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Work / Advertising

Super Bowl 51: our round-up of the best adverts this year

Yesterday was Super Bowl 51 where the New England Patriots faced-off against the Atlanta Falcons, and the Patriots triumphed. As one of the most watched programmes in the United States, it’s no surprise prime-time advertising slots have crept up to the flabbergasting $5 million mark.

If you’re not a football fan, fear not because this year’s selection of adverts barely even feature the sport. Instead it’s a plethora of weird stuff, a smattering of celebrity cameos, a few gender stereotypes and the inevitable nods to politics. This is our round-up of just some of the ads that touched down on screen last night, so lean back, grab some nachos and check it out.

BBDO New York: Snickers, A Live Super Bowl Commercial

Snickers made the world’s first live Super Bowl commercial starring Adam Driver, in a Wild West scene where everything (intentionally) goes wrong. The cowboys’ fake gunshots go off too soon causing some badly improvised deaths, the set collapses and Adam, aka Jeremiah, is left standing awkwardly amid the destruction. Well executed and funny, the ad is a great twist on the perils of live broadcasting.

Adam & Eve/DDB: Skittles, Romance

Released two weeks before the big game, this 30-second ad tells the story of young love. Titled Romance, a teenage boy repeatedly throws Skittles into a girl’s window to get her attention. She’s too busy eating the delicious, multi-coloured candy to answer and her family get in on the act too. It’s simple but it certainly makes you want to eat Skittles instantly, despite the very audible saliva slurps.

Venables Bell & Partners: Audi, Daughters

Audi’s 60-second spot addresses gender pay quality through a story about a father and daughter. With an American Dream sheen, the daughter is zipping around in a go-kart as her father’s voiceover poses questions like: “What should I tell my daughter….that she will automatically be valued less than every man she’ll ever meet?”

At the end, Audi pledges its commitment to equal pay for equal work, which can only be a positive thing as America has been cited as one of the worst countries for gender pay gap with women earning just 80% of what men earn in some states.

Brunner: 84 Lumber, The Journey Begins

Building materials company 84 Lumber didn’t shy away from controversy with its ad The Journey Begins, about a Mexican mother and daughter making their way to America and being blocked by the wall. Fox only showed a small portion of the ad, but the company posted the full film on its website, which you can watch above. Brunner’s Rob Shapiro told Washington Post: “If everyone else is trying to avoid controversy, isn’t that the time when brands should take a stand for what they believe in?”

Grey New York: Febreze, Halftime Bathroom Break

Febreze makes its Super Bowl debut this year with its ad Halftime Bathroom Break, which is an ode to those “precious moments” of universal relief. As an odour-killing company, the spot suggests Febreze as a way to get rid of those nasty smells that arise during toilet time. It’s a good idea that’s instantly relatable and doesn’t skirt around the point too much.

GTB: Ford, Go Further

Going big is Ford with its 90-second ad that aired just before kick-off and wasn’t about a new car. Rather it makes a big push for its upcoming personal mobility services instead. Playing on the idea of being “stuck”, we see different scenarios of people getting stuck like a skier on a unmoving chair lift, a cat getting its head stuck in a box and a woman unable to undo a zipper on her dress.

Eventually everyone gets out of their predicaments as Ford simultaneously slips in ways that it’s going to help make our lives better through technologies like self-driving cars, bike sharing, electric bars and ride sharing. Despite the heavy brand placement, its success comes from referencing very human behaviours and cleverly finding the humour in them.

Bullish: GoDaddy, The Internet Wants You

Domain site GoDaddy has gone full-on internet by referencing every gag, meme, YouTube video out there in this 30-second spot. Dutch ad agency Bullish has personified the internet as a happy go lucky guy that walks around telling people “they need to see this”, which leads to them to GoDaddy’s site. For the eagle-eyed viewer there’s lots of semi-hidden easters eggs dotted around the advert, that, although they’ve not tapped into anything groundbreaking, is entertaining to watch.

McCann New York: National Geographic, Genius

A short but sweet ad comes from the National Geographic Channel, promoting an upcoming series Genius, about the life of Albert Einstein. The spot sees actor Geoffrey Rush play the scientist as he plays Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance on violin, who coincidently is headlining the Super Bowl’s halftime show. “We knew Einstein frequently played violin as a brainstorming technique,” says McCann New York. “The timing of our placement immediately after Lady Gaga’s halftime performance felt like serendipity, giving us the perfect platform to bring the adored physicist to life in a memorable way."

Leo Burnett Toronto: Mr. Clean, Cleaner of Your Dreams

An animated Mr Clean is the star in the brand’s ad that looks like it’s trying to make cleaning sexy in this 30-second spot. Created by Leo Burnett, a CG Mr Clean appears and helps a lady wipe the mess on her stove top. Accompanied by some sexy, slow jamz-style music, he smirks, wrings a sponge and gyrates all over the kitchen, much to the pleasure of his captive audience of one. The woman’s daydream is broken and it turns out it was her partner all along. In the heat of the moment she flings herself across the room into his arms where they get amorous on what we can only assume is a clean surface. We imagine this was intended to be a bit of lighthearted fun but ultimately it plays to some major gender stereotypes where having a man that shares a women’s desire to clean is a rare, sexy treat.

Anomaly: Budweiser, Born the Hard Way

For its Super Bowl ad, Budweiser tells the tale of Adolphus Busch, co-founder of brewing company Anheuser-Busch, as he arrives in the USA from Germany to pursue his dreams of beer making. A 19th Century drama unfolds, and touches upon issues of immigration, which pricked ears when it was released days before the big game, amid news of the US immigration controls. While the beer company has tried to distance itself from the political similarities, it’s hard not to draw comparisons, with lines like “You don’t look like you’re from around here” and “You’re not wanted here! Go back home!” being bandied about. Regardless of whether it was intentional, it’s certainly got people talking.

RPA: Honda, Yearbooks

Honda’s ad for its new CR-V vehicle is the most star-studded ad as it features the high school yearbook photos of celebrities coming to life and talking directly to the audience. Appearances include Missy Elliott, Tina Fey, “Magic” Johnson, Robert Redford and Steve Carell, who all reflect on the challenges they’ve had to overcome. The 60-second ad uses layering and visual effects tech to animate the vintage photos and it’s certainly a unique take on using the celebrity cameo to sell a car.

JohnXHannes: Squarespace, Who Is JohnMalkovich.com?

John Malkovich reaches the person who is being John Malkovich in Squarespace’s Super Bowl advert. Here they let the actor go on a rant about another John Malkovich stealing his domain name and the steps he takes to get it back. The monologue is full of swearing, the actor’s dulcet tones and it’s definitely one of our favourites.