The biggest game in history isn’t the game itself, it’s the commercial-war in between. Out of the 56 Super Bowl ads I’ve selected three showdowns to see which brand deserves this year’s ring.
Battle 1: Showtime
Over the past years, the battle has been extended with ‘pre-rounds’. To claim your own moment of attention (and spreading out the massive production budget) most of the commercials are aired the weeks before the actual game. Another big advantage is (less expensive) air-time and thus giving space to longer edits! See how Doritos and Expensify software battle it out on the music video pitch.
They both start strong with funny product placement from the beginning. Doritos’ choice for a classic song makes total sense, but at the same time very hard to beat the original.
A super smart interactive element with high download incentive and a dope song and video make it a very easy pick:
Expensify crushes Doritos as a sad bag of old chips.
Battle 2: Start your Engines
What’s a Super Bowl without some car commercials right! This edition will be a German get together where Mercedes and Audi battle each other with humor.
This one is a closer call. Mercedes starts of smart with a sports link (the choice of golf over American football is easily found since the official sponsorship belongs to Toyota). It all feels very feature film like and the grading is really nice. The examples however are not super funny and tend to get almost tedious. They do round up pretty nice with a slick end shot.
Audi, on the other hand, has a big plot twist: starting of like a dreamy feature film they end up being a solid comedy with nice small details like the nerdy office guy who doesn’t get high-fived back. Where Mercedes has action shots of the firing red car, Audi has a sweet reveal with a killer ‘waking up’ shot that feels almost as strong as KITT from Knight Rider.
Souplesse and plot change beat Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner: well done Audi.
Battle 3: Tech Time
Artificial Intelligence was a big subject in this year’s edition. Not only the usual suspects like Amazon and Google, but also brands like Pringles, SimpliSafe, and Mercedes Benz based their concept around technology. I’ve selected two others who went ‘classic’ with humanoid robots.
Michelob feels like ‘I, Robot II’ and ends a bit sad even though it wants to do the opposite. The TurboTax robot is more human. Better said: it’s the whole point of the story. I love the casting of the dad and young robot son. The two other characters don’t really do it for me. The nerdy girl was meant to be annoying, but her last line could be better trimmed down to a simple and strong I-told-you-so-face.
The whole concept that was strong build up by a teaser video give TurboTax that extra push for the win.
For me there’s only one big winner and that’s Expensify. It’s not only their debut on the Super Bowl, but it’s also their very first national tv spot. As I mentioned before it checks many boxes including the most important one: it’s refreshing, it sticks, and in the end, you remember which brand it’s all about. Don’t be mislead by the rookie appearance though. The creative team behind it is agency JohnXHannes together with the director of the epic Volvo-split commercial Andreas Nilsson. Curious if they’ll come back next year! I do hope so.
ps. the other game was won (again) by The Patriots.
In every commercial you do not only promote the product (or service), you also pitch the brand’s belief, style, and motivation. The next spots are skipping the product-part and go full on to branding.