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Laughing and Crying over Super Bowl Ads

It’s safe to say that Super Bowl LIV did not disappoint. The Kansas City Chiefs defeated the San Francisco 49ers in a riveting last-minute play, and AdAge wasn’t alone in declaring that ads performed better than last year with an iconic blend of humor, dancing and heartfelt poignancy. The game drew a total of 102 million multi-platform viewers, according to Nielsen. At Extreme Reach, we’re hardcore fans of the Super Bowl – a day when loving advertising (our passion) is actually cool. And we’re proud to deliver a majority of the Big Game spots, in addition to managing much of the Talent & Rights. Watercooler talk will probably continue well into the week as we rehash the brands that made us laugh out loud, sing along or even reach for a tissue — that’s the power of advertising. In celebration of the industry performing at its finest, here’s a recap of the ads we’ll remember. And in case you missed them (or just want to review your favorites), check out Source’s complete Super Bowl ad showcase.

Funny for the Win
Marketers proved once again that aiming for the funny bone can make it easier to score. Renowned slouch Jimmy Fallon pushed himself to work out with pro wrestler John Cena, embracing the “lighter side” of physical discomfort in celebration of Michelob Ultra. Beer brands generally delivered. Anheuser-Busch called on Post Malone to debut its Bud Light Seltzer via a clever look inside the musician’s head, as he argues with himself about which Bud Light product to purchase (spoiler alert: no choice needed—opt for both instead). And Hyundai’s “smaht pahk” spot, an early fan favorite, finished as a top contender. Celebrities Rachel Dratch, John Krasinski and Chris Evans, all of whom have Boston roots, promoted the vehicle’s Remote Smart Parking Assist—a brand-proclaimed “mouthful” to say—by hyping it in overblown Boston accents.

Funny proved especially effective when combined with nostalgia, as evidenced by Amazon and Jeep, which offered two of Game Day’s most memorable ad moments. Amazon’s spot starred Ellen DeGeneres and wife Portia di Rossi in a 90-second history montage imagining a darker world before Alexa. Jeep’s Groundhog Day tribute trended number one among several ad critics, beloved for its last-minute yet extremely timely delivery. Shot just eight days before the game, the spot took advantage of Super Bowl LIV falling on Groundhog Day—only the second time that’s happened in 54 years.

Singalongs and Dance-offs
While superstars Jennifer Lopez and Shakira stole the halftime show with their hip-shaking, stadium-rocking vocals and performances, some brands followed suit. Rapper Lil Nas X (originally of TikTok fame) challenged actor Sam Elliott to a visually arresting, cowboy-style dance-off duel, in promotion of Doritos’ updated Cool Ranch flavor. Maisie Williams belted out “Let It Go” after finally breaking free from a traffic jam in the new electric Audi, inspiring many to channel their best Elsa while celebrating environmentalism.

Heartstring Tugs
After the laughter, some tears followed. Ads showed us that good storytelling always resonates, and the power to evoke emotion should never be taken for granted. Microsoft told the story of Katie Sowers, the coach for the San Francisco 49ers who’s the first woman to lead an NFL team. Though the night didn’t end as she’d hoped, Sowers and her touching tale about a lifelong love of football emerged victorious. Budweiser’s tear-jerker (directed by another woman powerhouse, Oscar-winner Katherine Bigelow) turned the “typical American” trope on its head by showing ordinary people engaged in extraordinary acts of bravery and kindness. And Google reaffirmed its might with “Loretta,” a spot sharing the true story of an elderly widower searching for ways to remember his late wife, and finding help from Google Assistant. Top-notch creativity gave us much to talk about this year.