Millions tuned in to see the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams go head to head for the 2019 Super Bowl this week, and while the final NFL game of the season has become a yearly ritual for America’s football fans, it’s the ads in between that often go down in history.
Today, the biggest names pay upward of $5 million for a small, 30-second slot in the spotlight – investing in extravagant productions and A-list appearances in a bid to become America’s next iconic brand. But alongside the lowest-scoring Super Bowl the world’s ever seen, many felt this year’s ad breaks were met with the same theme of mediocrity.
We’ve picked out some of the commercials that did stay with us after the big game – because they include themes that really resonate with the audience of 2019.
The rise of technology:
Artificial intelligence and robots were key concepts for many leading brands this year. The advancement of technology is a theme often met with anxiety, but Amazon used humour and self-deprecation to plug their virtual assistant, Alexa, and turn this idea on its head. The ad features appearances from actors Harrison Ford and Forest Whitaker, along with astronauts Mark and Scott Kelly – each dealing with their own disastrous version of this voice-activated technology, resulting in a worldwide power-failure, and the finishing strapline ‘not everything makes the cut’.
Pringles and Mercedes also used voice-recognition as a means of making light of AI. In the Pringles ad, a virtual assistant ponders its own existence, before being quickly interrupted and told to play Funkytown. And for Mercedes, a mediocre man turns hero, thanks to the new voice-command feature in his car – ‘if only everything in life listened to you like your new A-Class’.
A human connection:
Though AI was a prominent theme for Super Bowl 2019, it was also balanced out by a focus on humanity, and how technology can actually help us be more ‘human’. The Google Translate ad revealed that out of the 100-billion words translated every day, the most common expressions were those that form a human connection, like ‘how are you?’, ‘thank you’, and ‘I love you’. And in their second ad, Job Search for Veterans, we’re reminded of the sacrifice strangers make for the protection of our freedom every day – an act of kindness that can’t be simulated by technology.
Microsoft’s commercial then showcased how technology can be harnessed to improve this human connection. It looks at the story of a young boy named Owen, whose passion has been gaming since the very beginning. In just 60 seconds, he and his parents show us how important an inclusive product like the Microsoft Adaptive Controller can be – because ‘when everybody plays, we all win’.
Females in football:
One final theme that was prominent this year was the ads targeted at women. In 2018, only 34% featured a significant female role, though they made up 45% of the audience. On top of that, the ads that did make it to the screen didn’t really represent this demographic. Fast-forward a year, and leading brands have decided to champion the women that have tuned in to watch the big game
Serena Williams was the face of Bumble’s female-focused dating app, with a powerful message for women to ‘make the first move’ in work, in love and in life. Toyota chose to tell the inspiring story of Toni Harris – the first female non-kicker on a college football team, who’s now determined to make the NFL. Wix had model and entrepreneur Karlie Kloss talk about their website-building service. And Hulu showcased the new series of dystopian drama, The Handmaid’s Tale, with a dark twist on Ronald Reagan’s ‘Morning in America’ speech.
Pampers also decided to challenge the status quo by marketing their nappies at dads this year. Much-loved musicians John Legend and Adam Levine are joined by a choir of dads and their babies, breaking out into song about ‘stinky booty duty’ in a refreshing change from the traditional Super Bowl ads.
Many commercials that made the screen this Super Bowl Sunday might not be remembered when 2020 comes around. But the select few that are will be looked back on for their relevance to a 21st century audience witnessing real change in the world.