Above: Jason Momoa gets comfy with Rocket Mortgage. See the whole ad here
Another Super Bowl has come and gone, and as always, the triumphs and trip-ups on the field were echoed during the commercial breaks as the year’s most talked-about ad showdown played out. This year’s spread was generally more light-hearted in tone than some recent years, steering away from more divisive messaging to focus on lots of attempts at humor, lots of A-list celebrity cameos and a measured touch of emotional appeal. In the 2020 Super Bowl ads mix, there were a few that stood out for us.
Back in the Day
Groundhog Day that is. Nostalgia was a big theme for the night with a number of brands leaning on some good old-fashioned ‘80s and ‘90s throwbacks. None were more effective for us than Jeep who reunited Bill Murray and cast members from the well-loved 1993 movie “Groundhog Day”. This time however, the featured vehicle was on hand to save Bill from the endless cycle of dull with its apropos tag “no day is the same”. It was a skillful marriage of memory, message and timing (it was Groundhog Day, by the way) that hit all the right notes – assuming of course that Jeep’s target audience is old enough to remember a 27-year old movie. Then again, Bill Murray has become something of a Betty White-esque icon that transcends generations. So yeah, we’re all in.
Other brands played the nostalgia card as well with varying effectiveness. Mountain Dew Zero took a fairly successful swipe at reliving the classic horror flick “The Shining” to deliver its “as good as the original” message and recently resurgent Gen X star Winona Ryder took in the snowy landscapes of Winona, Minn. in a cute if unremarkable turn for Squarespace. MC Hammer (and his pants) were on hand with his signature hit “U Can’t Touch This” to celebrate the fortuitous inability to do a variety of mundane tasks like filing or moving furniture thanks to a thick coating of Cheetos dust on your hands, leaving many wondering why the brand would choose to pay top dollar to highlight one of its more annoying qualities. And ‘80s sweetheart Molly Ringwald was seen hawking avocados in a spot that just raised more questions than anything else.
This year’s ads unabashedly went after the laughs and one that definitely landed for us was Rocket Mortgage’s memorable Jason Momoa showcase. The spot features the notoriously chiseled superhero as he gets comfortable at home and reveals a different side of himself, shedding everything from the bulging biceps and washboard abs to his flowing locks. Does it scream get a mortgage? Maybe not. Do we care? Definitely not.
Another humor stand-out was Hyundai’s “Smaht Pahk” ad which made great use of its featured celebrity faces putting on their best Boston accents by keeping the set-up and premise simple, memorable and, unlike a lot of others, directly tied to the specific feature they were trying to promote. Wicked smaht.
More polarizing was the Snickers swipe at fixing the world which required the viewer to really focus on staying in a lighthearted frame of mind lest it stray too far towards cynicism. An (intentionally) goofy set-up of swaying, hand-holding singers gently poked fun and paid homage to Coca-Cola’s iconic 1971 “Hilltop”, then revealed its tongue-in-cheek solution to an out-of-kilter world. By that we mean, digging a huge hole and dropping in a giant Snickers because “maybe the world just needs a Snickers”. Maybe? This one really hit the funny bone for some, but even for others, it was mildly entertaining at worst. And the final moment payoff, in which the hole helpfully swallowed up two preening selfie-takers posing on the rim, scored pretty universal chuckles.
I’m Not Crying, You’re Crying
Oh, Loretta. Google certainly remembered how to tug at the heartstrings with this emotional spot that left social media flooded in crying emojis and featured a man keeping his touching memories of his wife alive, with a little help from Google of course. Definitely the biggest tearjerker of the night, it was a potent, emotional and personal story – a powerful use of creative storytelling to humanize and lend a soft touch to technology that was notably more often painted as a digital spy throughout the evening’s other spots.
It must be mentioned. In the days leading up to the Big Game, the Twitter-sphere mourned the death of the world’s favorite monocle-wearing peanut. After revealing the demise of its iconic Mr. Peanut in a teaser commercial, Planters followed up with a gametime spot that featured a character-filled funeral for the beloved mascot and ended in his re-emergence as, you guessed it, Baby Nut. Perhaps in the age of Baby Groot and Baby Yoda it was inevitable. But as it turns out, followers did not seem to take kindly to being taken on this particular ride. The stunt was further complicated by the tragic death of NBA icon Kobe Bryant which led the company to suspend its pre-game campaign. Whether it was all smart strategy or shameless ploy only time will tell, but it certainly got people talking.
There was plenty of other action on and off the field from a series of Tide spots featuring Charlie Day frenetically obsessing about doing his laundry and a time-hopping reverie on what the world did before Alexa to a well-placed and well-received feature from Microsoft highlighting the 49ers’ Katie Sowers as the first female coach in the Super Bowl.