Just 30 seconds of airtime during one of Super Bowl 50’s many commercial breaks cost companies up to $5 million. But even that is a small price to pay for exposure to well over 100 million viewers. Here’s a look at some of the most successful Super Bowl ads of 2016:
When a tall, broad-shouldered man appears on screen in boxer shorts, it’s easy to wonder—why is he hiding his beautiful muscles under that grubby t-shirt? Usually, men in these types of commercials are always topless. (Such a man appeared in during the Super Bowl in less memorable a Schick commercial.) That the man doesn’t appear topless isn’t the only surprise…
Colgate’s commercial was one of a few last night that traded in promotional gimmicks to address a broader social issue. But unlike the others, it was most successful because it didn’t rely on overt brand placement to deliver the message. Nowhere in the commercial did you see a tube of Colgate or a mention of toothpaste. Colgate let the story speak for itself. Only at the end did they flash their logo, as if to say—dear Americans, we stand behind the fight for clean water. If you stand for that, you stand with us.
In case you don’t know what the Oscar-winning actress looks like, Helen Mirren is more than happy to introduce herself. And she also just as happy to tell you she’s a “notoriously frank and uncensored British lady.” So when she goes on a tirade against drunk driving, you feel a little bit like you’ve been slapped in the face. “If your brain was donated to science,” she says, “science would return it.” Ouch.
Like the Colgate commercial, this year’s Budweiser Super Bowl ad tackles a significant problem. Gone are the days of clomping Clydesdale Horses and puppies—Budweiser has traded in its usual antics in favor a more cause-worthy message. (It’s worthwhile, however, to note that they do still manage to get in a silly minute of airtime with Seth Rogen and Amy Schumer hawking Bud Light.)
Unlike the Colgate ad, this Budweiser ad feels more overtly promotional. You might really be a “pillock” (as Mirren says) if you miss large glistening bottle of Bud next to Helen’s mouthwatering burger and fries. (And if you’re in doubt, the British lady clarifies for you at the very beginning, “Ooo, my beer. Lovely.”) It’s applaudable that Budweiser follows a trending ad style, but you know how it goes… old dogs, new tricks, etc. They haven’t yet given up on some good product placement.
If you saw Serena Williams on the street, you probably wouldn’t call her a “chick.” You might, however, call retired soccer player Abby Wambach “gay.” (She’s an open lesbian.) But the larger issue here—one of labels—is interesting and clever, given that the car being advertised is notoriously typecast: small, cute, kid-less, chick. (To name a few of the words used on air.)
Mini Cooper’s Super Bowl ad is effective because you feel as if it’s a addressing a broader, social issue, while also staying relevant to its product. Unlike other ads, such as Colgate or Budweiser, Mini Cooper uses the broad issue to tell it’s own story. This show-not-tell style seeks to get into our collective conscious and make us think about an often-stereotyped product in a new way.
Drake’s “Hotline Bling” was one of the most talked-about videos of 2015, so it’s no surprise that his “Hotline Bling”-inspired T-Mobile commercial was a hit. “I love changes,” he says, when a trio of executive-types halt his slick performance. They’re worried about data overages.
This ad might be weirdly promotional or awkwardly unfunny in less adept hands. It’s not an issues appeal like Colgate, Budweiser, and Mini Cooper—but it still relies on a universal idea. Everyone loves Drake. (And even if you don’t love Drake, you have lots of emotions about “Hotline Bling.”)
T-Mobile is not trying to tell you to save the world’s water or stop you from driving while intoxicated, they’re simply trying to say—we’re just plain fun. And, when it comes to cellphone companies (and fear of overage fees) there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being fun. #ThanksDrake
Perhaps The New York Times said it best, “Only Beyoncé could use the Super Bowl, perhaps the largest stage in the country, to showcase new material.” The song she dropped one day earlier took center stage, as both Coldplay and Bruno Mars bowed down to Queen Bey.
But not only did she take over the halftime show, she used this show to announce a new world tour with an elemental, 30-second teaser video immediately following the performance. (Beyoncé, we’re curious why there are so many eagles in your promo, but we remain believers.)
By taking over the halftime show and following it with her tour announcement, Beyoncé arguably mounted the most ingenious ad campaign all night. She effectively suggested the Super Bowl spectacle was there to serve her, not the other way around. She didn’t need to mask her message with a social agenda—she didn’t need to rope in a famous star. She was simply herself, and we’re guessing tour ticket sales over the next few days will be proof positive… Beyoncé (all by herself) is always enough.
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