• Rich Honiball

Eight Observations From the #SuperBowlAds


A memory came up on Facebook yesterday from 2002. In New Orleans for a four-day weekend, freshly brunched from Commanders Palace, about to head into the stadium to see the New England Patriots start their legendary run of Super Bowl appearances with a dozen of my closest friends. I say “appearances” because they did lose to Eli and the Giants during that run. Twice.

This time, the Super Bowl found me sitting on the couch with my wife, a tray of healthy snacks, and the rule that you could talk during the game, but not the commercials. Exchanging posts on Facebook with friends and fellow consumers, exchanging tweets and texts with fellow marketers. Like many, I have grown increasingly discouraged at the level of creativity with the now $5.6M commercials. Or maybe my bias that I love when my wife says “Damn, you could do much better than that!” Yeah, that might be it.

From an ad perspective, I have my favorites though I haven’t taken the time to rank them because several hundred thousand experts have algorithms that will tell us what we liked. However, I do have some personal observations that I’d like to share.


It is not just about the commercial. Years ago, you invested in just the commercial, today, if you are smart, it is the campaign. I won’t comment on the Avocados from Mexico commercial from a creative perspective, but having insight from a good friend who leads their social efforts, the ad itself is almost the means to an end, because Avo killed it on social media. Which is good for Olay because in my opinion, while their ad was almost disjointed and frazzled, their #MakeSpaceForWomen effort is inspirational.

You do have to save something for the big game. While I understand why (see above), I really don’t like that most commercials are aired long before the game. I want to be surprised, shocked, see something special, and not just the Chiefs come from behind to win yet another big game. Hulu figured that out and their campaign with Brady was brilliant. All week, the buzz was whether or not Brady would retire, and instead helped Hulu nail this spot while announcing that he is coming back. Overall a good night for Boston!

Nostalgia has to have a fresh take, otherwise it will feel stale. A common theme, reminding us Gen X and Baby Boomers of the days of old, hoping we will laugh and remember the good old days. Maybe tie your brand to that warm and fuzzy feeling. I don’t remember what commercial Austin Powers was in, but it sucked. Walmart tried really hard, and some of my fellow consumers don’t agree with me, but I think is was simply recycled content. Jeep on the other hand nailed it with Bill Murray and Groundhog Day! Within seconds they gave the familiar story new energy and captured the essence and emotion of the Jeep brand. Absolutely. Brilliant.


If you are going to take a shot at a competitor, don't make it cheap. I am not a huge fan of brands that take cheap shots at other brands. Sometimes they are funny, McDonalds and Burger King have had a friendly go at it, Chick-fil-A and Popeyes have had a witty banter, however most times it is childish. That said, I thought the Pepsi Zero “Turn Red to Black” was wickedly well done. Selling “sugar water” is not really easy, fewer people are drinking it, and if you are a diehard fan of either Coke or Pepsi, you aren’t moved by marketing. But the Pepsi commercial gave the brand some well-deserved swagger with Missy Elliot, H.E.R. and the Rolling Stones.

If your brand’s ad doesn't have polish, stars won't help. I love Jimmy Fallon and Bryan Cranston, but neither ads did anything for me. I didn’t like the creative, and simply took the time to calculate how much more the $5.6M spot cost Mountain Dew and Michelob. My wife and I are torn on whether Sam Elliott and Lil Nas X helped Doritoes. But I thought that Jason Momoa lifted the Rocket Mortgage spot, Hyundai Sonata shined with Smaht pahk, and you already know how much I loved the Pepsi Commercial.

If done right, your brand can catch lightening with a good ad. I knew that Porsche was coming out with an ad for an electric car, and the ad was a bit all over the place, but it delivered the punchline. At the end of my commercial, my wife exclaimed “Porsche has an electric car?!?” Several others attempted the same effort with varied success, but there is no doubt that the automobile industry is trying to electrify itself and spent the money to do so.

A purpose driven ad won't help you if your brand doesn't have a purpose. This is a tough one for me. I believe in purpose driven marketing, but your brand has to start by serving a greater purpose. Again, I hate to ding Walmart, but their attempt at this didn’t move me, it felt hollow. Google on the other hand, with their real life 85-year-old grandfather told a story and let us know that getting to know more about you isn’t a bad thing (and Alexa played well on this field as well). I loved Microsoft’s effort with Katie Sowers because it was genuine, and about damn time. But now we get into some controversy. I though Budweiser’s ‘Typical Americans” ad hit the mark well, especially when beer and beer ads are struggling and Kia told a great story but in my various conversations around the social universe, both ads were met with mixed reactions. The other one that I thought was well done was Facebook’s “Rock Group” ad – and I will admit to a personal bias because I think their CMO, Antonio Lucio is one of the most genuine and caring marketers in the industry. But the reaction from many demonstrats that even a great commercial will miss the mark if inherently your brand is struggling with a trust issue.

I don’t care about your politics during the Big Game. I really don’t. Either from politicians or brands, though I will admit, the Alexa ad snuck in the message in a clever way.



One person I was following on Twitter during the Super Bowl, @ThatChristinaG framed up the true measures for the impact of an ad last night. First, how did it make you feel? Second, what did it make you want to do next? And finally, will you remember it a couple of days from now? With that, I do know that right after the game, that after Eli told me to check out #OneMoreSunday and look into how I could serve others, I did it. He deserved it.

Your thoughts?

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