BITE Focus

Super Bowl 2019

This year we watched robots struggle with their emotions, a Game of Thrones dragon burn down a Bud Light jousting tournament and Andy Warhol eat a Whopper. Read below for our take on the trends to have emerged from the Super Bowl 2019.

Kara Melchers

Managing Editor, BITE


Even if you have no interest in American sports, chances are you’ve heard of the Super Bowl. The culmination of the NFL’s annual season drew in an audience of 100.7 million viewers, 3% down from last year, but still a huge number of real people actively viewing ads.  

Off the pitch Cardi B revealed she’d turned down an offer to perform at half time in support of Colin Kaepernick. After previously politicised years, brands opted for the safety of humour, celebs and erm robots.

Super Bowl’s biggest sponsor Pepsi, arrived in Atlanta, the hometown of Coca-Cola, ready to turn the town blue. As game day drew near, Pepsi tweeted Coke asking for a #CoclaTruce and placed a bronze statue of the Pepsi founder holding out a can opposite the infamous statue of the Coke founder outside the World of Coca-Cola museum.

This year we watched robots struggle with their emotions, a Game of Thrones dragon burn down a Bud Light jousting tournament and Andy Warhol eat a Whopper. Read on below for our take on the trends to have emerged from the Super Bowl 2019.

Celebrity nostalgia

There was no shortage of celebrities making an appearance in the ads this year. From the good, Amazon Alexa’s self-depreciating 'Not Everything Makes the Cut' by Lucky Generals, to the bad, Pepsi’s 'More Than Okay’ by Goodby Silverstein & Partners, which made me wonder if they really are okay? To the just plain boring, Wix’s Official 2019 Big Game Ad, made in-house and featuring Karlie Kloss whose own entrepreneurial achievements were sadly not mentioned.

In my mind the most successful celebrity cameos tapped into a second trend, nostalgia. We saw brands bringing back much loved characters and their familiar characteristics. Stella Artois' ‘Change Up The Usual’ by Mother New York saw Jeff Bridges and Sarah Jessica Parker reprise their iconic 90’s roles from The Big Lebowski and Sex and the City respectively, causing a meltdown in the bar when they swap their signature drinks for a beer.

Doritos ‘Now It’s Hot’ by Goodby Silverstein & Partners was entertaining and on message. The ad featured The Backstreet Boys classic hit Tell Me Why, made ‘hotter’ with a new verse by Chance the Rapper making it the perfect partner for Spicy ‘hotter’ Doritos.

And finally the industry’s favourite ad of the evening, Burger King’s ‘Eat Like Andy’ by David Miami and MullenLowe. This time it was 45 seconds of fame for iconic artist Andy Warhol and the Whopper he quietly consumes. The archive footage is part of the 1982 film 66 Scenes from America, and was a welcomed pace change from the typically ostentatious Super Bowl ad style.

Give her a voice

Nearly half of the Super Bowl audience is female. According to Forbes, in 2017 they accounted for 49% of viewers. Yet, during the game breaks, it is rare to see a brand that appeals to women and rarer still to see a woman as the star of the ad.

There was shift this year as women took prominent roles both in front and behind the camera. The best example of this was Bumble’s debut Super Bowl slot, ‘The Ball Is In Her Court’ by FlyteVu Agency & VMLY&R. The ad starred role-model Serena Williams, empowering women to make the first move and take control of their stories, in friendship, love and business. The app, which only allows women to make the first move, made an ad written by women, for women. A new spot for organic beer Michelob Ultra Pure Gold, ‘The Pure Experience’ by FCB Chicago, Zoe Kravitz starred in the lead role, while the ad was also produced entirely by a team of women.

Bumble weren’t the only brand to debut an ad for this Super Bowl, as Olay stepped up, marking the first time Proctor & Gamble had advertised a female beauty product during the Super Bowl. The campaign, ‘Killer Skin’ by Saatchi & Saatchi New York was teased in a series of movie-trailer esq slots starring Sarah Michelle Geller mirroring her lead role in the iconic horror trilogy Scream. Only, as the killer approaches, Gellar is unable to unlock her phone with facial recognition as her skin has become so rejuvenated.

A bigger message

Whilst politics may have been off the agenda this year, there were some brands who chose to ignore the lure of comedy and celebrities and use their slot to talk about a bigger brand message. Arguably one of the most lauded ads of the evening came from Microsoft with ‘We All Win’ by m:united//McCann New York. The slot promoted inclusive gaming, starring a host of young gamers with disabilities talking about how the Xbox Adaptive controller has allowed them to be the best. The ad demonstrates the power of inclusive gaming and how real diversity of experience begins with listening to what your audience truly wants and needs.

For this year’s Super Bowl, Google released two ads created in-house by Google Creative Lab with media from PHD and Essence. The best was a Job Search for Veterans that spoke only in a language they’d understand. The ad focused on the numbers that appear on a military document and was designed to promote Google’s new search feature to make job hunting as a veteran easier. 

There is no hiding the reality that a journalist’s job is difficult, made all the more so by many individuals in power consistently undermining the work that they do. In their Super Bowl campaign ‘Democracy Dies in Darkness’, the Washington Post, with a little help from Tom Hanks’ narration, shone a spotlight on moments throughout history and the journalists who worked tirelessly to cover those stories. The ad by Mark Woollen & Associates allows us to appreciate the sheer scale of events that many journalists write about. As the ad says, “Knowing keeps us free”.

It’s all about the Bots

The machines are taking over the world, and that includes the Super Bowl ads this year. But not everything’s rosy if you’re a robot. They can run faster, peddle harder and swing a golf club better than us. But what’s the point if you can’t enjoy a Michelob Ultra Superior Light Beer? ‘Robots’ by FCB Chicago reminds sports fans that athletic ability isn’t everything.

Not only can the machines not enjoy a beer, they can’t taste the 318,000 combinations it’s possible to try by layering Pringles. In ‘Sad Device’ by WPP’s Grey, two friends discuss their latest flavour inventions whist a wistful voice activated device can only ponder the joy of having hands to stack with and a mouth to taste with.

Perhaps the creepiest of all was ‘RoboChild’ for TurboTax by Wieden & Kennedy Portland, where a man builds a robotic kid who wants to grow up to be a TurboTax CPA (Certified Tax Expert). Sadly, the poor mechanical boy is told only human beings with real emotions can hold such a job, causing him to malfunction.

Time for a plot twist

Everyone loves a plot twist. Just when you think you know what’s going to happen, suddenly the story changes and you’re gripped. Bud Light is best recognised for its slightly silly medieval plots where characters sit around shouting “dilly, dilly.” So, audiences were caught off guard by the brand’s second ad of the Super Bowl ‘Joust’ by Wieden & Kennedy New York and Droga5. When the Bud Knight is unexpectedly knocked off his horse and his head squashed by what transpires to be Mountain from Game of Thrones, Bud fans were traumatised, but GoT fans revelled at the promise of a new series.

Staged for one night only at Manhattan’s Town Hall on Super Bowl Sunday, ‘Skittles Commercial’ by DDB New York was Skittles’s answer to the deluge of advertisements unveiled during the game. Teased before the game, the only way to see the ‘Broadway Musical’ starring Michael C. Hall was to divert your eyes away from the game and buy a ticket to the Sunday Afternoon event.  

In M&M’s ‘Bad Passengers’ by BBDO New York, Christina Applegate plays a frustrated mum driving a car whilst at the same time attempting to quiet her bickering backseat kids. When she snaps turning round to shout “I will eat you alive right now,” it’s revealed her kids are in fact the new M&M’s chocolate bar. Surprise!

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