9 Super Bowl ads which go beyond talking babies, animals and the bizarre

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Over the years, there’s been a pattern to the Super Bowl ads – bizarre plot lines, big production values, jaw-dropping computer graphics, humour (slapstick or intelligent), elements designed to be cute and so on. Rik Haslam, Executive Creative Director at RAPP categorises them as Super Satire, Super Serious and Super Silly stories. There is likely to be a pressure to do whatever everyone else is doing – ‘most of the spots look like what we think a Super Bowl spot is supposed to look like’, as this article says. This year too, there have been the regulars – big-scale production values, tear jerkers featuring puppies and so on.

Of late, Super Bowl has become an advertising game played on social media. It seems to make business sense too to get the brand’s advertising talked about for weeks before and after the actual game.

Among this year’s ads these were the stand outs for me:

1. Nissan

I am guessing that the Super Bowl event has a male skew in the US. So it is logical that Nissan target men. But the key message is based on an universal truth.

We recognize the difficult task of balancing work and life for families everywhere. That’s why our #withdad campaign brings this very real struggle to life. #withdad is a celebration of and inspiration for dads who find innovative and exciting ways to make life better for their kids and families.

While there is unifying idea and a hashtag the campaign is more than just tagging tweets with that hashtag. What I loved about this campaign is that it is actually a partnership with popular YouTube content creators. All of them have an established fan following already.

The YouTube creators featured in the campaign include Epic Meal TimeDude PerfectJabbawockeezConvos with My 2-year Old, starting with Roman Atwood and Action Movie Kid. The creators will be posting content to their own channels, which in turn will be aggregated to the #withdad hub on the Nissan YouTube channel. The remaining films will go live over the two weeks leading up to Super Bowl to continue fueling the conversation.

Agency: TBWA/Chiat/Day

Check out all the videos here.

2. BMW i3

I loved it because it effectively positions the car way beyond just another hybrid. It equates the car with a game changing discovery like the Internet. The use of Katie Couric and Bryant Gumbel through actual footage makes it all the more credible.

Agency: KBS

3. Coca-Cola

I liked this for three reasons: it builds expectations very well, is rooted on a belief about social media behaviour and is relevant to the ‘happiness’ platform of Coca-Cola. The ad is supposed to “tackle the pervasive negativity polluting social media feeds and comment threads across the Internet.” That is something many regular or casual users of social networks have expressed. So the promise of #MakeItHappy seems exciting and fits right in with the Coke brand promise.

Agency: Wieden & Kennedy

See all the videos here.


I don’t know anything about NASCAR. Yet I found the ad riveting and kind of got why Americans love it. The writing, production values and the little quirky touches in the ad were fantastic.

Agency: NBC in-house

5. Snickers

This is the power of an enduring idea, which is so ‘campaignable‘. Loved it – must have watched it 20 times already even though Brady Brunch doesn’t have the same equity for me, as Americans are likely to have.

Agency: BBDO

I guess the trick is in finding the right context where one is not oneself and then embellish it with the right casting.

6. Toyota: 

Similar to Nissan, this one too pays an ode to dads. I thought the link to the actual product was tenuous in both. But riveting and moving videos though.

7. McDonalds

This may seem like a ‘made to go viral’ activity but actually works. McDonalds picked out a few customers at their customers who don’t have to pay for their orders with money – they pay with some ‘lovin’. They are asked to perform a simple act like hugging or calling a loved one.

8. No More

Perhaps the most important ad to air during Super Bowl this is so chillingly effective.

Agency: Grey, New York

9. Volvo

This gets the top prize in my book for disruptive thinking. During the big game, there will be a lot of car commercials. But how do you get viewers to think about Volvo even while seeing a competitive brand commercial? The idea:

Tweet the name of someone who matters to you with #VolvoContest when you see any car commercial during the game. Tell us why they matter and you could win them a brand new Volvo XC60.

I thought it was a brilliant way of hijacking competitor spends and forces a consumer to look for category ads, recall Volvo and take an action.

Agency: Grey, New York.

Which one was your favourite?

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