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Advertising's Biggest Stage: The Super Bowl

Words:

Edd Norval
February 4, 2019

The Super Bowl isn't only one of the biggest sporting events, it's also probably advertising's biggest event. It costs around $5.25 million for a 30-second slot during the game and the biggest brands with the biggest agencies compete for an even more valuable space - the one in your mind (or your heart).

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At such an eye-watering cost for a 30-second slot, adverts at the Super Bowl have to be eye-catching, memorable and fight for a place not only in the mind, but in the heart. It's this huge brief and great deal of expectation that advertising agencies pull their hair out over in the run-up to the big competition.


Most sporting events are about the sports, but the Super Bowl, now on its 53rd edition, is worth grabbing the popcorn for the ad break, not during it. Agencies must make several high-stake decisions. To be funny or go down the emotional path? To be understated, meta or extravagant? To play into the zeitgeist or buck the trend?


Whilst the New England Patriots brought home their share of the spoils this year, so to did some of the brands advertising at the break. Not all were a success, but some brands created more than just adverts, but branded works of art with far-reaching ideas.

Chief amongst them was actually a piece of art before the Super Bowl's advertising space came calling. Back in 1983, Andy Warhol starred in an experimental film made by Danish director Jørgen Leth. Unwrapping and slowly eating a burger for around four and a half minutes, the scene from the film 66 Scenes from America gained a sort of cult appeal. It was weird enough to catch people's eye, but not surreal enough to isolate a more mainstream audience. In other words, it was just the right blend of risk-taking low-brow/high-brow material for this event, as adopted by Burger King.


It was one of the most popular of the night, alongside others like The Washington Post that highlighted the plight of the journalist, or Kia cars who decided to give something to the world through scholarships (whilst obviously asking for you to buy into their brand, or better buy one of their cars).


Budweiser may have brought home the most welcome surprise of the night with an advert that looked like a collaboration with HBO before making a large announcement that television lovers the world over will unite in hearing. Expectedly, plenty of brands jumped on the ongoing bandwagon of promoting the virtues of togetherness and empowerment for the third or fourth year running (great things, until used to sell products), but it was, as always, the surprise packages that got people talking.


Genius uses of an Amazon Alexa type machine by Pringles and throwbacks to 90s pop from Doritos were winners, alongside BK. Originality and creativity were on display in these devastatingly smart ads that make us all want a new car, face cream and crisps. At once. Right now. Job done then.


View the best here.

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