Spoiler alert: If you want to wait to see the commercials during Super Bowl LV, don’t click on the links in the article below.
Right out of the gate, I must admit that I am not fond of TV commercials. Having stated that, there is something to be said for Super Bowl commercials. I guess I tend to buy into the hype – to see which companies are spending the big bucks, and how good (or bad) the creative is.
In anticipation of this year’s LV Super Bowl, I spoke to Matt Low, senior vice president and creative director at Crowley Webb (a full service advertising agency based in Buffalo) to see what his ‘creative thoughts’ were heading into the big game.
Low told me that he especially enjoys the Super Bowl commercials because “… they are at their peak.” And they should be, for the money.
That said, Low pointed out that the majority of commercials are still mediocre or bad, leaving a small percent to truly shine. In anticipation of the Super Bowl, Low has already watched most of the teasers and commercials, so he’s already way ahead of the game.
Of course, this year is going to be somewhat different due to the pandemic. A handful of major corporations, such as Budweiser, have opted out of advertising, and will instead dedicate their ad dollars to covid vaccine awareness.
“It’s a ‘no lose’ situation for companies like Budweiser,” explained Low. “Here we are talking about it. They are getting as much PR, if not more. Plus, they have plenty of other brands under their umbrella that will be advertising.”
Low mentioned that while Bud and other companies are diverting ad dollars, there are still other companies that are opting out completely. What is interesting is that those latter companies appear to be getting lumped into similar tactical scenarios as Budweiser, thus getting a desired “halo effect’ in the process. For example, avocados from Mexico is forgoing advertising until Super Bowl 2022. Regardless of the reason, at this point the hyped-up discussions revolve around who’s not there and why.” Therefore, if there was ever a year to mix things up and keep viewers guessing, it would be 2021.
Low said that every year there are ‘running themes’ during the Super Bowl, and ads that you can always expect to see. “This year will be more traditional,” Low determined. “We can always count on the soft drinks and fast foods, because that’s what people are consuming. Puppies and babies tend to sell. So do ads with an added layer of humor. Serious ads always seem to get backlash. People expect to laugh and be entertained during the Super Bowl. There are exceptions… like TurboTax, which advertises because it’s tax season and taxes are on people’s minds.”
Upon being asked if there was an LV commercial to look out for – one that stands out – Low answered, “Tide detergent. The commercial features a teenager beating up his clothes. The sweatshirt has Jason Alexander’s (from Seinfeld – see commercial) face on it. The face changes expressions as the kid abuses the sweatshirt. A lot of people are fans of Seinfeld, like I am. They will remember the ad because of the actor – there’s omnipresent star power… the way I look at it is that if you’re going to pay that much money for a media buy, why not go for the gusto? You need to have a star in the ads or your missing out on the party. Uber Eats is bringing back Wayne and Garth. Amazon has an ad where a housewife puts Alexa’s voice into Michael B Jordon (actor from Black Panther) and enjoys giving him commands as the ultimate [day dream] scenario – once again, people react better to humor during the Super Bowl, even during solemn and tough times.”
I asked Low if we would see any of the dreaded pharmaceutical ads during LV. “I believe that the price tag is too high,” he responded. “And it’s too scattershot. People aren’t there to listen to that message. But I can’t rule it out.”
Low did mention that Bud Light seltzer was the only ad that he saw that was taking a poke at the 2020 train wreck. In the ad, the company says that it took all of the lemons from 2020 to make its seltzer lemonade, but even the lemons from 2020 rain down on people’s heads, causing additional pain and suffering. It’s a risky move to make fun of the pandemic, but someone had to do it. Bud Light takes a different pandemic tact – a number of all-stars (legends) from past Super Bowl commercials come together in Avengers fashion, to restore the Bud Light to supermarket shelves throughout the world.
I told Low that there was only one Super Bowl ad that I ever felt was ‘super clever’ and memorable. It was a baby swinging up and down. When the baby was ‘up,’ she was smiling, and when she was ‘down,’ she was crying. At the end of the commercial, we see through the baby’s eyes, revealing that when she was up higher in the air, she was able to see the McDonald’s arches out the window. And there you have it – the secret formula… babies, fast food, and humor. Low was spot on with his trifecta analysis, despite my perceived aversion to babies and fast food. In the end, I remembered that it was an ad for McDonald’s after all of these years, despite Low guessing ‘Coke or Pepsi,’ upon recalling seeing the ad. “It’s important to remember the scene… and the brand,” said Low [laughing]. “In that case, the commercial was clever, but I never associated it with a particular brand. Unlike the messy teen with the Jason Alexander sweatshirt – I will always associate that visual with Tide.” Will the same be true for Will Ferrell and GM’s electric cars?
It was fun and informative talking to Low about the LV Super Bowl commercials. I enjoyed getting his take on the trends. At the same time, I felt kind of sorry for him. In order to watch all of those commercials on YouTube, he had to sit through just as many pre-commercials because of a lack of ‘Ad Blocker.’ It stands to reason, who ever heard of an ad exec with Ad Blocker?!
Lead image: Photo by Phillip Goldsberry