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What makes a great Super Bowl ad?

When you think about the Super Bowl, you most likely think of great football, an exciting half-time performance, wings and beer, and of course, million dollar commercials. But what makes a great Super Bowl commercial? How are these brands resonating with audiences? Reports say that a 30-second spot in Super Bowl LIV between the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers range from $5 million to $5.6 million, so what can advertisers do to make sure their ads are engaging and memorable?

Some of the public relations and communications experts at Nahigian Strategies share their favorite Super Bowl commercials, and what made those ads resonate with audiences.

Cassie Scher, Account Manager

Super Bowl XLVII: Budweiser, Puppy Love

As a dog (and beer) lover, this ad hit all the right notes for me. With over 1.5 million views since it aired in 2014, the numbers speak for themself. At Nahigian Strategies, we always encourage clients to tell a story – and this 60 second ad tells a compelling story that resonates with consumers without over-the-top direct branding. The Budweiser clydesdales are so iconic that heavy-handed marketing isn’t needed, and everybody remembers a cute puppy.

Danielle Hagen, Senior Vice President

Super Bowl XLIX: Always, Like A Girl

It was memorable because it took a colloquialism that was derogatory towards young girls and turned it into a positive message. Made you realize when you say things like “you throw like a girl” you’re putting down a whole gender but more importantly, it’s the realization (and empowering message) that girls can do ANYTHING a boy can (if not better)!

Kesi Lumumba, Account Manager

Super Bowl XLIV: Snickers, Playing Like Betty White 

All of us recognize the feeling of being “hangry” – a mixture of hungry and being angry/prickly. As someone who has regularly struggled with this, it can be a funny situation. Snickers was able to capture a truly human experience with their “You’re not you when you’re hungry” campaign. And who does love Betty White? She had a much deserved career renewal.

Tom Qualtere, Communications Manager

Super Bowl XLV: Budweiser, Never Forget

This 2011 ad is a tribute to the victims of 9/11, and it’s actually a sequel to an ad that Budweiser ran nine years earlier during the 2002 Super Bowl. In the 2002 edition, the NYC skyline is visible from a distance with snow on the ground and a noticeably empty space above Lower Manhattan. In this ad, the sky is blue, there’s grass on the ground, and in the place of the former Twin Towers stands the new One World Trader, a.k.a. Freedom Tower.

Anna Stallmann, Vice President

Super Bowl XLVII: Oreo, Power Out

This is a non-traditional Super Bowl Ad as it shows the power of digital marketing – a tweet that essentially cost nothing to post but realized incredible value for the company.  Every successful company must have a crisis continuity plan in place – and think of the inevitable. While a power outage had no direct impact on Oreo, the company was smart to realize the real-time opportunity it had to comment on a naturally occurring and unexpected event. Moreover, the message was simple – the key to an effective message.  It was a reminder to all of us that you don’t have to spend millions to tell your story – but being relevant and delivering a simple message can help your story breakthrough.

Ken Nahigian, Executive Vice President, Policy & Communications

Super Bowl XLV: Volkswagen, The Force

This ad juxtaposes an iconic soundtrack and movie series with childhood playfulness and makes me laugh every time. The expressions of disappointment after such enthusiastic attempts are priceless, as is the complete disbelief upon “success.” I love how the parents are totally in on this and make it happen for young Vader.

Rebecca Fisher, Communications Advisor

Super Bowl XLV: Volkswagen, The Force

I second this opinion!  This is also at a time when cars were just beginning to use the ‘remote start’ feature so people watching the ad had the exact same ‘magic’ feeling the little boy did when it started with no one in the car.  Every parent related to the feeling of giving their child that momentary feeling of pure power and magic (that’s exactly why we all suffer through Disneyland – for the 5 minutes out of the 7-hour ordeal where we get to witness the look of pure joy on their face.)  This ad was genius.

Lynn Hatcher, Communications Associate

Super Bowl LI: Ford, Go Further

In life, we all have those moments where we are a little “stuck,” whether that be on a ski lift or in a traffic jam, as depicted in the ad designed by Ford Motor Company. This 2017 ad reflects the innovation dramatically altering the transportation landscape at the time, as nationwide, Americans were turning their attention to ride sharing, electric vehicles, bike sharing, and self-driving cars. The 90-second ad that shows our day-to-day human mishaps so brilliantly showcases Ford as the futuristic answer, a company capable of making present life so much better. Here, Ford is not selling specific products, but establishing trust in the company as a whole, and at Nahigian Strategies, we believe streamlined messaging is essential in managing and maintaining positive brand awareness and popularity, no matter what the changing technology and political arena might look like at the time. The juxtaposition of humor and seriousness, in not only the pacing of the music but also the filmography, proves a timeless masterpiece that can be enjoyed by the young, the old, the career-focused, and the adventure-seekers, from bustling city sidewalks to serene backcountry mountains.

Neale Butler, Communications Assistant

Super Bowl XLVII: Budweiser, The Clydesdales

This ad resonated with audiences because it shows the emotional connection between one of their famous clydesdale foals and its trainer. An emotional bond with an animal is something a lot of people can relate to, and in this case the song playing in the ad gave it an even more emotional pull. Landslide by Fleetwood Mac is such a recognizable song that it was sure to catch viewers’ attention and enhance the emotion for the viewer. Budweiser also included a segment at the end where viewers were told they could get on Twitter and help name the foal in the ad, making the ad interactive and helping it get significantly more coverage on social media.

Whatever your favorite Super Bowl ad of all time is, chances are it resonated with audiences by either pulling at their heartstrings, making them laugh, inspiring them, being relatable, or maybe just featuring a cute puppy.