Super Bowl 51: Ad-vice for a Touchdown-Worthy Commercial

Super Bowl (event): Once-a-year occurrence when audiences watch TV for the sake of advertisements.

Companies spend millions on 30-second Super Bowl ads with hopes of increasing brand recognition and awareness, but they often leave their audiences only with a good laugh or a compelling, sometimes misguided, thought. Commonly, Super Bowl ads go against the norm and feature entertainment-rooted commercials rather than promotion-focused. With the increasing amount of hype around these ads, I began to wonder if there is a particular formula that creates a successful Super Bowl advertisement.

“Viewers want to see new and different commercials on Super Bowl Sunday, so companies have to balance that demand with the necessity to stay on target and on brand,” the American Marketing Association explains.

Working off the AMA’s idea, I started to understand that captivating entertainment isn’t necessarily grounds for a rewarding commercial. Entertainment lies in the eyes of the subjective viewer. Instead of appealing to the masses, advertisers should home in on basic advertising principles, beginning with defining a target audience.

Creativity should drive Super Bowl advertisements through means of connecting emotion with a target audience. The goal of an advertisement, Super Bowl or not, should be to move the target audience from inactive to active. This ensures the target audience will make a purchase, support your cause, switch their service provider or so forth.

I’ve outlined my idea of a winning Super Bowl advertising strategy below:

Target Audience + Emotion + Creativity + Brand Recognition = Successful Super Bowl Ad

As I mentioned previously, though, advertisements are subjective on behalf of the viewer. Gender, age, income and other demographic factors come into play when audiences watch an advertisement with their own biases, or pre-derived mindsets, at hand. Honing this idea, I asked members of Bravo Group’s Campaign Creation Group to distinguish good and bad qualities of a 30-second television ad.


“Commercials that push the boundaries, like Apple’s ‘1984,’ Dove’s Real Beauty campaign or General Mills’ controversial commercial featuring a mixed-race family. If you’re going to spend millions on the biggest commercial day of the year, you might as well make a statement! Oh, and dogs. Dogs are always in the best commercials.” — Drew Lawrence, advertising copywriter

“The best ads are the ones that can tell a compelling story and capture attention without feeling manipulative or promotional. In other words, the best ads are the ones that don’t feel like an ad.” — Rose Talbot, writer

“If I have a clear idea of what product or service the company is trying to sell me at the end of the ad, then it’s a good ad.” — Alizah Thornton, writer


“Celebrities for the sake of having a celebrity in your commercial. Changing words to a pop song and typically singing in general, unless there’s a strong message to it. Also, anything that doesn’t have a dog in it is really missing the mark.” — Drew Lawrence, advertising copywriter

“Anything that feels forced, overdone or disconnected.” — Rose Talbot, writer

“When a company tries to use humor to promote its product but also touches on a serious subject that’s not humorous, such as GM’s ‘suicidal robot’ commercial.” — Alizah Thornton, writer

Here are some of my favorite ads from Super Bowl 51:

Audi’s #DriveProgress Commercial
It is a reminder that progress doesn’t belong to any one group. Progress is for everyone.” — Audi USA

Skittles’ “Romance” Commercial
Who says romance is for the birds?” — Skittles USA

Airbnb’s We Accept Commercial
“Acceptance starts with all of us.” — Airbnb

Bree Whitelock | Harrisburg Writing Intern

Image: Shutterstock
Source: American Marketing Association


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