$5 million for 30 seconds. That’s more than $166,666 per second. And with the lowest combined scoring output in Super Bowl history, more eyes were on the ads than ever before in search of some semblance of excitement. In short, 2019 was the year advertisers got their money’s worth.
It’s no small challenge to create a compelling spot that has an entertaining story, is persuasive, feels on-brand and triggers consumers to talk about it. Like with every year, there were some unremarkable efforts and some forgettable moments — some punts, to keep up with the theme of the night — but there were also some clear winners beyond the New England Patriots dynasty. Some of the largest, most well-known, influential brands in the world had their chance to shine, and many of them did. From the heartwarming to the heartbreaking, from the humorous to the inspirational, these were some of our favorites.
Stella Artois’ “Change Up the Usual”
Three beats into this spot and women around the country were running back to their TVs to see what Carrie Bradshaw had to do with football. This one was just fun. Playing off iconic characters and their famous signature drinks — each with a different demographic of cult followers — “Change Up the Usual” is a direct call to action for a beer drinking audience mostly used to seeing the mainstream brands during the Super Bowl.
Creatively, it was a great way to play off the idea of “changing up the usual” and was well executed. Stella knows they’re not top of mind for most beer drinkers, and even made a play to it when The Dude fumbled over pronouncing the name of the brand — which played right into the change idea. We were sold when the most interesting man in the world said he was changing it up too.
Bud Light’s “Special Delivery”
It’s always great to see an evolution of brand messaging, and Bud Light showed that last night. With the “Dilly Dilly” creative platform already accepted in consumers’ minds, Bud Light expanded its medieval platform with more robust storytelling. This time, to shed some light on their new label initiative and blatantly call out some competitors along the way. The humorous one-minute spot’s key messaging and idea couldn’t be clearer — Bud Light doesn’t brew its beer with corn syrup, while their main competitors do. It was a brilliant combination of playing toward the health-conscious, while also clearly differentiating themselves in the market — it was a lesson on Marketing 101 from one of the best.
Olay x Buffy The Vampire Slayer
Using modern day technology in a playful way is a straightforward way to resonate with today’s consumers. Being unable to unlock your phone because facial recognition doesn’t recognize you because your skin looks so good? Such problems. What we liked about this one was how it differed from their previous spots, and from the stereotypical general skin care product — which typically involves a celebrity standing in front of a white screen using the product and telling you how it’s going to cure your wrinkles overnight. Additionally, Buffy the Vampire Slayer had a cult audience and to those consumers who liked that show back in the day, this was a great throwback for them.
Microsoft’s “We All Win”
If the goal was to give the viewers “all the feels,” this spot hit the nail on the head. Microsoft did the impossible. They showed that one of the world’s leading tech overlords does, in fact, have a heart. Sure, it’s a PR spot, but the concept, execution and business tie-in made it believable. Video gaming is seen by many parents as blight on teen life, but it’s also the reality of how today’s youth socialize. And for disabled kids, it can be just one more thing that keeps them on the outside looking in. We loved the campaign concept and applaud Microsoft for putting its money and brainpower to good in creating the adaptive controller. And the way they share it with the world is beautiful. The casting is spot-on, the dialogue is honest and revealing, and the cinematography is real. It’s perfect in every way.
Hyundai Shopper Assurance x Jason Bateman
You’d never know it was a car commercial until you did, and once you did, you couldn’t forget it. This was a well-written ad that felt worthy of the Super Bowl placement. Funny, smart and memorable, but also strategic — showing the value of their shopper assurance program by placing it in contrast to our daily lives. By taking real life situations — like buying a car, which nearly everyone can relate to — and comparing it to other life moments that are less than enjoyable, viewers quickly understood this tool could actually be beneficial in their own lives. Ultimately, Hyundai delivered a message. Yes, they made us laugh, but it was more than that — they advertised its new shopper assurance program and left a sustaining message.
As our executive producer always says, “You need to make them laugh or make them cry.” The spots that accomplished one of those things made it on our list. We laughed with Hyundai, we cried with Microsoft and we felt all warm and fuzzy when Carrie Bradshaw reappeared in our lives. And combined with the new trend of brand partnerships — see: Bud Light and Game of Thrones; Olay and Buffy the Vampire Slayer; Stella Artois and Dos Equis and The Big Lebowski and Sex and the City — and the real highlight, another Patriots Super Bowl championship, it was a night to remember.