Aaron Howe, Group Creative Director at POSSIBLE, believes opportunities were missed during the 2018 Big Game
Before the game began, I was curious as to how the most political Super Bowl in recent memory would be handled by advertisers. The game made political by politicians. The continuing to unfold concussion conspiracy. A match-up featuring one of the most controversial quarterbacks of all time vs. a team best known before two weeks ago for its terrible fans and dog fighting (but mostly for the awful fans). Then there’s the halftime show with Justin Timberlake who, last time he was at the Big Game, played his part in flashing Janet Jackson’s Jacksons to the world.
How were advertisers going to handle this? Would anybody address anything or just go big or just go along like there’s nothing to see?
A whole lot of tone-deaf self-congratulating faux-social commentary from Toyota, Budweiser, Ram, T-Mobile and more. Toyota - show me how you’re helping disabled people with your Toyotas. Not with your profits. Budweiser, don’t spent millions on a spot about donating a $100k of water. DONATE THE MILLIONS. I promise the PR will follow. T-Mobile - listen to the lyrics of the music you choose. And if you tout change be change. Ram using Dr. King’s words… I don’t even know where to start. You’re better than this!
At the end of the game, clothes soap and an in-home wiretap ad crushed it. Tide was on a media buying/production/creative all out rampage. Serious props to everyone involved. Amazon Alexa rode writing, acting and directing to make something memorable. Both went big. Both took risks (Bezos as on-screen talent? Very bold). And both paid off.
It’s the ironic thing about advertising on the Super Bowl. It’s brands biggest stage, but it’s also a chance for them to do something out of character and get away with it as long as it makes people feel good. It’s like a brand hall pass. The equity a brand can develop with an audience can pay off for years. Like a German car company showing a kid walking around his house vs. the typical car running footage – when was the last time VW ran a spot during the Super Bowl? But, too often brands just do more of the same. Or same + and figure the stage will make the spot great. And just like the game it was very clear who wanted it more and who was willing to risk it to win it…. A laundry detergent company.
As the David Harbour glow wanes ever so slightly, I do feel like an opportunity was missed. An opportunity for a brand to make a major statement about women in entertainment (or the workplace at large). Go with an all-female cast, or crew, or team, or all of the above. And run five spots pro-women pro-equality pro-being2018 goddamnit. Or just one great one. Use it as a reset and move forward as a better company. Because the stage at the Super Bowl provides this opportunity to do something unexpected that can have a lasting (and meaningful) effect on a brand. Fingers-crossed for next year.
Aaron Howe is a Group Creative Director at POSSIBLE