The (Not So) Big Game

The old versus the new was a theme of this year’s Super Bowl. Tom Brady in the twilight of his career versus Jared Goff, a star just reaching full bright. Bill Belichick vying to become the oldest coach to win it all versus Sean McVay trying to become the youngest. And the time honored tradition of irreverently humorous ads versus the trend of brands leaning into the latest social issue in thinly veiled attempts at getting some social street cred.

The last two years saw the rise of social cause ads, comprising 6% of all Super Bowl ads in 2017 and more than 20% of the ads in 2018. But last year’s crop of socially conscious ads seemed to reach a tipping point of inauthenticity. Many brands appeared to have recognized the backlash (thinking of RAM’S SHAMELESS USE OF AN MLK SPEECH) and retreated toward something they could own. Their retreat very often lacked the creative panache of previous years and thus the ads were about as boring as the game this year. It was as if advertisers could foresee the lackluster, low-scoring, long, drawn-out event where our collective expectations came to die.

But there were still a few purpose-driven messages alive and kicking. So let’s play two truths and a lie. Can you spot the poser?Bumble’s ad made a clear connection between social commentary and the company’s EXPRESSED MISSION OF EMPOWERMENT. Anheuser-Busch has made a commitment to get all of its ELECTRICITY FROM RENEWABLE SOURCES by 2025. Toyota, while a RESPONSIBLE CORPORATE CITIZEN themselves, was caught posing this year with their loose connection to Toni. Neither may be a fan of making assumptions, but we’re not a fan of being made to assume that Toyota had anything to do with Toni’s amazing accomplishment.

Audiences crave authenticity and consumers vote with their pocketbooks. A 2018 Edelman Earned Brand Study revealed that 64% of consumers around the world are “belief-driven” buyers – meaning they believe brands should take a stand on important issues. Our prediction, and hope, for the 2020 Super Bowl is that more advertisers will take a cue from Bumble and Budweiser and use next year’s platform to spotlight their brand’s inner goodness – not just borrow from others’ greatness.