What a gift we were given this year. No matter which team you rooted for or if you had an interest in sports or not, Super Bowl LII did not disappoint. A classic underdog tale, where leadership fell to the quiet resolve of a backup player, tasked to step out of the shadows and unseat a dynasty. You couldn’t ask for a better setup.
And the game, set against a world where media has fallen into question, where undercurrents of mistrust regarding the information we receive and share have taken root, took on an even greater meaning. As I watched, I saw creative whose primary goal seemed to be an admission that it was indeed advertising.
In short, this year’s spots raised an interesting question: Has advertising become self-aware?
There were spots that made a direct correlation to the news cycles of the day. And collectively, all the best spots played with what may be the most valuable commodity we seek — the truth. In many ways this year, advertising — the very thing designed to alter and influence our opinions, the format most historically associated with spin — may be emerging as the one medium where the truth still stands a chance. Laugh all you want, but we can't claim that eating a certain brand of cereal will increase your IQ. There are rules in advertising, and the ads during this year’s game brought that fact front and center.
The spot for Australia Tourism started out as a trailer for a film, but after positioning “Pristine Beaches,” “Amazing Wines,” and “World Class Restaurants,” the lead character becomes aware of the very nature of his presence, realizing the spot is a tourism ad. Quicken Loans featured a host clarifying what is really being said by the characters around him, and the Amazon ad revealed a fictional play on how behind the scenes they attempted to patch a flaw in their own technology.
An element of "revealing the truth” could be felt in almost every ad. Even when the premise of what lies behind the curtain was fictional, the pulling back of that curtain to reveal something more organic was a resounding theme. That’s not to say these were simple executions. Even brands like Doritos and Mountain Dew, which in recent years presented a more low-rez, homemade approach, slipped back into larger celebrity inclusions.
But despite production values, the theme was a signal that advertising is ready to admit its own form, offering something slightly more truthful. In some ways even the half time show offered a more honest integration.
I can’t recall any prior halftime performances that incorporated the actual field and fans the way JT’s choreography did — dancing right on the NFL logo and even going into the stands to take a selfie with one lucky fan.
Advertising was designed to tell us what to think, but now seems to be giving the viewer a choice — with creative admitting it is what it is, and by that act creating an opportunity to connect in deeper ways with an increasingly savvy audience. This is where we are headed, and the season’s biggest show has again set the stage for things to come.
As I write this, I’m noticing my shirt is incredibly white. Perhaps this is a Tide ad.