5 Lessons From Super Bowl 50 Ads

Another Super Bowl is behind us and another year in the evolution of brands taking part in the “Big Game,” through paid ads, paid social, and good ‘ole-fashioned brand insertion. While some were strangely negligent, strangely irrelevant, or just plain disruptive, others were solid examples of brands getting better. With a nod to the good and the mediocre, here are five observations from this year’s “Brand Bowl.”

  1. They didn’t operate in silos. When an advertiser decides to allocate a significant ad spend to the Super Bowl, every cog has to be operating in harmony to get the most out of such an investment. This means web, OOH, TV, search marketing, content, and social across all platforms need to be on the same page, each activated in a relevant manner, and each present and accounted for in the big moment and the days leading up. I was happy to see how Mountain Dew, which knew well beforehand the buzz its #puppymonkeybaby would create, bought social ads to amplify it and had supplemental content at the ready, toe engage with users and brands when conversation was at its zenith.mountain-dew
  2. They didn’t operate in a vacuum. It’s easy to get laser-focused on making sure mind every nook and cranny of a brand ad. But it’s equally as important to pay attention to what else is going on — with teams, with media, with pop culture, and with the countless other brands that will be making noise and sharing content on the big day. An early winner in the Twittersphere came from Pabst Blue Ribbon, which no doubt knew Seth Rogen would be in a beer ad and had a well-timed tweet that was received well. Several other brands piggybacked or reacted to those of others. With so many sponsors releasing ads and campaigns in advance, there’s nothing stopping the opportunistic brand to create their own complement to trotting wiener dogs, puppymonkeybaby, or, in this case, a Bud Light commercial with Amy Schumer and Seth Rogen.pbr-dOf course, not all pre-prepared ads hit the mark. Papa John’s seemed to tey and get artsy with some animated toppings interacting with Pepsi’s posts.


3. They leveraged influencers. Many brands that advertise during the Super Bowl also have several endorsers on their payroll, too. These influencers can greatly amplify the ad campaign, adding value and extending the meaningful reach exponentially. It is especially efficient and effective when the endorsers can insert themselves in an organic way to a relevant audience and to help provide them with content and messaging to make it as easy as possible. Let the influencers act with authenticity, but to not include influencers, especially with reach beyond that of the brand and with value that looks good even juxtaposed with a TV ad during the Super Bowl, is leaving huge value on the sideline. loved this example from Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Mountain Dew. Didn’t feel forced, solid creative, and great ROI or Dew and Dale.

4. They didn’t sit out the party. One of the easiest things brands can do maximize the value of their ad is to immediately welcome, join, and encourage the conversation their ads create. Some still just re-posted a video of their commercial before kicking back and watching their mentions roll in while kicking up estimating impressions. Others made true fan-brand connections, one engagement at a time. While I am NOT a fan of the straight RT to win messaging (how is that real engagement and activation?), I can at least appreciate a brand having a plan to make the most of real-time activity. Here are a couple of the active, but RT-laden, brand campaigns.

pepsi-1   pepsi-2


5. They found a relevant way to insert themselves. Every fan and marketer no doubt shook their head at the many instances of branded content that fell flat for being far too  forced. But with so many brands getting it wrong, it makes the ones that find a way into the conversation that makes sense stand out a bit more. While many can, and will, argue it’s ok for brands to sit out, if there is a relevant way in to the mass attention, it can be a worthwhile allocation of resources and effort, with a big return. I thought the way Pedialyte and LG entered the social conversation was relevant to the audience, to the conversation and context, and to their brands.

lg-1      pedialyte


Extra point. It’s a football-related post, so an extra point to call out Super Bowl 50 as the year so many brands thought it’d be cool to talk trash on each other. Skittles and Snickers got into it, Doritos made some hay, but it was Verizon that, after the Super Bowl ended, which featured Steve Harvey in a T-Mobile ad that the audience received well, took a blatant shot at their competitors. This seemed more a case of taking advantage of the eyeballs out there than a specific shot, but it worked and was clearly calculated. They essentially called out their rival on a value point with which all ans can relate, while garnering the attention of a bullying branded jab. With more brands coming out with their game plans in advance and more advertisers looking to take advantage to those ethereal live windows, there may be more such cool calculation in Super Bowls and major events to come.


Onside kick. One more campaign worth mentioning, for the good and the bad it brought out. I liked Coca Cola’s effort to tie its Mini and Marvel can promotion with a product sampling. They even had the foresight to team with a mobile service, the delivery app Postmates, to invite fans to get FREE Coke minis delivered to them. The promotion was supported with TV spend, social media ads, and even an email sent to Postmates users. It’s always good to take advantage of the fact that so many viewers have their mobile device at the ready when watching the ad. When you can turn casual fans and viewers into consumers wanting and tasting your product, it’s a win.
Except when it’s not. All seemed great until the Postmates app started crashing or users and a promising promo turned into a “mini” crisis for both brands. Really no excuse not to be prepared for maximum volume on the day of the Big Game. So, a nice play design, but a botched one in the end here.

coke-2   coke-2   coke-3

So what stood out to you? What do you think was the biggest evolution of ads in Super Bowl 50. Who was the best? What was the biggest theme? Ah, the biggest game day of the year and among the busiest in social and digital, always good for entertainment and education.


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