Most observers agreed that this year’s Super Bowl was a somewhat lacklustre affair. Even the half-time performance by the band Maroon 5 was deemed less than thrilling. But what about the ads? After all, for some of us they’re considered just as much a draw as the big game.
Well, stunning creativity was thin on the ground. It’s almost as if agencies have become so focused on playing with technology and social media that they’ve lost the knack of making a good old-fashioned TV spot.
There were exceptions, of course. Bud Lite was widely praised for its Game of Thrones partnership, in which its “Bud Knight” character proves definitively that the brew goes rather well with a barbecue. The spot was a collaboration between Droga5 and Bud Lite regulars Wieden + Kennedy.
Elsewhere, pop culture geeks thrilled to a spot from Mother New York in which The Dude (the character played by Jeff Bridges in the cult movie The Big Lebowksi) and Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) from Sex and the City ditched their signature cocktails in favour of Stella Artois. And all for a good cause, too.
Carrie wasn’t the only legendary lady in the Bowl breaks: Serena Williams cropped up in a spot for the dating app Bumble. The app is designed to both protect and empower women because, in heterosexual matches, only female users can make the first contact. The spot was appropriately called “The Ball Is In Her Court”. The ad was made by FlyteVu and VMLY&R.
This year’s Super Bowl was largely free of political jibes, although there was a powerful spot about the importance of press freedom from the Washington Post, narrated by Tom Hanks. Hard not to see it as a swipe at Trump’s constant dismissal of negative stories about him as “fake news”. Factoid: you may remember that Hanks played the newspaper’s iconic 1968-91 editor, Bed Bradlee, in the movie The Post.
Technology was more than usually present during this year’s breaks – a trend that’s likely to continue. Amazon now looks like a stalwart, and unleashed some star-powered laughs for this year’s effort.
But is the idea of Amazon controlling the global power grid really that amusing? For those who are paranoid about artificial intelligence, Michelob Ultra had the answer in two spots promoting its natural ingredients. At the end of the day, there are some things even the most humanoid machines can’t do.
TurboTax and Wieden + Kennedy took a similar tack, with a spot featuring a robot child who apparently gave a lot of viewers the shivers, judging by the tweets that followed.
In fact, a veritable army of robots invaded this year’s Bowl, proving yet again that advertising is always a mirror of society’s fears and aspirations. Take this offering from Sprint, for example.
Ironically, it was left to Google to bring of humanity to the picture, with a warm and well-crafted spot (made by its Creative Lab) focusing on its Translate service. Or maybe it’s just because we believe in the power of words.