Op-Ed: Advertising’s Key Takeaways From Super Bowl LII
Oliver Fuselier and Dustin Callif, Managing Partners at Tool of North America, take a look at the strategies behind this year's Super Bowl ad campaigns
This year’s Super Bowl was more expensive per second than any other game preceding it. It is no longer acceptable not to tell a good story and connect with audiences in some way shape or form, or utilize some innovative ways to reach beyond the normal 30-second spot. But it’s hard to find more than a few examples from this year’s game that succeeded on all of these fronts.
During Super Bowl LII, we saw a few home runs, as well as failures. Here are some of our key takeaways from this year’s game, including the commercials and the approaches from brands and agencies hoping to become the real Super Bowl champs.
The roll up to the Super Bowl is as important as the Super Bowl itself
We call this “Super Bowl adjacent.” Brands like Tostitos aren’t buying Super Bowl ads, yet are benefiting from the excitement and intrigue that begins weeks before the game in the media, and gets audiences aware and excited for the game itself. In addition to this, brands are releasing their ads online before the Super Bowl—most notably, the widely praised Amazon Alexa commercial. Brands release teasers to plant excitement and ideas that steer consumers to their sites. Then, people watch the Super Bowl in anticipation for the full experience of the ad. For example, the Australian tourism ad released teasers as though it was a movie trailer.
It was safe
For the most part, this year’s ads offered the same approach, the same directors and often the same meta “it’s a super bowl ad” script. If you want a Super Bowl spot that’s different and stands out, you should consider making a conscious choice to do something truly different. The director is part of that process, as well as the production company creating your campaign. Brands and agencies should ask themselves, “Do traditional production companies have the capacities to make my ad more exciting?”
Encourage your partners to think creatively. In lieu of a commercial, have an event or experiential component happening in tandem with your ad. Take it to the next level, make it immersive and involve your audiences. Directorial perspectives sometimes come from those who are so seasoned that they lack innovation. Take a chance on young directors who think more inventively and challenge the norm.
Brands were going after other brands
For Super Bowl LII, it seemed that everything was fair game in terms of brands directly taking jabs at each other. Brands like Tide and Wendy’s were calling out other brands and competitors, being blatant in their comparisons and poking fun. Although we’ve seen this type of marketing ploy appear on social media, opening it up to the Super Bowl is a new marketing feature, one that is providing healthy competition and causing brands to really work for their audience.
The Australia tourism ad was the winner
The misdirection in this was phenomenal and refreshing. How can we get more ads that fool us? No brand or agency wants to be a one-trick pony, and we thought this was creative, innovative and fun—and it opens the door to future ideas. Sometimes it’s not about the amount of information you give, or the number of times you say the brand’s name in a sentence; rather, it’s how many times people Google your ad to see what exactly it was about. They achieved just that by brainstorming a whole film trailer and recruiting some of the most talented actors today.
Other winners include brands who teamed up with franchises to boost their equity and reach core audiences, like Jeep’s Jurassic Park-inspired spot starring Jeff Goldblum, and Dorito’s Game of Thrones-inspired ad with a cameo by Peter Dinklage.
So, yeah, brands are upping their game for Super Bowl, but the real challenge will be carrying this type of creativity through the year. Consumers will expect it.
Oliver Fuselier and Dustin Callif are Managing Partners at Tool of North America.