Civilian Take: 2019 Super Bowl Ads

Feb 4, 2019  |  By Arthur Ebuen  |  

We are bombarded with ads from all directions and tactical innovations. But every year during the Super Bowl, the masses gather and anticipate a more traditional medium: the television commercial. Some things to note: the average person watching the game isn’t just male, it’s a closer split down the middle than most would think. Also, the average person isn’t so average. Ads have to be smarter and work harder to get attention by connecting authentically to their audience.

After an especially low-scoring Super Bowl, it was easy to gather as an agency to discuss and debate the only highlights of the game, which were the ads. The selection of spots below was curated by our own Sean Connacher, Alison Flater, Chris McCracken, and Gregg ONeill.

The Elevator – Hyundai

Hyundai used humor and starred television’s beloved Jason Bateman as an elevator operator to satirize all things stressfully painful in life; root canals, jury duty, and having “the talk.” They used the analogy of an elevator going into the depths: the more stressful the task, the lower floor. When the couple looking to buy a new car reveals they’re using Hyundai’s Shopper Assurance, Bateman changes the trend, “Hyundai? Going up!”

Most of the ad time was spent telling versions of the joke, the actual product of Shopper Assurance was almost an afterthought. The name itself isn’t very memorable, as most in the room couldn’t recall it. Hyundai isn’t offering anything new, but is trying to get in the space that is growing in world of online car shopping like Carvana and TrueCar.

Unlike traditional car commercials, Hyundai didn’t spend time flashing awards or showing off innovative car features. They kept their focus on Shopper Assurance’s benefits. Most of us enjoyed the ad but did not feel it was strong enough for consideration of the product it was offering. A missed opportunity to highlight was the small mention of, “and test drives that come to you.”

Serena Williams – Bumble

Bumble teamed up with Serena Williams, an icon of strong women. She narrates her struggles coming up in the tennis world and gaining respect with a video montage of her growth as a female player. It’s all tied up in a bow with her using products of Bumble saying, “Don’t wait to be given power (pause) because here’s what they won’t tell you. (Cut to close up of Williams) ‘We already have it.’” Ends with the super, “WOMEN, THE BALL IS IN YOUR COURT.”

This spot had the biggest split of opinion in our conversation. Some found it completely empowering for women. Some found it opportunistic in a topical conversation of gender equality. Some were just confused. After further research into Bumble’s origin and other products, more started to learn more toward liking it, but most still struggled with the authenticity of the spot.

Are You With Us? (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) – T-Mobile

At roughly $5.3M a pop per 30-second ad, T-Mobile loaded up with five. They saved their money on production by creating each ad to mimic a phone screen and a text exchange. Each was a conversation the viewer might have gone through or could imagine happening (humor included, of course). Three of the spots were awareness-driven, while two showed the benefits of partnerships with Lyft and Taco Bell each offering free incentives for those on T-Mobile.

Of all the ads reviewed, the majority of the agency liked this campaign the most. It was considered smart for its writing, efficient usage of production dollars, and creating partnerships with other brands. Most of all, the text exchanges were funny, but not over-the-top. These ads felt like they knew their audience. Dare I say they felt (buzzword alert), “authentic?”

We All Win – Microsoft

Microsoft starts with uplifting music introducing us to a few kids from about eight to ten-years-old, quickly revealing they all have physical disabilities. As the spot goes on we’re shown the limitations the kids have on using the standard Xbox controllers. The kids aren’t upset but seem to understand that’s the way things are. Microsoft then introduces their Adaptive Controller. In the world of video games each player has the exact same tools so the field is level on both sides, if you’re not impaired. With this new controller, these kids are shown level-setting what was a disadvantage. End card, “When everybody plays, we all win.”

Microsoft was definitely speaking to parents on the surface. But we all agreed this commercial was less about the Adaptive Controller and more about Microsoft’s way of showcasing their purpose. Microsoft isn’t known as the most approachable brand, this may be the start of changing that perception. See more about these efforts in their Stories and Accessibility pages.

Michael Bublé vs. Bubly – Bubly

This spot plays with the pronunciation of Michael Bublé’s last name and the product Bubly. Bublé continuously “corrects” the shoppers and shopkeeper from saying “Bubly” wrong. He goes as far as calling Dave, Dah-ve. We all agreed it wasn’t too deep a concept. It’s a clever way to say the name of the product repeatedly in order to gain awareness in a saturated market of flavored sparkling water.

In this hour of debate and discourse, there was more energy in the room than the first 50 minutes of football during the Super Bowl. We were pleasantly surprised that the conversation didn’t bring up the big brand staples like Bud Light and whatever car brands spend too much showing us the same things. It was inspiring to see purpose-based content can have more impact than product-centric ads. We all felt empowered to find creative ways to combine efforts and efficiencies to maximize campaign dollars like T-Mobile. Most of all, it was good to talk about the Super Bowl without being berated by everyone in the agency for being a Patriots fan. Go Pats. #Sneaky

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