Advertisers at Super Bowl 50 continued to show that they are determined to get better each year, harnessing the professional quality of movies in the prized 30-second TV spot. But beyond the celebrities and product launches, successful ads still rely on certain aspects of advertising — creative, messaging and social media impact.

While Super Bowl ads can feel like nothing but hype, we at Two Rivers Marketing agree on what made a few of these spots good: They gave us something we could feel in our gut. They gave us something smart, and something with substance. This year, there were a few spots from the big game that had some real value.

 

Creative
Tony Lieb, Creative Director

NFL – ‘Super Bowl Babies

This particular ad has been in the center of controversy, but it was striking. It was an unexpected way of handling the “football is family” theme. The faux throwbacks to fateful nights of championship games showcased the origins of lifelong fandom. It was fun, memorable ― and gave every every husband in America the cheesiest come-on ever.

Colgate – ‘Make Every Drop of Water Count

A toothpaste company doing a Super Bowl spot is a recipe for dancing teeth or unnaturally white smiles. Instead Colgate took its time to talk to America about wasting water while we brush our teeth. It was a smart, simple message that was well executed. In a world of extreme excess, it was a good reminder that there are much bigger issues than the Super Bowl.

 

Messaging
Patrick McGill, Marketing Insights Director

Having a strong and consistent message over time is key to building up a brand impression in your audience’s mind. The Super Bowl is a great place to launch or reinforce a brand’s message. While there is a place for humor and random stunts to grab attention and “win” polls of best ads during the game, brands that also have a messaging strategy come out ahead in the long run.

Two standouts for us in launching new messages were Mini Cooper and PayPal. Mini’s “Defy Labels” advertisement perhaps ripped a page from VW’s classic “Lemon” print ad, but did so in a way that spoke to a diverse audience and invited consideration of its vehicles. PayPal’s idea of “new money” was the most coherent and progressive of the many odd tech company advertisements. Like Mini, PayPal was inclusive ― “new money is all people” ― and was crafted in a way that you could understand its message even without sound.

While many companies dredged the past with their concepts (e.g., “The Jeffersons,” the space race, etc.) or relied on typical Super Bowl advertising clichés (e.g., talking animals, babies, celebrities, and even a puppy/monkey/baby) to attract eyeballs or elicit a chuckle, Mini and PayPal were the stars in advancing a clear message and recasting their brands in a new way. How they play out that message over time, beyond their Super Bowl investment, will be the real test.

 

Social media impact
Hillary Ferry, Digital Marketing Director

When it comes to advertising during the Super Bowl, the second screen is almost as important as the big game. In fact, the Super Bowl social media experience has become synonymous with the annual high-stakes battle of advertisers, as viewers flock to Facebook and Twitter to share their thoughts on the game, halftime show and the latest lineup of 30-second spots. This year’s advertisers paid up to $5 million for 30 seconds to reach a record-breaking 114.4 million viewers. However, the real ROI was determined by how fans reacted to the ads on social media, where the showdown kicked off well before kickoff. According to iSpot.tv, this year’s spots were viewed more than 374 million times before kickoff, thanks to YouTube and brand teasers shared across social media.

Despite many advertisers’ attempts to encourage chatter with branded hashtags, this year’s trending topics were a mixed bag of mentions, including cameos and the occasional campaign hashtag, proving that fans, not brands, lead the Super Bowl conversation. Case in point: Hyundai’s commercial created more buzz about a fictional town call #Ryanville than … what car were they selling? Oh yeah ― the 2017 Hyundai Elantra. According to Marketing Land, hashtags were in only 45 percent of Super Bowl 50 ads, down from 50 percent last year.

So, who won social media during Super Bowl 50? Many declared Betty White the night’s winner before the game even started for her Dab during CBS’s promo, which she then followed up with a tweet. Ultimately, the night’s biggest winners will be the brands that not only got fans talking during the game but also after the stadium lights went dark. Whether leveraging star power or the power to connect with fans on a deeper level through humor, inspiration, or a serious message, the brands that continue the conversation will truly win the social media Super Bowl.

 

These were the spots that felt like they had more than gimmicks to them. They made us feel something, rather than just talking at us. And held our attention, beyond the hype. In case you missed a few, here is a complete list of all of commercials that ran during Super Bowl 50.

About Patrick McGill

As the managing director of strategy, Patrick is our very own Sherlock Holmes. When he’s not immersed in research, you’ll more than likely find Patrick traveling — those travels have taken him to all 50 states. You can email our inquisitive Mr. McGill at patrickm@2rm.com.