Did you see that? Holy cow! Unbelievable! The game last night, in the eyes of many, was more entertaining than the commercials.
“It's a good thing Super Bowl XLIX ended up being one of the greatest games in the sport's history, because otherwise it'd be remembered only for the unrelenting pathos of the ads,” writes Jay Busbee on Yahoo Sports.
Many of the spots “sought to tug at viewers’ heart strings rather than make them burst out laughing,” Emily Steel observes in the New York Times, although she quickly adds that “the offerings were not devoid of the usual mix of celebrities, animals and slapstick comedy.”
Not that dealing with serious issues necessarily reflects badly on the marketers behind them.
“Finally, a more serious Super Bowl with a high dose of humanity on display,” Adam Tucker, president of Ogilvy & Mather, tells Steel. “More and more, brands are thinking very seriously about the role they play in life,” adds former Procter & Gamble CMO Jim Stengel. “Call it purpose, ideals, mission, whatever, but it is a sweeping force in marketing departments and agencies.”
“Katy Perry’s halftime show served as a candy-colored counterpoint to this year’s Super Bowl ads, largely a swath of emotional, sometimes sad, even grim spots—punctuated with humor from Kim Kardashian and Lindsay Lohan, of all people,” writes Jennifer Rooney in Forbes.
“It was first and foremost the Super Bowl of commercial kumbaya,” writes Bruce Horovitz in USA Today. “Many of the spots were the commercial equivalent of hug. McDonald's literally showed hugs in its ad promising free food to random customers who bestow acts of kindness. Coca-Cola showed how snarkiness and hate on the Internet turns positive and happy thanks to a bottle of Coke.”
Not that everyone felt the love in a positive way.
“After a year full of discord and #outrage, Super Bowl advertisers went waaay somber. It’s as if they hoped to gently heal us, to spur reflection, to encourage us all to just, like, coexist with each other and consider each other’s struggles,” observes Seth Stevenson on Slate. “Frankly, the whole thing was sort of a bummer.”
As expected, Budweiser’s heart-wrenching reprise of a puppy and Clydesdales scored big with both reviewers and viewers, winning USA Today’s Ad Meter competition that tallied the reactions of 6,703 consumers in its 27th year,
Suffice to say that the puppy gets lost and the Clydesdales not only save it from a wolf but also direct it home to its master.
But Bud also “missed the mark with an ad poking fun at craft beers, whose popularity among young drinkers has cut into some of the brewer’s business,” writes the Wall Street Journal’s Suzanne Vranica. “Bud is showing their nervousness in this spot,” creative consultant Mark Wnek tells us.
Vranica cites a spot from Mophie, which sells battery packs for cell phones, as standing out for its humor “with a funny take on the apocalypse. … The reveal is that God ran out of battery life on his phone.” Kevin Karp, associate creative director at DiMassimo Goldstein, says: “Epic, mysterious and a great punchline.”
No. 2 in the USA Today poll “was a stereotype-bashing spot for an unlikely Super Bowl advertiser, the Always feminine products brand from P&G. It aimed to make viewers rethink what it means to act ‘like a girl,’ Horovitz reports. “Third, was a humorous Fiat Chrysler commercial about an amorous, elderly Italian man who loses his iconic, blue Viagra-like pill at just the wrong moment.”
“Make Safe Happen,” a spot for Nationwide that features a boy talking about all the things he'll never get to enjoy because he's dead, set the paradigm for serious.
“Nationwide will end up being the most talked-about ad but for all the wrong reasons,” writes Yahoo Sports’ Busbee. “The company's spot featuring a dead child elicited a negative response from just about everyone.”
“The reaction from social media was immediate and blistering,” reports NBC News. But the insurer “is not sorry about the tear-stained nachos and awkward silences that rippled across America,” writes David Stout in Time. The company issued the following statement:
“Preventable injuries around the home are the leading cause of childhood deaths in America. Most people don't know that. Nationwide ran an ad during the Super Bowl that started a fierce conversation. The sole purpose of this message was to start a conversation, not sell insurance.”