The Changing Face of Super Bowl ads

February 13, 2019

The Changing Face of Super Bowl ads

Super Bowl LIII, it’s kind of a big deal. And no, I’m not just saying that because my favourite team won, but rather for its undeniable ability to stop the country, draw in over 100 million viewers and cause a spending of US$14.8 Billion. 

Whether you like American football or not, it’s an opportunity to party and be entertained by commercials fit for a country who call themselves ‘World Champions’ in a game only they play. Paying millions of dollars for a 45 second spot, advertisers have traditionally used this opportunity to push the envelope and reflect the cultural landscape of the time in a daring way. In the past we’ve seen roller-skating babies, lizards doing ballet and acne made of skittles, but this year had a very different tone: nostalgia.

It takes one glance at the news to see the political, economic and social turmoil plaguing America, so it’s not hard to see why in tough times we crave familiarity, not risk. And familiarity we got. Tastefully intertwining a yearning for the past with a smattering of 2019 pop culture, the commercials featured poignant celebrities and characters such as Betty White, The Backstreet Boys, Michelle Geller and Stevie Wonder. Despite such a resonant assortment, the two ads that particularly stuck with me were Stellar Artois and Budweiser.

Using the tag line ‘Change up the usual’ Stellar Artois featured Sex & the City’s Carrie Bradshaw, opting for a beer rather than her iconic Cosmopolitan, and an appearance from The Big Lebowski’s ‘The Dude’, shying away from his usual White Russian. Donning their famous tag-lines from seasons gone, this advertisement reminds us of the good old days, but uses shock value slapstick comedy to make us woefully aware that times have changed. The commercial finishes with both stars raising a glass and saying “changing can do a little good”, reassuring viewers that deviation from the what we know is not always a bad thing.

Backed by Bob Dylan’s ‘Blowin’ In the Wind’, Budweiser’s advert evokes emotion through nods to their previous advertisements and an overall yearning for America’s golden (grain) age. Featuring a dog riding the wind atop a Clydesdale-drawn carriage, the traditionalism of old farming techniques is juxtaposed against the backdrop of a modern wind farm. Nodding to the company’s investment in wind energy to fuel brewing, Budweiser communicates to viewers that there’s a way to enjoy the luxuries of past, whilst incorporating the innovations of present.  

Whether drawing on personal, lived experience or glamorisations of past generations, this year’s Super Bowl ads did a great job of igniting emotion, making us feel special if we ‘get’ the reference, and most importantly, giving us hope in these tumultuous times.

Front image source: USA Today