The Super Bowl is an advertiser’s ultimate gamble. Expectations of creativity and craft are high, and frankly, it’s the one time of year when people aren’t actively trying to avoid the advertisements.
The work is put to the test on a national stage, and with millions of dollars already invested, the stakes don’t get any higher. It’s an even bigger risk when you use the Super Bowl to talk about something that, on the surface, might not matter to consumers—like a company anniversary.
This year, two brands used the Big Game to do just that in two surprisingly impactful and different ways.
New York Life redefines its value
Celebrating its 175th anniversary with a 60-second TV spot, New York Life used its big moment to fundamentally reframe life insurance and financial planning, from an act of responsibility to an act of love. Their anniversary isn’t just a number; it’s proof that love endures because it has for 175 years and will for another 175. In 60 seconds, New York Life reimagined life insurance, not as a daunting step in the staircase of life but a kindness one human does for another human to ensure their love lives on through generations.
Snickers trades on culture
Unlike New York Life, Snickers’ Super Bowl ad doesn’t explicitly mention its anniversary in its Super Bowl ad. Rather, Snickers marked its 90th anniversary by breaking the world record for the largest candy bar ever made, crafting a two-plus ton Snickers bar and using their moment in the Big Game to “feed it to the earth” in an epic 60-second spot.
The Snickers ad takes a familiar form we might recall from an iconic soft drink commercial from the 70s reimagined to take on cultural and generational tension, aiming at everything from alternative milk products to selfie sticks to smart home products that are definitely not spying on you. The Snickers spot works because it takes a known, typically earnest ad format and juxtaposes it with the known Snickers snark and humor we’ve come to expect from their enduring 10-year-old campaign.
Investing in a Super Bowl spot is ultimately two bets. The first bet is that your brand will cut through the clutter of current events, the game itself and the sea of ads and social content that surround the event. Competing for attention today frequently devalues linear TV in typical media plans, but year after year the Super Bowl is the exception. It’s the last enduring bastion of appointment TV in our culture, so while media buys in the Big Game is a safe bet, it also puts more pressure on the work to perform.
The second bet is on cultural resonance. Advertisers often get it wrong, striking an unexpected chord that plays a bit tone-deaf or perhaps picks a fight with an issue no one cares about. In the case of two brands wanting to mark company anniversaries, a lot could have gone wrong. But New York Life and Snickers’ bets paid off.
Whether it’s fixing the world by feeding the earth a giant candy bar or helping your little brother over a fence, the common thread between these two spots is the enduring good that comes from human connection. It’s a timeless theme that can be interpreted in earnest or in jest but makes an impact because we universally crave it.
Considering the context of Super Bowl Sunday, this theme perfectly mirrors the enduring tradition of the Big Game: gathering family and friends together to connect over good food, good football and some great commercials.