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VMLY&R COMMERCE on Super Bowl Ads: Weird for the Win


Experts from the agency’s US office deliver a Big Game vibe check and explain why “weird is the new wonderful”

VMLY&R COMMERCE on Super Bowl Ads: Weird for the Win

Sharing their thoughts with LBB, VMLY&R COMMERCE US’ VP of strategy, Michael Breen, junior analyst, Hannah Dykehouse and VP of marketing science, Julianne Hudson, discuss the history of the Super Bowl ad and why a little bit of wackiness can often result in a spot outperforming others.

Vibe Check

Want to know what a person is all about? Look at their feed. Want to know what American culture is all about? Look at our ads. Specifically, the ads that run during - what TIME’s TV critic James Poniewozik coined in 2000 the “unofficial high holiday of capitalism” - the Super Bowl. These mini masterpieces serve as a vibe check on American culture, showcasing what we hold dear and what we celebrate as a community. Whether you see them on TV or through your digital looking glass, you’re bound to remember them.   

We’ve Come a Long Way, Baby

It’s been over 50 years since the first Super Bowl, and its first commercials, aired. In half a century, the tone and themes have evolved in lockstep with our cultural values and beliefs. We’ve moved from damsels in distress being rescued by Goodyear because “this flat tire needs a man,” and Farrah Fawcett breathily singing to Joe Namath in an innuendo-laden shaving cream ad, to Gillette calling out toxic masculinity in its 2019 ‘We Believe – The Best that Men Can Be’ ad. 

But in 2022, Kantar evaluated Super Bowl ads' potential to break through, brand equity shift, and impact sales; where 66% of the Super Bowl ads scored just ‘average’ - meaning it’s not always as simple as bursting open those purse strings for the sake of a well-known face anymore. 

At the same time, we’re evolving how we digest and retain information. Our pocket digital looking glass and extensions in the form of social media likes and easy shareability have changed the way we engage with brands, putting consumers and culture at the forefront to evaluate what will stick.

Weird Is the New Wonderful

So, if sex and celebrity don’t sell in the same way they used to, what does? Enter: the era of weird. 

‘Weird’ - as in peculiar, taboo, or just plain bizarre. When we look at the shifts in Super Bowl ads, ‘weird’ is the new contender. We’ve evolved from ‘sex sells’ to ‘humour sells’, to ‘celebrity sells’, and now we’ve landed at weird being the new wonderful. 

Weird ads are the ones that flip a norm on its head, offering a new perspective on the familiar but with the gut punch of the unexpected. And weird, especially when paired with humour, works. Humorous Super Bowl ads often make the familiar, unfamiliar, to grab the attention of viewers and stand out from the crowd. By combining humour with the unusual, we’ll create buzz and generate interest in the brand, while also making a lasting impression on viewers during one of the biggest events of the year.

Weird Ads Outperform

Small brand, big splash: PooPourri - ‘Girls Don’t Poop’


A woman dressed to the nines is shown sitting on a toilet. She breaks the fourth wall and informs us in the poshest of accents, “You would not believe the mother lode I just dropped… I birthed a creamy behemoth from my cavernous bowels.” 

The ad forged entirely new ground in pairing the posh with the potty. The actor even wore pearls. But she also spoke to an undeniable truth about the unpleasantness of shared bathroom spaces while oh-so-casually mocking the societal norm that forbade bathroom talk amongst polite company. 

The Australian brand’s sales skyrocketed because of this ad, reporting a 90% increase year over year.

Reminisce this: Coinbase - ‘QR Code’

Take a trip down memory lane to the funky ‘90s. Viewers got groovy with some retro synth during this 60-second video of a bouncing QR code on a black background, reminiscent of an old-school DVD player screen saver. 

It was the blast from the past that had everyone feeling the nostalgic vibe. But more importantly, it was the ‘what the heck is this weirdness?’ curiosity that got people whipping their phones out to scan and find out more. So much so, it crashed Coinbase’s site. 

Over 20 million people visited the website seconds after its floating QR code made a splash during the Super Bowl commercials. Thanks to that power ad-spot during the big game, crypto app downloads increased by 279%.

MC CEO: Oatly - ‘Wow No Cow’ 

Oatly’s CEO, Toni Petersson, took centre stage for a musical (kinda) performance in the middle of a field. He serenades Super Bowl viewers with a catchy tune about the beauty of oat milk, “it’s like milk but made for humans,” and “wow, no cow.” 

Viewers groaned at the lack of product value this ad gave. However, Oatly didn’t hesitate to clap back. They embraced the tongue-in-cheek criticism by selling ‘I totally hated that Oatly commercial’ t-shirts. 

This ad gimmick generated 3.88 million interactions, with 75% of them being positive. Proving that weird can be inherently omnichannel. What a showstopper! 

Weird Is Wonderful

It’s the juxtaposition of the expected and unexpected- the friendly and the challenging that makes it memorable and buzzworthy, and if you’re lucky, the nirvana of all ad-land: ‘go viral’. 

But it’s also the olive branch to many communities, bringing people and cultures to the forefront. No more underdogs, no more us vs. them. Consumers have more power and influence over branded content than ever before. Why? Because they can buy you anytime, anywhere and if you don’t pay attention to their interests and think of new and clever ways to enhance their experience (without disruption), you’ve lost possession of the ball. 

To Win? Keep it Weird

Commerce conversion is key to getting your ROI during the big game, but that conversion is dependent on how weird and wonderful you are.

Weird and wonderful creativity + commerce + relevance = touchdown.

view more - Trends and Insight
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VMLY&R COMMERCE US, Fri, 10 Feb 2023 12:35:00 GMT