5 Touchdown Tactics in Super Bowl LVI Ads

by Taylor McFerran

A peek at our playbook for gameday success.

The Super Bowl happened. Which is basically like advertising’s…well…Super Bowl. In our industry, it’s easy to sit on the sidelines with a handful of pigs in a blanket and criticize all of the ads. But in the words of Brené Brown (who we often look to as a head coach), “A lot of cheap seats in the arena are filled with people who never venture onto the floor.” So this year, we want to honor the brands that stepped into the arena, and analyze a few touchdown tactics we think all brands can learn from.

1. Lean into connection.

Turkish Airlines used their airtime to propose bringing the world together in spirit by bringing us together geographically—and we're just saying, if Morgan Freeman taught us about Pangea in high school, we probably would’ve paid attention more. And Salesforce appeared to have taken a page out of the same book, helping us reconnect with our home—planet Earth—despite the buzziness and growing interest around space travel.

Meta took a different spin on connection, giving us new ideas to reconnect with old friends. No matter the form of connection, sending a message of unification is a popularly used tactic that has historically landed well for brands—connection is emotion-evoking, and that's a quality of a persuasive ad.

2. Leverage legacies.

Another route to a successful spot? Leveraging stories and characters that are pre-established as beloved traditions. Rocket Mortgage brought home the gold in our book by pulling out a partnership with a household name...and we’re not talking about Anna Kendrick. Barbie stole the show in an ad that drew clever parallels between Barbie's iconic Dreamhouse and today’s competitive housing market.

Budweiser also brought back the well-loved Clydesdale—which was once again enough to hush housefuls of viewers. What can we say? Nostalgia never goes out of style.

3. Optimize your ROAS.

The ad space alone puts brands in a pretty big hole in terms of ROI. The lower the production cost, the quicker you’ll start to see a return on your ad spend. Enter: Coinbase and the QR Code meets DVD-bouncing-logo-screen that had people talking. By leaning into the retro design, Coinbase was able to resonate with an audience that recognized it without having to invest heavily in talent and production.

Carvana took a similar, though less drastic, approach to keeping costs down—no big names or crazy special effects showed up in their spot. Just a fun story and a great tagline.

4. Why not get weird?

Well, why not? There were a few ads we felt had to be targeting a stoner persona—but hey, if it works, it works. Doritos, Bud Light (oh hey, Mayor of Flavortown), and Meta Quest, all had us wondering if we were in a fever dream. But at the end of the day, they were memorable and each was on brand.

These ads are a reminder that there's value in oddity in the same way there is in humor. It doesn't always have to make sense to resonate—and sometimes people need a break from heavy content. Keeping the Super Bowl weird has once again proven a solid strategy.

5. Take it non-traditional.

Finally, there's something big to be said for thinking outside the traditional TV spot. The year's ads have been marked by new concept adoption—between the metaverse, electric vehicles, and cryptocurrency, brands are trying to get audience buy-in to non-traditional concepts. So their ads should reflect that innovative feeling.

Coinbase's screensaver-turned-commercial broke the boundary of traditional ads by prompting fans to participate with QR code and opting out of typical storytelling. And Molson Coors opening a bar in the metaverse on game day? Yeah, that's a sentence that wouldn't have made much sense a couple of years ago.

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