For most people, February 2, 2020, was a day dedicated to eating wings, buffalo chicken dip and a tray of hoagies with your friends and family. For me, a marketing communications student with an inability to sit still, it was a travel day home from a weekend in New York City and an evening spent watching a recap of game highlights and every single Super Bowl commercial.
*EZ Disclaimer* I enjoy watching football, but really only when it's the Eagles or the Mountaineers. I will say the tail end of Super Bowl LIV was pretty interesting. Still, with no parade to run home to in Philadelphia, the commercials were my main focus this year.
AdAge reports that 30-seconds of airtime for a commercial this year during "The Big Game" cost brands $5.6 million and the 77 airtime slots were booked by Thanksgiving of 2019, the earliest sell out since 2011. For some, I could clearly see that their investment was well thought out and others… well, others seemed like something producer dreamed post-game food coma. Here is the ~official~ EZ Insider on those who were able to make a touchdown and those who fumbled.
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This commercial was a full minute and a half of me silently weeping in the glow of my laptop screen and was the one I found myself thinking about the entire rest of the night. The commercial is a voice-over of an older man, who I later read is the actual father of a Google employee, telling his Google assistant to remind him of essential details about his deceased wife. It includes small sentimental memories he has of their favorite trips, asking the assistant to play their favorite movie and is accompanied by a simple piano track and photos of the lovely couple. The emotional appeal in this one captured the attention of every one of my college-aged friends as well and was the one we talked about most after. It was simple, human and seemed to remind everyone of someone special in their life.
This ad is an excellent example of product endorsement through storytelling. Microsoft Surface Pro, a versatile touchscreen laptop/tablet, teams up with Katie Sowers, an offensive assistant coach for the San Francisco 49ers and first woman coach in the Super Bowl, to tell the story of how Katie's passion for football began. The ad is emotional, empowering and does a great job of subtly promoting the product without losing a great storyline. I honestly barely noticed this was a Microsoft ad until the logo showed up at the end of it, despite her saying she uses the product, because I was so invested in her passion and ability to achieve. This ad was inspiring and made me reflect on my own goals. While my goals are more along the lines of landing in the C-suite one day, everyone can relate to Katie's desire to land their dream job and do something they are passionate about every day. The line "Be the One" reflects on how it only takes one person to be the first and open the door for others, super simple, but a huge statement. Congrats to the team who derived that insight, a simple, human truth.
Maybe it's because I am from an avocado-toast obsessed generation, but I had a good chuckle watching this one. This commercial showcased a branded TV shopping network run by some very chaotic hosts and models all. The network showcased products for those who love to really nurture their avocados, almost like children, and show off their avocado obsession through pool floats and suitcases. Bright colors and a few good jokes kept my eyes glued to the screen and thinking about a few of my friends I could see actually purchasing the items.
A big apology to my people back home, I am going to talk about the Tom Brady ad. This was exceptionally well executed with the leak on social media via Tom Brady's Twitter as well. For those who haven't been on Twitter in the past few days, Brady posted a cryptic black and white photo that appeared to be him dramatically walking out of the stadium with no caption, and people went crazy. There were rumors of him soon announcing his retirement, among other wild speculations. It turns out it was all for a Hulu ad. The entire ad revolves around the phrase "it's not going anywhere" relating to Hulu or Brady's career.
To start off this review, I have to admit I saw the commercial first and then watched the movie after being told I would appreciate it a lot more if I understood the reference. I now understand how timely and well done this commercial actually was. In my travels, I neglected to even notice it was Groundhog's Day, so I thought this was a strange theme to go with, but everything is making a lot more sense now that I take a step back. The tagline, "Have the Best Day of Your Life Over and Over Again," was also genius now knowing the plot of the movie. The creative team on this one did a great job using trending topics, even outside of the #SuperBowl itself, and capitalizing on the film that is well-known by the Jeep target audience.
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This one fell so flat for me. There were a lot of issues with this campaign due to the untimely hashtag "RIPeanut" being the primary source for social media buzz, and it was unclear if this commercial was going to air. It did end up airing and honestly, I feel like maybe they should have waited on this one. The scene is set at Mr. Peanut's funeral when a baby reincarnation of Mr. Peanut sprouts from the ground after Kool-Aid man's single tear falls on the ground — yes, you read all of that correctly. This seems like the narration of a children's drawing, and I am left with a ton of questions. Why is making Mr. Peanut "cute" going to help your brand? Why are Kool-Aid tears magical? Who do you think is going to use the hashtag #babynut? Was this supposed to capitulate on the popularity of baby Yoda? For a good laugh, go see the Twitter replies to Baby Nut's "intro" tweet.
I think this was supposed to be a humor ad? The fact I'm unsure might tell you where I'm heading with this one. It seemed extremely poorly thought out for a million-dollar commercial by such a massive brand, especially one who's main competitor is the title sponsor for the halftime show. I think this was supposed to appeal to a millennial audience with the use of Jonah Hill and most energy drinks being catered to the busy, young professional demographic. However, Hill is a comedic actor and didn't crack a single joke in the entire commercial. It seemed like a huge waste of the influencer's potential and misuse of his brand. The ad shows him forgetting about a party and the world hinging on if he will make it. He does thanks to Coca-Cola energy, but does anyone care? Did everyone else get it but me because I didn't laugh once.
WHAT DID I JUST WATCH – me after a minute of watching Jason Momoa walk around his home and TAKE HIS MUSCLES OFF!? This ad is supposed to be able being comfortable at home and comfortable financing your home, but all I could do was cringe at the poor editing and the really, really strange plot. This was another ad I think missed the humor mark his year.
Okay… so let's break this one down. I think the insight here was that "classic Heinz Ketchup reminds people of comfort" maybe because of the association with comfort food? That's my stretch for trying to justify why Heinz chose this as the million-dollar commercial for 2020. The ad showcases four scenarios with frightened characters who are all calmed at the sight of the classic Heinz Ketchup bottle. I just don't think this added to the Heinz brand and it has no shelf-life. There's no call-to-action, no hashtag, it's just a strange silent, mostly silent commercial.
This hashtag pains me to type. Whoever, in their entire existence, has called hummus "mmus?" I understand the campaign is trying to stir conversation on social media, but this campaign just seems like a giant mess with a poorly thought out hashtag. I think the commercial was trying to hit too many target audiences at once. The use of such a wide variety of influencers makes it extremely confusing if they are trying to get Gen Z's to make Tik Tok's about hummus or young moms to post recipes using hummus on Facebook. Overall, not super impressed with this one, confused about Sabra's target audience and will be unfollowing anyone who refers to hummus as "mmus."
Emily Zekonis (
@EmilyZekonis) is a first-year graduate student studying
Integrated Marketing Communications with an
Area of Emphasis in Management. She is from the Philadelphia area
of Pennsylvania and holds a B.S.J. in Strategic Communications with an area of
emphasis in Public Relations from West Virginia University. Follow along with her
graduate adventures on the
Marketing Communications Today Blog.