Most people watch the Super Bowl for the football, but those in the ad industry are as likely to tune in for the breaks. Here’s CR’s pick of the best ten ads from the US’s biggest annual advertising event.
Brands pay handsomely to advertise during the Super Bowl, yet despite this, or perhaps because of it, the ads shown rarely take risks. This is advertising at its most blockbuster: if it’s quirky advertising innovation you’re after, you’ll be unlikely to find it here. But the event serves as a good barometer of what’s fashionable in mainstream US TV advertising, and judging by the ads shown yesterday, brands are currently playing it very safe indeed.
Actors and celebrities are littered across the spots (Bruce Willis, John Turturro, Ben Kingsley, Ellen DeGeneres and (controversially) Scarlett Johansson are among the big names that appear this year), alongside animals large and small. The tone of the ads fits largely into two styles: either broad humour or patriotic sentimentality. All of this is very familiar territory for the Super Bowl, but despite this predictability, there were some watchable moments in 2014: here (in no particular order) are our ten favourites of the ads that played out during the game.
Kia K900, The Truth, David & Goliath, Los Angeles
Laurence Fishburne reprises his role as Morpheus in The Matrix in this ad for Kia cars, which promotes the brand’s new luxury vehicle, the K900. Stick with it until the end, when Fishburne comes over all operatic. Funny.
Coca-Cola, It’s Beautiful, Wieden + Kennedy Portland
This ad for Coke is earnest in tone, but a nice celebration of America’s diversity.
Budweiser, Puppy Love, Anomaly New York
At 36 million YouTube views and counting, this Bud ad seems likely to take the popularity prize at this year’s Super Bowl. But then again, it features a romance between a cute labrador puppy and a horse so maybe that’s no great surprise.
RadioShack, The Phone Call, GSD&M, Austin, Texas
The impact of the 80s nostalgia in this RadioShack spot is slightly undercut by Delta’s recent 80s themed in-flight video, which launched last week, but the spot shows a refreshing self-awareness by the brand, which to many seems stuck in a different era.
Volkswagen, Wings, Argonaut, San Francisco
This ad aims to emphasise the longeveity of VW cars by suggesting that each time one of the vehicles does over 100,000 miles, a (male only, it seems) German engineer earns his wings.
Bud Light, Epic Night, BBDO
A (real) young man called Ian is given the night of his life courtesy of Bud Lite. His adventures include limo rides with models, and a ping pong match with Arnold Schwarzenegger.
TurboTax, Love Hurts, Wieden + Kennedy Portland
This spot actually makes reference to the big game itself, in charming fashion. And for an ad for a tax returns website, it’s actually pretty funny.
T-Mobile, No Contract, Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners, Sausalito, CA
One of a number of T-Mobile ads that played out during the game, this spot stars football quarterback Tim Tebow, and makes light of his current lack of contract while pointing out the advantages of being in a similar position at T-Mobile. Again, another spot that is tied in well to both the game and the brand being advertised.
Jaguar, Rendezvous, Spark 44
Another epic number, this ad features a trio of Brit actors being dapper and villainous for Jaguar.
Axe, Make Love Not War, BBH London
We finish our top ten with the new ad for Axe, which suggests (with mixed success) that the deodorant brand is now an ambassador for world peace. Click here to see our more detailed review of this spot.