Just the second overtime in Super Bowl history produced perhaps the most dramatic ending in the big game. I believe Tom Brady is the best quarterback of all time, but Patrick Mahomes is the new standard for NFL quarterbacks; he has a long way to go to match Brady’s Super Bowl wins, but he’s just 28.
The advertisements, however, didn’t have the same depth or emotional appeal.
Advertisers, perhaps confounded by the challenge of navigating the current political and business environment, again chose to eschew purpose-driven brand building ads at a time when confidence in business and institutions are at a low. This was another year of celebrity-driven, sometimes confusing ads meant to entertain the masses. In my opinion, it was a missed opportunity.
Why It Matters
The Super Bowl is the one time every year that people want to watch the ads, providing advertisers with a prime opportunity to burnish their image.
- This is the night to define, build or reinforce your brand.
- The best brands choose to highlight who they are, what they stand for and celebrate the people who make them possible—their employees and customers.
- Companies should illustrate how they align to a higher purpose of advocating on behalf of their stakeholders—employees and customers—to bring their expertise and assets to bear to add value to society.
- They do this by telling a compelling story to build an emotional connection.
- In 2024, just three advertisers (of 59 in-game ads) advocated for their stakeholders—Kia, Google and Dove.
- Budweiser earns honorable mention honors.
Unlike most Super Bowl ad reviews, this one doesn’t focus on identifying the funniest or most popular ad. My lens for reviewing ads is through APCO Worldwide’s work Five Acts of Corporate Advocacy, which examines how the best companies fulfill their role as a societal shareholder.
- Kia EV 9: Perfect 10: This KIA ad does a nice job resolving the tension of the empty seat at the young skater’s performance. It puts family and the car owner at the center of the spot, showing how the EV9 fits into their life and empowers them (literally) to make a difference for them and loved ones. The subtle shot of the skater’s smile when she realizes where her dad is taking her is priceless. The EV9’s features are shown discreetly until the end when its ability to light up the pond for the skater’s grandfather to see her perform is revealed, which ties in well to one of the theme lines, “Electric like you’ve never seen.” The overall concept of the skater and her routine also ties in well to the ultimate KIA tag line of “Movement that inspires.”
- Google Pixel: Javier in Frame: This ad from Google is reminiscent of previous efforts in the Super Bowl focused on the accessibility and inclusivity of its phone products (see 2022’s Lizzo in Real Tone). The fact it is directed by Adam Morse, who is blind, and voiced by Stevie Wonder further exemplifies Google’s dedication to the ad’s message and phone capabilities. I appreciate the cinematography that shows us what Javier sees and what the phone’s camera captures; it puts the emphasis on the subject and how the phone empowers Javier. The storytelling is rich as the imagery captures his life through several stages, culminating in the birth of a child.
- Dove: Hard Knocks: Dove returns to the big game with an ad that informs us that the real reason that girls quit sports is body image, not the hard knocks they may experience in the course of practice and games. The shift in the ad’s focus once this information is revealed and the introduction of the Body Confident Sport program and Dove Self-esteem Project is more in line with previous Dove efforts focused on the various types of beauty; the confidence the girl displays in joining her teammates in the pool tells the story. It is a perfect example of Advocacy and Authenticity given how well Dove not just says but clearly does. The ad also displays the #KeepHerConfident hashtag that viewers can check out after seeing the ad. Doing all of this in a 30- rather than 60-secoond length is impressive.
- Budweiser: Old School Delivery: Regular readers of these reviews know that I believe Budweiser has historically been one of the best Super Bowl advertisers (though it’s been 10 years since we saw the Clydesdales and a dog). Bud understands this is their time not to push product but to burnish their image through stories about friendship, companionship and meeting the needs of its customers. The return of the Clydesdales and how they are used in this ad point to the ingenuity of its employees and their dedication to their customers in solving a joint problem is admirable. The kinship between a dog and the Clydesdales is a well-trod theme in Bud’s ads and plays well here. The long-used “This Bud’s for you” tagline leaves no doubt who they answer to.
- I appreciate that three of the ads I have highlighted score in the USA Today Ad Meter Top 10: Budweiser comes in at 8, Dove at 6 and Kia at 3. Maybe this will encourage more brands to take this route in future games.
What do you think? Were there ads that struck a chord with you? Any that authentically showed its stakeholders how they care about them and go so far as to advocate for them?