BITE Focus

Super Bowl

The play for purpose or escapism

Kara Melchers

Managing Editor, BITE Creativebrief


Melissa McCarthy's comic performance for Kia
Melissa McCarthy's comic performance for Kia

Over the last week there’s been a lot written about the Super Bowl. An average of 111.9 million viewers tuned in to watch the dramatic overtime finish to what was deemed a historic game. This year was the most live-streamed Super Bowl ever, bringing in an average of 1.7 million viewers per minute. That’s a lot of eyeballs.

In the last decade the price of a Super Bowl ad has gone up 76%, according to Kantar Media. This year, companies had to spend a reported $5 million for just 30 seconds of airtime. Most brands seemed to approach their precious seconds in one of two ways – an opportunity to voice their values on a huge stage, or a means of escapism, easing the tension and anxiety of the game, and the real world.

Airbnb, following their public opposition of President Trump’s refugee ban, came out with an ad affirming their belief that we should all be allowed to ‘belong anywhere’. The text read: “We believe no matter who you are, where you’re from, who you love or who you worship, we all belong. The world is more beautiful the more you accept.” Coca-Cola wanted to show they’ve always been a brand that values multiculturalism. Their ad first ran in 2014 and features America the Beautiful being sung in multiple languages. Further embedding the message that the US is a country built by immigrants, Budweiser’s ad told the story of Adolphus Busch, a German immigrant who made the harrowing journey to the United States to eventually co-found the Anheuser-Busch brewing company.

The arduous journey to America was also the story for 84 Lumber’s commercial. The full 90 second spot was rejected for being too political, so a cut-down version was aired with a link to continue the story online. According to AdWeek, the company’s president, Maggie Hardy Magerko, voted for Trump, and the ad’s image of the door in the wall comes directly from Trump himself. She stated to the Wall Street Journal “Even President Trump has said there should be a ‘big beautiful door in the wall so that people can come into this country legally.’ It’s not about the wall. It’s about the door in the wall. If people are willing to work hard and make this country better, that door should be open to them.”

From politics to gender ethics, Audi chose to show their commitment to equal pay for men and women. This follows a trend for the luxury car brand to put human stories at the forefront of their advertising, over the usual product focus we’re used to seeing in this category.

To juxtapose the seriousness of brands reaffirming their values, there was the usual influx of celebrities and comedy to lighten the mood. If you weren’t on the toilet at the time you will have seen Febreze’s Halftime #BathroomBreak ad, encouraging the country to get their bathroom ready for the aftermath of hotdogs and beer. Snickers’ live ad showed what goes wrong when you’re hungry, and Skittles’ simple ‘Romance the Rainbow’ idea really shone out with some great casting.

Celebrities gave some memorable performances too. Christopher Walken recited NSYNC lyrics to Justin Timberlake for antioxidant infusion drink Bai (Bai Bai). Melissa McCarthy fell from a tree, slid off a glacier and was impaled by a rhino for Kia’s Nero; a breath of fresh air in the usually sensible eco car category. And John Malkovich did a wonderful job playing himself in a spot for Squarespace, with references to his famous film Being John Malkovich.

As the year moves forward we expect to see brands continue to choose the paths of purpose and escapism, helping customers to understand the company’s role within, and make light of, a really complicated world.