There it goes -- another year in the Super Bowl ad diaries.
Brands showed up in all shapes and sizes. Some soared majestically. Others flopped painfully.
Here are Campaign US’ favorite in-game spots this year:
Trump/Pence 2020. Joking. Could you imagine? "Be The One/Katie Sowers" by Microsoft and McCann.
The risk brands run pursuing purpose-driven campaigns is that they’re too loud and ultimately get drowned out by their own noise.
This happened to Olay during Super Bowl LIV, unfortunately. The spot, created with women-owned creative agency Badger & Winters, attempted to hand the microphone to females by encouraging viewers to tweet "#MakeSpaceForWomen" at @OLAYSKIN for the brand to donate $1 (up to $500K) to Girls Who Code. But the ad’s hectic storyline, limp comedic style and choice of dialogue drew criticism, with many convinced it made the women look almost ditzy, ironically.
Microsoft, on the other hand, was able to enter this space much more authentically through organic and powerful storytelling that was the furthest thing from forced.
Katie Sowers is an offensive assistant coach with the San Francisco 49ers. She’s also the first female coach to lead from the sidelines of Super Bowl and the NFL’s first openly gay one -- something that stopped her getting a volunteer coaching job in the past.
This is her story. In 60-seconds. Nothing more, nothing less. It is not shouty and in-your-face. It is raw, humble and human. Real. McCann’s documentary-style formula is effortlessly engaging. You’re looking at purpose-driven work uncorrupted by its own decibels.
"Groundhog Day" by Jeep by Highdive and O Positive
Bill Murray for the win. Well, Jeep for the win, technically.
The "Groundhog Day" spot, created by Chicago-based creative agency Highdive and directed by Jim Jenkins of O Positive, was incredibly clever and the perfect amount of silly. Not only did the brand tap into the fact that the Super Bowl fell on Groundhog Day this year - it somehow got the mysterious star of the iconic early 90s movie to star in the big game spot in all of his wonderful weirdness.
For anyone who grew up watching "Groundhog Day," this ad tapped into nostalgia in a fun way. For those who haven’t seen the movie, watching 60 seconds of Bill Murray befriending a small woodland creature is amusing in itself. The brilliant tie-ins and beautiful execution combined with quirky sentimentality and the tagline of "No day is the same in a Jeep Gladiator" made this commercial stand above the rest.
More Bill Murray in Super Bowl ads next year, please.
"Before Alexa" by Amazon and Droga5
The use of celebrity cameos hits overdrive when the Super Bowl rolls around, and they often fail to add much to a spot while simultaneously overshadowing any creative work.
Amazon and Droga5 however seemed to hit a sweet spot with their "Before Alexa" spot, featuring TV personality Ellen Degeneres and her wife Portia de Rossi as they ponder what life was like before Amazon’s Alexa arrived to automate people’s lives.
The answer, as it turns out, is not that great.
We are treated to a series of scenarios depicting life way back when digital assistants weren’t yet a thought, and things had to be done manually.
In each scenario presented, some variant of Alexa is asked to complete a task (Alex, Alexi, Alexis, etc.) often with disastrous results.
The tongue in cheek ad also gets surprisingly political when we are presented with President Nixon asking Alicia to set a reminder to "delete those tapes". Alicia fires back that "she ain’t deleting sh*t," while another scenario makes light of fake news.
Other situations include a carrier pigeon being eaten by a hawk and then a dragon, rogue firewood flung out of a window, and a pants stealing witch.
The lesson here is clear. If you’re not using Alexa then you’re living in the Middle Ages (or at serious risk of impeachment, take your pick).