Grant Vassar, February 6th, 2017
Everyone seems to be suggesting it – news outlets, bloggers, my Facebook newsfeed, my roommates.
In one sense, I would agree that most of this year’s commercials didn’t have the kind of bizarre punch (read: Puppymonkeybaby 2016) or overt sentimentality that have characterized many past Super Bowls ads. But on the other hand, I felt that this year’s commercials perfectly reflect the climate of America 2017: culturally sensitive, politically aware, innovative, and (in the case of the Stranger Things season 2 trailer), just plain incredible. Here are four of my favorites:
1. Budweiser’s “Born The Hard Way”
This one was beautifully shot and the storytelling was on-point. A lot of people have criticized it for what they perceive as an implicitly political message. Say what you will. No matter what Anheuser Busch’s purpose was, it seems to me like they made an ingenious business decision to run an ad in a country that is now, more than ever, very sensitive to stories of immigrants, no matter where you fall on the political spectrum. At the least, the ad has generated a lot of hype.
2. Audi’s “Daughter”
With its closing tagline, “Progress is for everyone,” the ads follows the hope of a man’s dream for his daughter to grow in a world where women get “equal pay for equal work.” I think Audi did it well here – the storytelling was more a way to illustrate the company’s personal commitment to equality instead of being overtly political or moralistic. The aesthetic of this commercial was neat, too. The ad’s warm hues and autumnal landscapes reminded me of a classic, small-town America.
3. Hyundai USA’s “A Better Super Bowl”
This real-time ad was probably the most emotional ad I saw. Actually filmed during the Super Bowl and released toward the end, it showed real U.S. soldiers across the world being virtually united with their families back home to watch the game live together. No doubt this ad exemplified what seems to be an evolution in industry trends towards real-time advertising, perhaps to hook viewers who have already seen the pre-released commercials and have less of an incentive to enjoy the game. Whatever it takes, I guess. Either way, this was a moving ad that accomplished a lot in just under two minutes: made the day of the military families, wowed viewers with its real-time component and gave Hyundai USA a subtle patriotic connotation.
4. Netflix’s Stranger Things 2 trailer
Eggo waffles and Stranger Things really don’t need advertising – they are that good; they can sell themselves on their own. But put the frozen waffle brand and sci-fi thriller TV series together…the results are mind-blowing. This one was my personal favorite. I’m already a fan of Stranger Things but after seeing that genuine retro ad for Eggo Waffles, I know what’s topping my list on my next run to H-E-B.
Advertising has a business goal but like art, it has a social function as well. We talked about this a lot in my Advertising and Creative Marketing Communications class during my junior year. The advertising industry can both reflect the culture, but also create it. The Super Bowl is a perfect example of that. Like any advertising, Super Bowl ads are always toeing the line truth and exaggeration, beauty and bizarreness, persuasion and propaganda.