What Makes a Great Super Bowl Ad?

By: Rachel Handel Filed under: Film & Production

February 4, 2016

The Super Bowl is coming and though the Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers are sure to put on a good show, we all know what the real game is about—the competition to stand out as the best commercial.

The stakes are high. Fortune Magazine noted that a 30-second advertisement can cost as much as $5 million. So how do advertisers balance the financial risk with the desired reward of making a huge (hopefully positive) impression on viewers?

Comedy sells, according to Blanca Recio, MBA, Adjunct Faculty, Advertising, at Miami International University of Art & Design. “Ads are mini movies and the Super Bowl to me is the Oscar season for those ads. We will see more light-hearted ads with more of a comedic twist. Humor will be big this Super Bowl season,” she says.

Recio adds that Budweiser has already started the Super Bowl commercial buzz, thanks to its ad featuring comedians Amy Schumer and Seth Rogen. One thing that she hopes won’t be repeated from last year’s ads? Debbie Downer commercials.

“We will most likely not [see] any sad commercials like last year's Nationwide Insurance ad featuring the dead boy. [Last year] was a very serious and dark year [for Super Bowl commercials]. I'm looking forward to more creative freedom this year and advertisers having more fun with their story lines.”

Stick With What Works

While last year’s Budweiser commercial featuring puppies was cute, Recio says there won’t likely be a repeat. “They did not sell much beer. This year Budweiser is focused on selling [its product].”

Recio emphasizes that while some companies choose to debut an ad prior to the big game, most stick with the tried and true method of premiering the ad during the Super Bowl itself. Others, like Budweiser, tease their ad to build anticipation.

“We all dream of this type of attention for our advertising. It is no surprise that an advertiser would [want to] generate buzz promoting the ad. It is very similar to what occurs [with a] movie preview. You don't give it all away but you want to get people to watch it on the big night and to remember it.”

New this year will be Google’s live ads, according to Recio. “It will be interesting to see how [they] perform. The effectiveness of a Super Bowl ad in a digital age also lies in its digital relevance and shareability.”

The Element of Surprise

Relevance, simplicity, and the element of surprise are the most important elements of a memorable commercial, according to Jhames Holley, Adjunct Instructor, Advertising, at The Illinois Institute of Art—Chicago. Holley, an award-winning art director, has over 15 years of experience in advertising agencies working with global brands.

Holley cites Colgate’s 2016 Super Bowl ad as having an extremely powerful, timely message. “Colgate has an ad telling people to conserve water. That is coincidentally smart in America right now with [the water crisis that] is happening in Flint, Michigan.”

Still, he believes that the surprising and emotional ads will be balanced with humor. And for the sake of advertisers, he hopes that the game is a well-balanced match-up.

“You want a blockbuster match-up so there's interest in the game. The Super Bowl party is one thing. The watching of the actual game is another. If the game and the stories around it, like Peyton Manning trying to retire [a winner] are juicy, the ratings will soar.”

Holley believes that debuting ads prior to the big game can be beneficial. “It makes those who know what's going on enjoy the company of people seeing it for the first time. Also, in the environment of a party or just game excitement, it can be hard to comprehend the commercial's concept without any familiarity.”

Past Winners

So which ads have stood the test of time?

“I usually enjoy what Kia does for the Optima,” says Holley. “Their Epic Ride commercial from a few years ago [was a good one]. Always’ Like a Girl and Taco Bell's Retirement Home were great. The Doritos commercials go too far into cheesy land (pun) but the public votes on those entries. Oh, and Snickers’ Brady Bunch had me cracking up.”


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By: Rachel Handel Filed under: Film & Production

February 4, 2016

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