Beer, Cars, and Dogs: Memorable Super Bowl LIII Ads

Whoever you were rooting for yesterday, I think we can all agree that, with some mild exceptions, that game didn’t incite too much overall excitement. Don’t get me wrong, I was as excited as any MA native to see Tom win his first ring for his second hand at the end. But by the time we reached the second half and still had only a single field goal on the score board, I began taking my TV breaks (aka getting up to get more food) during game time, and running back in time so that I didn’t miss the commercials. So while I’m sure I missed a few commercials during the span of the game (I got a lot of snack refills), I’m also sure I was tuned in for most of them. These much anticipated and critiqued Super Bowl commercials represent a massive investment on the part of the company, so I am always intrigued with the people, methods, and messages they use to try and sell the millions of viewers watching on their product or service.  So now, without further ado, here are my thoughts on what I considered to be some of the most memorable commercials from Super Bowl LIII (not necessarily in any particular order):

Hyundai

Hyundai’s commercial takes place in an elevator, with the poor couple looking for the “Car Shopping” floor forced to first pass below floors for “Root Canal”, “Jury Duty”, “Middle Seat”, “The Talk”, and “Vegan Dinner Party”, before finally stopping on “Car Shopping”, where they instead chose to use Shopper’s Assurance. I found the ad funny and I did remember that it was a car ad, but to be honest I had to look up which type of car it was advertising because I didn’t find it to be overly emphasized in the ad. 

*Some alternative floor ideas: razor scooter to the ankle, being stuck behind a really slow driver, stepping on Legos, waking up and realizing your phone wasn’t charging, telling the class a fun fact about yourself, and people who do CrossFit who won’t stop talking about how they do CrossFit 

Pepsi 

As someone who has worked at a bar that only had Pepsi products, I have actually said the words “Is Pepsi okay?” many times, so I found the approach of latching onto that phrase, and shifting it to “More than OK”, to be very clever. Staring celebrities Steve Carrell, Cardi B, and Lil Jon, this ad demonstrates the power that influencers have on consumers, and I found it to be quite successful (I might be biased because I’m a huge “Office” fan and love anything Steve Carell is in, but still).

T-Mobile

This year, companies paid upwards of $5 million for just 30 seconds of ad time, and one ad that I thought made the most of their short air time was T-Mobile. Their commercials were short and sweet, funny, and even provided some tangible reasons for switching to T-Mobile (tacos). They were very brief and were formatted in relatable text situations, from texting overshare-ers, to girlfriends who insist on dictating where you eat, to technologically incompetent parents, which were sure to illicit a laugh from a large variety of watchers. 

Bud Light

Bud Light had two very different ad techniques, and both of them were brilliant. The first one served as both a Bud Light ad and a promo for the highly anticipated “Game of Thrones” final season coming out this spring. GOT has a massive fan base, and partnering with the hugely popular entertainment series for this ad was a genius idea. It served as a great source of anticipation for the impending final season, and made you want to drink a beer while you watch it. 

Their second ad, while sticking with the medieval theme, went in a completely different direction. The emphasis was on the ingredients of the beer, focusing on the fact that Bud Light does not use corn syrup, while two of their big competitors, Coors Light and Miller Light, do brew with corn syrup. In an age where consumers are becoming increasingly more health conscious, I found this a very good route to take. I don’t think the majority of consumers make a practice of analyzing the ingredients of the beer they drink, but by pointing it out themselves, Bud Light brought up worries that consumers didn’t even know they needed to be worried about. I personally didn’t know that corn syrup was an ingredient in any beer brewing, but the phrase “corn syrup” elicits an immediate negative response from specifically the younger, more health-conscious individual, and that was certainly displayed in the immediate conversation that ensued after this ad played in the room where I was watching the game. 

Bumble

Someone finally figured it out…women watch the super bowl too! Bumble’s ad featured star tennis player Serena Williams to promote their dating app that requires women to send the first message. The commercial briefly goes through Williams’s story and ends with the line, “Don’t wait to be given power, cause here’s what they won’t tell you…we already have it”. And let me tell you, sitting in a room with mostly women, that line elicited a strong response. By telling a story through a powerful female figure and role model and encouraging women to take action and initiative in every aspect of their lives, I found this ad to be extremely moving. If I was asked before yesterday if a dating app ad could be inspirational I would have said no, but Bumble proved me wrong with this one. 

Michelob ULTRA

Michelob ULTRA made the bold move of centering their ad around ASMR, or autonomous sensory meridian response, an experience characterized by a static-like or tingling sensation on the skin that typically begins on the scalp and moves down the back of the neck and upper spine, triggered by using whispering and auditory triggers. I personally did not have much of a response to this ad (on the contrary it made me kind of uncomfortable), but I did remember it, and I suppose that is the whole point.

Budweiser 

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Budweiser went with their classic dog horse combination once again (although the dog was a Dalmatian this time), with the ad featuring said dog enjoying the wind in his ears, sitting on top of a wagon being pulled by said horses. It was accompanied by the tagline “Wind Never Felt Better”, and was promoting their now wind-powered brewing process. Like Bud Light with their health-conscious approach, Budweiser was targeting the younger, more environmentally conscious demographic, while also playing on peoples’ universal love of animals being friends and enjoying themselves, so I wasn’t disappointed. 

Overall there were a lot of beer and car commercials (no big surprise there), lots of celebrity appearances, and a fair number of dogs, so not a bad year.

11 comments

  1. Some of these were my favorites as well! I would have to say Pepsi nailed it on the head for exactly what Super Bowl commercials are all about. It was funny and captivating. Featuring Cardi B, who is huge right now, Steve Carrell, who is always a fan favorite, and Lil John, who is the perfect throwback, really worked well. Also it took a negative, “is Pepsi okay,” and took back the power of the narrative. Genius! I must have missed the Bumble one (while snacking too probably), and I’m so glad I saw that! There were plenty of women empowerment commercials this year. I think that is fitting because it truly aligns itself with what the world has been talking about this past year (also yes women watch the Super Bowl)! Michelob’s ASMR also utilized a trend. I think we saw plenty of robots too. But I also found, compared to other years, the commercials really tried to pull at your heart strings (Verizon first responders, Microsoft’s adaptable controller, etc.) There were far less crass or cheesy jokes. I’m interested to see if this trend will continue in following years.

  2. dilillomelissa · · Reply

    I was surprised with how much I enjoyed the Super Bowl commercials this year, especially because I wasn’t much of a fan of the half-time show or the actual game with mostly dull play. I felt pretty nostalgic with a lot of the Super Bowl ads, as there were a lot of celebrities or characters that showed up from my childhood. I agree with a lot of the commercials you highlighted, especially Pepsi which I found to be hilarious. I also loved the Stella Artois commercial with Sarah Jessica Parker as Carrie Bradshaw and Jeff Bridge as the Dude. Another one that brought me back to the 90s was the Backstreet Boys commercial where they paired up with Chance. I’ve seen both live a few times and loved them! The ads made great use of the short time they had, especially T-Mobile as you mentioned. I appreciate the commercials that give me some type of emotion and I felt a lot of that was achieved. Thanks for your review of the commercials!

  3. Several of the commercials that you highlighted in your post were ones that I also enjoyed seeing when watching the game on Sunday. I definitely agree with your analysis and the other commenters thoughts on the Pepsi commercial and the fact that they executed it really well. The casting of Steve Carrell, Cardi B and Lil John and the tagline of “More Thank Okay” made for a great combination and an entertaining and memorable ad. That being said, the Bumble commercial featuring Serena Williams was probably my favorite from the day. Given that most commercials have always been aimed at the male audience, it was nice to see one aimed directly at the females, especially given that they made up roughly 45% of the viewers. Featuring a powerful female and sharing a powerful message of not waiting for what you want or waiting to be told that it’s okay to do something, but rather going out and getting after it was something that really resonated with me.

  4. As a native New Yorker watching this year’s Super Bowl in a room full of born and bred Patriots fans, I was especially relieved anytime there was a commercial break simply because it was a distraction for my husband and friends to talk about anything other than the missed opportunities that just happened on the field. I’m not sure if it was my need to focus on something other than dissecting the game, but I found myself paying more attention to each commercial this year than in the past, and a number my favorites are included in your review! I agree that the Bumble ad was particularly moving and having a message aimed specifically at women viewers was really powerful (especially since we make up a significant percentage of viewers, as Keagan pointed out above). I also thought they did a good job of subtly marketing their other apps at the end of the ad – I had heard of Bumble BFF before, but had no idea the brand also includes a networking app (Bumble Bizz). At least among my friends, these last few seconds generated some conversation around the fact that Bumble is more than a dating app, so if greater brand awareness was part of the company’s goal for this ad, they achieved that with our group of viewers.

  5. Super Bowl Sunday is the companies’ time to shine. With millions of eyes glued to the TV screen, I’m always filled with so much anticipation as I wait for the commercial breaks. Which celebrity are they going to bring out? Which emotional response are they going to try to elicit? How much are they going to try to relate to the target audience? To begin, I found the Hyundai commercial to be quite memorable and humorous because of how relatable it was. (Although I think some of your alternative suggestions would’ve been better i.e. being stuck behind a slow driver and having to share with the class a fun fact about yourself). But I think the star of the show this time around was undeniably T-Mobile. As you said, their ads were short and sweet, yet convincing enough to get me to reconsider my Verizon plan. I mean, free Netflix, Lyft promos, and Taco Bell deals? How could I say no? This blog post was entertaining to read through, and I enjoyed rewatching and discussing some of my favorites from this year!

  6. Thank you for this – hosting a super bowl party unfortunately caused me to miss out on watching some commercials and I haven’t had time to watch any compilations. The one main thing I did notice was the abundance of Pepsi commercials, consistently thinking ‘Wait didn’t we already see Lil John?’. I loved all the commercials in your list especially because I’m a sucker for a cute dog commercial. I feel like the decision to go with the dog and horse combo again was a big play for Budweiser as one of my friends yelled “There’s a dog! Gotta be a Budweiser ad” upon the immediate start of the ad. I’m totally with you on making snack time during game time so you can focus on the commercials especially with the sad display of game that there was.

  7. Growing up in Ireland, I always remember hearing more about the SuperBowl ads and the halftime show than the actual SuperBowl (I had seen more Budweiser ads than football plays before coming over here!). So naturally I was looking forward to this years ads. Overall I was pretty disappointed by the game and by the ads ! I thought T mobile’s ads were so funny and the list you have here were definitely the best of the lot – to be honest though I didn’t even realize the Serena ad was for Bumble and I was totally weirded out by the ASMR one! Coke’s ad also didn’t do it for me at all and I’m still not sure what on earth was going on with the Andy Warhol, Burger King ad !!

    In general what I find fascinating is how much money it costs to even have an ad (in terms of cost of production as well as cost of airtime). There have also been many articles claiming that you don’t even see any return on that investment. I honestly thought Netflix’s twitter and social media presence surrounding their ad was way more impressive than the actual ad itself, and I think that’s probably the key to unlocking the economic return on investment going forward.

  8. I also loved the Pepsi commercial! It definitely owned the “is Pepsi OK” and took control of it! Plus getting Cardi’s famous “Okurrr” in there definitely grabs attention. She was really the perfect influencer for the job.
    I was also fascinated by the Michelob Ultra add too. I definitely agree with you on the mild discomfort created by the ASMR, but what really struck me is that it wasn’t another macho beer add clearly targeted to men. I think the much more “pure” emphasis on nature was trying to target women instead and I think this was a great play. I don’t think i’ve ever seen a beer company target women, yet I know for a fact many women love to drink beer. So while most other beer brewers are going for the all-American manly-man, Michelob is swooping in and getting the attention of the huge population of female beer drinkers. It will be interesting to see how long it takes Coors, Miller, etc. to either copy or figure out for themselves that ladies like beer too.

  9. One of my marketing professors in another class actually said that she thinks the age of the super bowl commercial has passed. I understand what she means to an extent. I didn’t necessarily pay a whole lot of attention to the super bowl this year (since the game was horribly boring). What I did notice though was the synchronization of the ads across social media platforms. Right after the Bud Light ad was shown on TV, I scrolled through Instagram and saw a Bud Light ad that simply said “No Corn Syrup.” The multi-channel hit, especially when consumers aren’t necessarily paying attention to the game, brought the commercial to the top of my mind.

  10. I thought the commercials this year were pretty tame. Nothing crazy, and surprisingly predictable. I read one article that said it was a “safe year” for super bowl commercials. My friends and I played a variety of Super Bowl ad bingo where we got to mark off a space each time a commercial featured a certain trope that we thought of before the game. These included: beloved elderly celebrity, a truck/SUV in the woods, a stream in a beer commercial, anything with a GoT reference, an American flag in slow motion, an ad with its own hashtag, and ‘inspiring’ children, among others. When all was said and done, we were pretty successful, but most of us fell three or four spaces short of getting a bingo blackout. In a painfully boring football game, I would definitely agree with the assessment that it was a safe year for advertisements. No one really wanted to rock the boat during a time in which our country is so politically divided.

  11. For many people the ads can be just as (if not more) engaging and exciting as the game itself. Some of these were my favourites as well, especially the Bud Light / Game of Thrones collab. It was very surprising to me to see the “Bud Light Knight” killed at the end of the commercial, and this certainly was a risky move for the brewing company. I personally enjoyed the commercial and the humility it provided, but I am also a huge GOT fan so I may be biased. I am interested to see how other people reacted to this commercial and if they think it was a good or bad use of $5 million. It is hard to justify spending that amount of money to have your mascot killed in the prcoess…

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