Here Are the 3 Big Trends That Ruled This Year’s Super Bowl Ads

Multiple spots, humor and altruism were big

David Harbour stars in Tide's Super Bowl campaign, which played with many ad tropes. Tide
Headshot of Kristina Monllos

During the Super Bowl match-up of the Philadelphia Eagles versus the New England Patriots, brands looked for the next big hit. Would Chris Pratt’s flexing for Michelob Ultra work? Or would Mountain Dew’s lip-sync battle be the big hit? Ultimately, it’s clear that Tide’s attempt to hijack the Super Bowl won the day. Below, we revisit the trends of the game as well as a few bonus points.

1. Multiple spots

Given the price tag attached to Super Bowl ads, the decision to pony up more than $5 million for 30-seconds of your attention might seem surprising but several brands were willing to do so. Tide, Budweiser, Michelob Ultra, Toyota and Jeep were some of the brands that released multiple ads during the game.

“Rote repetition is important now more than ever,” said Rachel Spiegelman, CEO, Los Angeles-based creative shop Pitch. “Stats for how consumers multitask while watching TV have hit new heights, and during the Super Bowl, those figures increase [times 10] in nature because of increased social activity.”

“Hitting the Super Bowl’s huge audience of about 115 million people, multiple times, is one way the big guys can take advantage of being a big guy,” she said, “which is getting harder and harder in modern times.”

2. Humor

Amazon, NFL, Tourism Australia, Bud Light and the Mountain Dew versus Doritos lip-sync battle were all among the brands that aimed to make people laugh during the Super Bowl.

“There is definitely a concerted effort to go for funny,” said Tim Gordon, ecd at Droga5. “This isn’t surprising given last year.”

“Now more than ever, I think people want—no, make that need—to laugh a little,” said Deutsch’s Kelleher. “Heck, even the NFL itself needs a break from all of the politics. The beauty of the Super Bowl is that you have a captive audience who are there to have a good time.”

“They want to crack open a beer, watch some football and laugh at some funny commercials that aren’t trying to solve world peace,” he continued, “and the brands that deliver will be the ones that are remembered.”

3. Altruistic ads

T-Mobile, Verizon and Budweiser used the Super Bowl to make a statement about a larger issue: equality, water or disaster relief efforts.

“The world can never have enough brands with souls,” Eric Springer, cco at Innocean. “And ideas that bring people together. People don’t want to be divided. It’s not about blue states or red states—it’s about the United States.”

BONUS: Tide ruled the Super Bowl

Tide used a deceptive yet humorous campaign from Saatchi & Saatchi in New York to hijack the Super Bowl; it got viewers to question whether or not every ad they were watching was a Tide ad.

(Adweek’s own Marty Swant was on set for the making-of Tide’s Super Bowl campaign. Read more about it here. He also interviewed David Harbour about making the ads. Read that interview here.)

“Amazing,” said Deacon Webster, co-founder and chief creative officer at Walrus. “They’ve got everyone playing the game of ‘is it or isn’t it a Tide ad.'”

Kirk Drummond, co-Founder, CEO and cco of Drumroll, noted that, “In mountain biking, when you make it through a tough section without having to put your foot down you would say you ‘cleaned it.’ I’d say Tide’s ‘Tide Ad’ cleaned the Super Bowl and left us thinking about clean clothes during every commercial that followed. Well done Tide.”

BONUS pt. II: Dead air

Early in the game, around 7:38 p.m. ET, television screens across the country went black for nearly 30-seconds.

“The 30 seconds of just black was just lovely,” said Gordon. “We should do that more often.”

“Best commercial was the accidental pod of dead air in the second quarter,” said former Crispin Porter + Bogusky ecd and current independent creative consultant Mark Taylor. “Which could have been a great idea for E*Trade as a follow up stunt to the dancing monkeys from years ago, and a lesson on smarter investments.”

“It had everyone in the country fiddling with their remotes,” he said. “Everything else felt like a collective long walk for a roast beef sandwich. Except for, of course, Dilly Dilly.”

(A version of this story ran before the game.) 

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@KristinaMonllos Kristina Monllos is a senior editor for Adweek.