. As The New York Times put it: “In an era of cord-cutting and ad-skipping, the Super Bowl is a sweet salve for the nation’s marketers.” Almost the entire point of the exercise is getting your ad in front of a captive audience of over 100 million people.

If anything, the technological highlight of this year’s event did not actually happen: after rumours that Justin Timberlake would perform with a hologram of Prince during his half-time show, the singer contented himself with a video of the late rock legend.

For our money, the advertising component of the event – which, let’s face it, is the only one we care about – was won by Droga5 and Tourism Australia, who came up with a fake trailer for a sequel to the film Crocodile Dundee, starring Danny McBride and Chris Hemsworth.

Despite the fact that “Dundee” will never be made, it has a website, an IMDB listing and a lavish Official Cast Intro trailer featuring a host of Australian stars who gave their time for free. (David Droga is Australian too, but we assume his agency was paid.)

Also riding high in the creative stakes was Tide, which thanks to Saatchi & Saatchi New York dominated the event by turning familiar forms of Super Bowl advertising into spots for the detergent. The fact that the whole thing was anchored by the charming David Harbour (from Stranger Things) only added to its like-ability.

Pepsi provoked a Twitter storm when it brought back supermodel Cindy Crawford to reenact her 1992 commercial. The result was so-so, but a silent teaser of the work on Facebook attracted over a million hits in the run-up to the game, as well as piles of traditional media coverage.

By now you’re impatient to hear from a couple of brands who actually pushed the envelope digitally. How about Kraft, which created its ad in almost real time by sourcing images from social media? People were asked to take a chance at featuring in the ad by posting family pictures and clips with the hashtags #FamilyGreatly and #KraftEntry.

Finally, two rather nutty ideas that grabbed the attention of the marketing press before the game. The first was from Skittles, which said it would show its Super Bowl ad to JUST ONE PERSON – a teenager named Marcos Menendez – and then live stream his reaction on its Facebook page. Skittles at least enabled us to watch a couple of teasers for the spot, one of which featured actor David Schwimmer doing some deeply weird stuff.


Mercedes and R/GA also took a different approach this year by running a game within a game. Instead of screening an ad, the automaker challenged viewers to become the Last Fan Standing: they had to keep their fingers pressed on a mini Mercedes AMG-C3 coupé as it whizzed around their smartphone screens throughout the event. Take their finger off and they’re out of the game. The last person with their finger still on the car wins it.


You may question the wisdom of trying to divert attention away from one of the last great shared TV viewing experiences, but we’re pretty certain that those who took part are skilled at using at least two screens at a time.