Maybe the real Super Bowl was the friends we made along the way
American football, that is.
The kind where you can’t bounce the ball off your head, if you will.
It’s not my thing. I don’t get how fifteen minutes can take an hour, and I really don’t understand the little towels that they wear, bizarrely like waiters running up and down the field. Or is it a pitch? I don’t know.
I used to watch a lot of football during a brief period in a former life where I was an exchange student at the University of Southern California, but I can’t say it was the game that kept me going down to the stadium, nor was it the marching band’s flawless covers of Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk. The best part of an SC game is that every time the team gets a touchdown (for those who follow real sports, that’s basically a try), a white horse named Traveler gallops around the field. Or is it a pitch? Anyway, bringing a real horse to a football game is essentially the only way you can get me interested.
But, I decided to give the Super Bowl a shot. It must be a pretty good bowl, I said to myself, if it’s super.
I spent half term in Colorado with my parents (very exciting for this generally orphaned Kiwi in London) and with the assistance of two genuine Americans, three Kiwis, three Aussies, and one Brit managed to pull off a Super Bowl party. We even had queso.
And you know what? I ignored pretty much all of the football but I did really enjoy my first experience watching all the Super Bowl ads.
So, some observations.
First of all, the Super Bowl seems like it encourages ads of a completely different breed – and I don’t just mean the random Jesus ads (always a fixture, I’m told). No, I think a lot of brands see the Super Bowl as a challenge and come up with a classic ‘big, scary idea’, sometimes at the expense of their own tone of voice. We spent a lot of time guessing what the ad would be about as it started playing – and rarely got the answer right.
Americans love some celebrity personalities, it seems. Especially, for some reason, Bradley Cooper. Almost every big ad included a celebrity, and often little else – take the M&Ms Maya Rudoph attempt, for example. Or Adam Driver multiplying for SquareSpace. Both really bad, by the way. No constructive feedback to offer here. Workday’s Rockstar was also pretty wild, mainly because did anyone else clock that rock stars are basically an obsolete, old-fashioned construct now?
Others recognised an interest in nostalgia, like Pepsi’s Ben Stiller and Steve Martin ads, which I think were either a result of getting who was available, or were a clever target of a younger and an older market. They took a minute to get into, but I ultimately thought they were pretty good. I also noted Rakuten’s Clueless ad, and Pop Corners’ Breaking Bad one. Can’t comment on previous years’ ads, but getting a really convincing feeling that Americans want something familiar or nostalgic after the last few years, which feels like a valid insight to me #strategy
So okay, what did I like? Honourable mention goes to Doritos for their endline ‘try another angle’ and because I have always believed in the musical power of the humble triangle. One time at school, I had the honour of playing the triangle part during our House Hymn (Cwm Rhondda, for those that care, which is all of you). Granted, they had to adapt it for me because I can’t count to four, but still a very big moment in my musical career.
I also really loved the hold music one for Budweiser.
But, the real winner on the day for me is always going to be dancing animals. Hats off to Jeep.