Katie Bouloubassis

Humor and nostalgia prevail in Big Game advertising

Many households across the U.S. tune into the Big Game every year. This year’s game truly felt historic for many reasons.

First, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers faced the Kansas City Chiefs at their own home stadium in Florida making them the first team to play a Super Bowl on home turf.

Second, Tom Brady adds yet another win to his record-making this number seven.

Third, you may have noticed the absence of Budweiser’s Clydesdales and the somewhat comical battle for soft drink superiority between Coca-Cola and Pepsi. They, among many other advertisers, opted to take a time-out on advertising during the Big Game this year due to the impact and uncertainty the coronavirus pandemic has placed on this game and life across the nation.

The brands that did have ads air during the Big Game took the opportunity to reach audiences with a variety of creative, some funny, some heartfelt, some serious and everything in between.

I teamed up with our Director of Video Creative, Eric Bach to dissect a few of the ads that really caught our attention.

Our Favorite Spot:

“Last Year’s Lemons” Bud Light commercial secured the winning spot for us. Bud Light took an old saying, “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” and squeezed it (pun intended) to showcase their new product while highlighting the many sour situations that took place over the course of 2020. Beyond the clever concept and on-point execution of the ad, we noticed additional creative tactics with this campaign. Not only did they reinforce branding with an in-game ad, known as a drop-in, directly following the commercial, but utilized what appeared as guerrilla marketing in the stands, with the cameramen pointing at a “fan” covered in Bud Light body paint, holding a cardboard sign reading “When Life Gives You Lemons.” Overall, Bud Light executed a well-rounded and strategic campaign this year, relating to just about everyone on earth and making us laugh along the way.

*Also, side note, did anyone else catch Budweiser on screen? Weeks before the big game they announced they would not partake in advertising this year which remained true, not directly spending Budweiser ad dollars as they traditionally would. However, Anheuser-Busch ran advertising on its own and separate lower-third unit advertising their zero-alcohol beer

90s Nostalgia:

A reoccurring theme we noticed throughout the night was 90s nostalgia! This was kicked-off with Pizza Hut featuring Craig Robinson decked out in retro Pizza Hut gear playing Pacman in a room filled with iconic Pizza Hut memorabilia, eliciting fond childhood memories…the only thing missing was a BookIt pin!

The nostalgia kept coming with a reference to one of the decade’s most popular sitcoms, with Tide’s “Jason Alexander Sweatshirt.” The ad not only had us reminiscing about our favorite George Constanza moments, but Tide topped it off with a music bed referencing George’s famous answering machine message. The addition of the audio tied the whole spot together to make it even more memorable for audience.

One last nod to the 90s, Uber teamed up with Wayne’s World’s Mike Myers and Dana Carvey to promote the Uber Eats service. They preface this commercial by stating this is NOT an ad they’re using to manipulate the audience to eat local, while using some not-so-subtle tactics, like the babies wearing “eat local” shirts and a shameless celebrity plug from Cardi B to do just that. Uber took the obvious and over-used promotion tactics advertisers often lean on and made fun of them in their own way to shape this ad.

Honorable Mention:

An all-out sandwich war featuring Brad Garrett playing the part of a mob member in the latest Jimmy John’s commercial had us giggling the whole time. Jimmy John’s typically incorporates humor into their ads and this time did not disappoint. This commercial took a jab at their competitors by stating they are the “King of Cold Cuts” and took time to throw in reasons why, such as their superior ingredients, freshly baked bread, customizable menu and more. Humor remains a strong tactic for advertising because consumers like being entertained instead of pitched, so appealing to them emotionally through humor can lead to further engagement with a product in the future.

When it comes to advertising, for the big game or otherwise, creative direction remains the deciding factor if a brand reaches their target audience or not. Advertising is simply the vehicle to deliver the creative to the audience. That said, an integrated approach to advertising is always recommended. If you’re interested in determining the creative direction for your next campaign, send us an email or connect with us on Twitter! We’d be happy to discuss your next campaign and creative!