Reflecting on Super Bowl Ads

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So…how about that Super Bowl, huh?

Advertisers were no doubt less-than-thrilled that their multi-million dollar ad space was placed within the dullest Super Bowl in recent history. Every cut to commercial was likely preceded by a punt that sent viewers into the 30 second spots with frustration and boredom.  

Let’s first say: there were some ads we liked this year!

Elisa’s Favorite

Meredith’s Favorite

In spite of those favorites, we find ourselves reflecting on the state of the Super Bowl ad as a concept. As I scrolled Twitter throughout the game I was forced to ask myself: has Twitter killed the Super Bowl ad star?

Back in the 90s and early 2000s, when Super Bowl ads were at their peak, an ad would air and if it was bad or boring, people would forget about it and if it was good, it’d become water cooler talk. Good had a legacy and bad/boring was easily forgotten. Also, there was no other way to see these ads besides on TV for the most part. They were a 30 to 60 second moment in time that generated only in-person conversation and analysis.

But Twitter has changed that. Now each ad is treated (subjected?) to instant breakdowns, praise or criticism. And as is often the case with Twitter in these scenarios: it’s criticism. And that’s not Twitter’s fault as much as we might like it to be. These ads are from corporations that often have baggage that is more public than it once was. Since people are always discussing the social implications of that online, brands are asking to have their brand examined or challenged when they try to sell something to 100 million people at once.   

Take for instance, Bud Light’s Corn Syrup ad early on in the evening. The commercial generated little initial buzz until…

Then the conversation was basically people laughing at this Twitter feud between…Big Beer and Big Corn. That can’t be what Bud Light hoped for when they dished out millions for this lengthy spot.

Even the Washington Post’s moving ad with a vital message was complicated by the fact that the paper spent millions in a time when journalists find themselves facing layoffs or insufficient benefits. It prompted responses from even their own employees.

The sentiment that emerged on Twitter during the boring game became: the ads are bad, the game is bad, life is bad. Everyone related to a Rams player’s postgame reaction:

Like we said, there were fine/good ads in the mix. But those ads became collateral damage from an increasingly emo Twitter community, driven mad by punt after punt, robot after robot and lame celebrity cameo after lame celebrity cameo (Charlie Sheen was a weird choice, Planter’s!).

The cost of a 30-second spot this year according to CNBC was $5.25 million. That’s a lot of money to potentially risk that the conversation around your commercial will be a collective shrug or anger and derision. Especially when you probably don’t need the Super Bowl to start a conversation around your brand anymore. The existence of these online communities also means your ad can hit anytime. Maybe it won’t be as big of an initial smash, but the conversation could be more beneficial to your brand. And the fact that most brands release their ads before the big game also means that we’re reaching a saturation point that makes it harder for these ads to stand out and have a lasting impact.

In summary, Bud Knight’s death at the hands of the Mountain was entertaining, but is anyone going to be talking about it in a week? Next year, brands might stop taking that chance.

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