Super Bowl LIV was this past Sunday, and while some (okay, most) viewers are there for the game – Go, Chiefs!! — others tune in for the commercials, which are famously over the top and outrageously expensive to produce. This year, we asked the creative minds at Intouch to weigh in on what worked and what wiped out. Check out what they had to say:
Overall reaction to this year’s batch of commercials, in three words?
Kristoffer Koerner, VP, Creative: Lazy, but funny.
Kayla Kroenlein, Art Director: Good not great.
Elizabeth Rooney, SVP, Executive Creative Director: Celebrities, anyone?
Brent Scholz, SVP, Executive Creative Director: Played it safe.
Michelle Ziekert, SVP, Executive Creative Director: Screaming for attention.
Did you notice any trends?
Lauren Brooks, Associate Creative Director: Lots of cars, lots of stars
Kristoffer Koerner: Lots of borrowed interest
Elizabeth Rooney: The year of celebrity couples: J Lo and A Rod, Ellen and Portia, Jason Momoa and Lisa Bonet, Chrissy Teigen and John Legend
Michelle Ziekert: It felt like this year’s batch took one of maybe three tones:
- Petulant Child, “In your face” to the extreme. Face slapping. Face licking. Rocks and paper towels flying at our face. Body manipulation. Camera down the throat. (Rocket mortgage. Hint Water. Facebook/P&G.)
- Brand Whisperer. Over the top narrative, and heartstring pulls. (Budweiser. Google. Walmart.)
- The Continuation, “picking up where this show left off.” (Jeep. Pringles. Little Caesar’s…)
Can you name a single favorite spot?
Leisha Anderson, Creative Director: Three favorites:
- Jeep with Bill Murray: Clever retelling of the movie Groundhog Day (appropriate holiday choice for February); had plenty of allusions to the movie to satisfy fans but didn’t require audience to have seen the movie to understand the message: “Every day is a different day with a Jeep.” BONUS: Groundhog was freaking cute.
- Turbo Tax: Loved this weirdness; appreciated the difficulty of making taxes fun; the underlying message of inclusivity and unity, “All people are tax people”; New Orleans Bounce music made me laugh out loud.
- Mountain Dew with Tracee Ellis Ross and Bryan Cranston: Funny and bizarre; Bryan Cranston as the scary Shining twins at the end made me snort coffee up my nose (ouch). Overall message, “as good as the original” bold and smart ass-y in a way one would expect from Mountain Dew (obviously, this Shining is most assuredly NOT as good as the original, but that’s beside the point); Mountain Dew spilling out of the elevators was a clever and memorable (even triggering for some) way to feature the product.
Most spots were meh this year, at best re-hashing old work, at worst, just bad, lazy creative (hello Discover Card).
Lauren Brooks: I really liked the Mountain Dew spot with Bryan Cranston – brings new energy to usually boring or sanctimonious sugar-free brand extensions in a satire based on famous scenes from The Shining. It cleverly shows the dangers of too much sugar, as well as a sly nod at the climate of remakes and sequels by suggesting, “As good as the original. Maybe even better?”
Marty Caniff, SVP, Executive Creative Director: Two stood out:
- Groundhog Day Jeep. It was such an effective way to hammer home the whole point of “No day is the same in a Jeep Gladiator”. The concept and humor complexly intertwined with the strategy and connected with the brand in a memorable way.
- Google Loretta: Emotional way for Google to shift the conversation about Google knowing too much to how Google knowing stuff can enrich your life.
Kayla Kroenlein: The Google commercial had everyone crying. It was an unusual route to go since most of the commercials were trying to make you laugh. It got your attention immediately and was memorable.
Svitlana Kochman, Associate Creative Director: One of my favorites that did not get as much buzz as some others (until the attendees saw the spot) was the Saucony commercial that announced they were creating their first biodegradable shoe. The imagery was beautiful and eye-catching, and the message was simple and cleverly put. It was socially conscious and added to the brand personality while announcing an innovation—I definitely want to see a biodegradable sneaker!
Kristoffer Koerner: The [Rocket Mortgage] spot with Aquaman [Jason Momoa] turning into a creepy skinny guy. Sorry, can’t think of the brand (brand recall/relevance is an issue with this year’s spots).
Andee LaMonica, Associate Creative Director: Jeep for the win, all the way. I was surprised no one else touched on the fact that the Super Bowl was held on Groundhog Day, but what a perfect tie-in to everyone’s love for nostalgia, plus the timing of the game that actually sent a compelling message for the brand. So many ads feel like they are catering to the lowest common denominator with barely clever ideas that include celebrities for no apparent reason. This one got it right.
Elizabeth Rooney: Google, Loretta. This ad took the memory feature of an operating system and transformed it into a heartfelt human story, demonstrating how meaningful and powerful memory truly is. In addition to being a masterpiece of storytelling, it stood out from the sea of insincerity in many of other spots. It took the high road – standing out from all those competing from this year’s commercial playbook: hire the best celebrity or convince viewers you’re “all about” equality and diversity. Furthermore, unlike much of the competition, this ad actually helps the consumer understand why they should choose the product they’re selling.
Brent Scholz: I don’t think I’m unique in this regard, but for sure the Jeep/Groundhog Day spot. Technically, the scenarios/editing/pacing was perfect. That’s so underrated in comedy. But most importantly, it was a smart execution of a really simple core idea. Taking a “One thing I love so much, I never want this day to end” and flipping it on its head by reviving a box office hit based on a day that will never end.
Heather Schmiedeler, Art Director: I had a few:
- Audi – Let It Go (feat. Maisie Williams): Stupid commercial, but cool that Audi has an electric car now.
- Budweiser – Typical American: Kinda loved it and kinda hated it – really nationalist vibes but almost done right.
- Bud Light – #PostyStore (feat. Post Malone): I loved this – so funny and one of my faves from the night. I loved how all of his brain people had the same tattoos as him.
- Google -Loretta: Actually cried – the room went silent when this was on
- Microsoft – Be the One (feat. Katie Sowers): Bad-ass woman coach; good message – really enjoyed.
Justin Tillich, Associate Creative Director: I thought the Squarespace ad (with Wynona Ryder) was the most interesting and disruptive of them all! While there were some interesting concepts through some of the other spots, I thought that one stood out specifically.
Michelle Ziekert: T. Mobile. A repetitive proof-point spot, masterfully done. It hits a single RTB through a series of humanistic and artful cuts. Timing is impeccable. What do you takeaway? T-Mobile just works everywhere. Proof that “tell them once, tell them again, tell them again” CAN work.
How about your award for the biggest facepalm of a commercial…who kicked and missed?
Kristoffer Koerner: The Shining, Mountain Dew. Did the target audience (18-year-olds), ever see the movie? Just asking …
Elizabeth Rooney: Welllll, the local commercials were quite (ahem) interesting. But on the national front, I have to go with Secret for first place. Okay, the donation concept was clever, but the shameless women celeb astronauts was dumb at best, insulting at worst. Second place? Coca-Cola. I can’t believe Martin Scorsese agreed to that.
Brent Scholz: I’ll almost always say political ads (and this year is no exception), but that’s too easy. I didn’t care too much for the “Laundry Later” Tide/Bud Light thing going on. I thought the joke was forced and made worse by revisiting it throughout.
Michelle Ziekert: Audi. Sure, this is a green car. But it is also an $89K green car. To say this is the “car of the future” makes the concept of GREEN and ethical responsibility feel unattainable.
How many viewers were like, “I wish I could afford the same environmentally sound luxury Audi that the star of Game of Thrones can buy”? Does climate change happen when MOST of the population changes behavior or when an elite few does? Having trouble feeling the “genuineness” of this spot.
Another issue is “let it go,” which became an identity rally cry, letting go of inhibiting fears and pressures and being brave enough to show the true self. People don’t make non-green car choices because we aren’t afraid of being judged. We do it because of lack of availability, and price.
Invention costs. But an entry-level Tesla Model Y is $48K. Kia’s starts at $38.5K. Neither is perfect, but Audi gets the “ick” award for this one.
Did any of the spots inspire you as a creative? If so, how?
Lauren Brooks: Jeep’s Groundhog Day spot really laddered up to a big idea about how adventurous and un-boring driving a jeep can be.
Kristoffer Koerner: Based on the bar being set so low, I suppose they did. I feel much more talented now than I did before the Super Bowl.
Michelle Ziekert: Hyundai Smart Park. Genius writing. No gimmicks. Enough said. (I’m torn over this being my favorite spot.)
What did you feel was the freshest, most original approach?
Michelle Ziekert: Doritos. They used a classic western duel to unify targets and generations. Delightful. The assumption is there is room and flavor for all. Left that spot loving Doritos, even though it’s junk food.
Did your impression of any brand change (for better or worse) after seeing their commercial?
Kristoffer Koerner: Google, for owning who they are. Yes, Google is storing your data, but sometimes, that saved data is used to help when you need it most.
Michelle Ziekert: Mountain Dew. For the better. Their spot was as unapologetically crazy as their product is, and it doesn’t take itself too seriously. If you want to get all crazy and actually drink it, do it.
Who used celebrities/cultural cues well?
Elizabeth Rooney: In no particular order:
- Hyundai (used celebs – but Massachusetts celebs – hilarious!)
- Jeep (I love you, Bill)
- Mountain Dew
What about you — what were your favorite Super Bowl ads? If you missed them, you can see them all here, thanks to Vulture.