By Rachel Berryman (Digital Account Executive) and Rebekah Gierlinska (Strategy Director)
Expectations of brands are changing. No longer is it acceptable simply to sell people the products and services they need; rather, brands are increasingly under pressure to think beyond their bottom line, delivering purpose and driving meaning through altruistic corporate commitments.
Even with intensified pressures on brand budgets and marketers’ time, brands are concentrating their efforts on delivering more. Encouragingly, this shift was a prominent feature at (arguably) the world’s biggest advertising showcase: this year’s Super Bowl.
Given the glamour we’ve come to associate with Super Bowl—with its extravagant production values, ornate celebrity endorsements and exorbitantly priced TV spots—the thematic takeaway of this year’s half-time show was all the more striking. Shifting from polish to politics, this year’s Super Bowl ads evinced a dedication to engaging with (rather than glossing over) America’s fragmented cultural climate, showcasing creative that emphasised social responsibility and, in so doing, highlighting these brands’ commitment to social good.
This theme was most clearly illustrated by Budweiser, who used one of their two half-time TVCs to raise awareness of the brand’s long-term commitment to providing water to US cities impacted by natural disasters. According to Budweiser, the company has provided 79 million water cans to cities recovering from natural disasters since the initiative began in 1988.
In a creative twist, the ad does not even show any beer, going so far as to visually push empty cans and boxes off the screen to instead feature water centre-stage. The ad ends with a series of locations appearing on-screen (Florida, Puerto Rico, Texas, California), reiterating the close-to-home reality of natural disasters for American viewers, before cutting to the tag-line: “Whenever you need us.”
Verizon also prioritised their brand’s social responsibility in their Super Bowl TVC, featuring recorded phone conversations between first responders and the individuals whose lives they saved. After the emotional montage, the ad ends with black text on a white screen, making clear the role Verizon played in facilitating these rescues: “They answer the call. Our job is to make sure they can get it.”
That’s not to say, however, that this year’s ads were completely straight-faced – thankfully, we got a good dose of humour from the collaboration between Doritos and Mountain Dew.
And Amazon subverted audience expectations in a humorous hypothesis about who could step in if Alexa ever lost her voice.
Once again, this year’s Super Bowl demonstrated the greatness of the industry we work in, embracing a new direction wherein mass-scale advertising offered an opportunity for promoting more meaningful messaging.