Updated: Feb 28, 2021
A View Into This Year's Super Bowl Ads
The Super Bowl is not just a Sunday night football game, it’s the biggest entertainment event in the United States. Working at a student-run agency, it goes without saying that writing about one of the advertising industry’s most sought out events is important. This is a day most brands dream about being a part of, but only a few have the luxury to participate. The Super Bowl is watched by millions of Americans, and its hype has grown over the years as the biggest showcase of the best and most expensive ads.
Expectations were high this year, and themes around the ads could be predicted given the challenging year of 2020. Most of the ads centered around the most talked-about and controversial issues that impacted us last year. Ads were centered around inclusivity given the most recent social justice movement; the need for community to address the current divisiveness our political climate has created; nostalgia to bring us back to happier times by using old-school celebrities and characters. And, more importantly, togetherness to help small businesses survive during these trying times.
However, it seems the hype fell short as viewership was lower and brands didn’t get exposed to as many people as they thought they would. I also believe ads might have fallen short because messaging mainly revolved around the issues we faced in the last year. Even if it's for a short period of time, audiences don’t want to be reminded of the challenging realities we are facing. They need to be given hope and disconnect. Even if it’s through comedy, people don’t want to hear that we are divided, that we are in lock-down, or that our businesses are struggling. People want to move forward.
That might be the reason why the three spots that stood out the most for me, and that actually have been ranked within the Top 10 ads according to USA Today’s Ad Meter, were those that didn't talk about any of the current events impacting our society. In fact, none of the ads on the Top 10 list hit or spoke about 2020 or any of the societal issues we are facing. The only exception of Bud Lights’ “Last Year’s Lemon’s” which was actually ranked last with #10. These ads were inspiring and light-hearted. They focused on messaging that spoke to audiences about timeless truths in a more human way. The three ads that stood out the most for me were: Toyota featuring Paralympic Athlete Jessica Long, Amazon’s Alexa featuring Micahel B. Jordan, and Cheetos featuring Mila Kunis, Ashton Kutcher, and Shaggy.
Here is a quick recap and links to the three spots that stood out to me:
1. Toyota - Story on Jessica Long
Pulling on emotional strings to drive inspiration, Toyota featured amputee athlete Jessica Long. She is going to the upcoming Paralympic games representing the U.S. and part of Team Toyota. Now, while many might claim this was a message around overcoming our current challenges, it not once touched upon the year behind us. This ad featured a true story that highlights the life challenges and inspiring journey Jessica has gone through to take her to this summer's games.
2. Amazon Alexa - Featuring Micahel B Jordan
Technology is now a part of our daily lives. Alexa has become a synonym for voice control devices, and many see them as part of their daily routine. Amazon played this up in their most recent ad that aired in the Super Bowl. By giving Alexa a body, Amazon made the voice assistant feel human and a more integral part of our lives. The ad features Micahel B. Jordan, who was also named the Sexiest Man Alive by People Magazine, as the “ideal” voice and body for a woman user who seems to use Alexa on a daily basis by asking "him” to do tasks we can expect from the technology. The ad was lighthearted and funny, and it actually can be seen as a continuation of last year's ad where “Alexa Loses Her Voice.” The commercial features a variety of celebrities that want to be ‘the voice”. Once again, this year’s ad tried to humanize technology and make it a part of our daily life.
3. Cheetos - "Wasn’t Me" - Featuring Mila Kunis, Ashton Kutcher
Using one of America’s most beloved couples that dates back to “That 70’s Show” and a Shaggy song that is over 20 years old, Cheetos used nostalgia, comedy and the couple's chemistry to introduce the brand's new product, Cheetos Crunch Pop Mix. Using the lyrics to the song, Mila continues to deny the obvious, which is shown by the brands signature use of orange dust covered fingers. What really struck me the most is that even if newer generations are not familiar with the song, or are even familiar with the show where Mila and Ashton debuted as a couple, the story is clear, funny, and delivers the benefits of the product and uniqueness of the brand using a couple everyone loves and can relate to.
Looking Forward to 2022
While Super Bowl 2021 was different in many ways, advertisers still spent millions of dollars for a 30 second slot, $5.5 million to be exact. They hoped to create awareness, connection, and help drive their brands to the list of best ads of all time. We were still entertained and while viewership was down, brands still went out of their way to try to reach their goal and connect with audiences. Can’t wait to see what 2022 will bring as things continue to evolve.
Alexa Garsed-Barraza is an Account Planner at Roxo, TCU’s student-run ad and pr agency. She is currently a senior Strategic Communication student at TCU with a minor in Film, TV, and Digital Media.