The Super Bowl is the championship round of advertising. There are under-dogs, veterans, the defending champs, and the rookies. All companies want their ad to cut through the clutter but when it comes to the Super Bowl, it’s a whole other ballgame (no pun intended).
The question that batters creative departments in advertising agencies is how our ad can become memorable. Senior Art Director Raj Gupta at Wunderman Thompson Toronto, who was one of the brains behind the exclusive Mazda Super Bowl commercial, is always monitoring advertising trends and how they affect the industry moving forward. We asked him for his expert opinion on what trends he noticed in Super Bowl 53 and what makes an ad stand out in the biggest commercial showdown of the year.
In this year’s Super Bowl, one of the staple trends was celebrity appearances and endorsement. Celebrities have always been used to generate conversation around a brand, but with influencers being such a huge component of the current media landscape, commercials that aired during Super Bowl 53 almost competed for how many notable celebrities you could get in an ad. “It’s not a new tactic but it’s effective because people love seeing familiar faces, especially when its celebrities people aspire to be like. It also makes the ad memorable”, says Raj. This year, Pepsi ran an ad with Steve Carell, Lil Jon and Cardi B. The commercial wasn’t really about anything other than creating brand awareness but because both celebrities are well-liked and popular, the ad is more likely to stick with the audience.
Another celebrity endorsed ad that coloured outside the lines was the Michelob ULTRA Pure Gold commercial with Zoe Kravitz using ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response). ASMR is a growing trend that uses sounds such as whispers to give sensory stimulation in the scalp and neck areas of the listener. It began on YouTube and is slowly becoming more popular across social and entertainment platforms. “This is a great example of how to bring a traditional tactic like a celebrity appearance and a new trend together to create a unique viewing experience for the audience,” says Raj.
Outside of celebrity appearances, what makes an ad stand out is the ability to link a product or a brand with what is going on in the world. “In the past we have seen a lot of ads bringing up controversial issues or playing to political rhetoric,” says Raj, “I was expecting to see more of that in commercials this year, but I found a lot of ads took a fresher approach and found ways to reach beyond low hanging fruit and relate to worldly content.” The Google ads and Amazon’s Alexa ads are examples of commercials that did this well using self-deprecating humour and poked fun at our society’s reliance on technology, to connect with the audience.
The Super Bowl sets the stage and can be used as a source of inspiration for what is to come this year in terms of innovative advertising campaigns. “These advertisements cost so much money,” says Raj, “whether they are the best or the worst, they are something to look forward to and are exciting to watch every year.”