Posted on Feb 10, 2016

5 Super Bowl Ads You Must Re-Watch If You Own a Business

The matchup last weekend between the Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers was definitely one for the books. But truth be told, we almost didn’t notice because we were too busy watching the similarly epic commercials in between each riveting possession.

As marketers, it’s our job to be paying attention to what topics are trending, what the current advertising strategies are, and most of all, what sells. Studying and understanding those things is one of the best ways to optimize our own marketing efforts.

Now, many of you reading this might be raising your hands and saying, “Yeah, but how could a Super Bowl commercial help someone like me shape my marketing ads? I am a small business owner just getting off the ground. So I do not have an extra $5 million to spend on television time, nor do I have the additional $5 million it typically requires to create an ad worthy of one of those precious, primetime spots.” We get it.

But before you decide to ignore the relevance of these commercials and simply opt to watch them mindlessly in your sweats while devouring game-day nachos, we challenge you to take another look. Because as it turns out, a bunch of the ads played yesterday contain key strategies that can be actually be game-changers for business owners who choose to integrate them into their marketing plan. And while we might still support cozy sweats and comfort food for the review of these commercials, we encourage you to engage your marketing mind as well — because you just might walk away with some championship-worthy ideas for your next promotion.

With that, here are our top 5 favorite Super Bowl Ads plus what makes them so great – especially if you’re a small business owner:

1. Jeep’s “Portraits”

This year’s Jeep commercial made our favorite list for a few reasons. To summarize, it demonstrated the ability to make a moving and memorable statement – all at a very affordable cost, which we know is a top priority when considering things from a small business perspective. And while a boundless budget would be nice, the reality is that cost is a leading factor for most businesses when evaluating what is realistically possible in terms of marketing and advertising efforts.

So! How did Jeep pull off such a powerful ad placement? Through a reel of simple black and white photographs, ranging from historical faces to legendary shots of the classically-known 4×4, the visuals alone were enough to evoke emotion. But to also add a voice that eloquently delivered a story about an incredible journey – one of challenge and heartache, adventure and fortitude, love and loss…well, it became the total package. It became a first-person narrative about a story, a brand, a journey…a Jeep. And what more can you ask for? Oh, and did we mention it was one of the most affordable Super Bowl commercials of the year? Score!

So when it comes to your next campaign, don’t underestimate the power of a moving script and simple images. And remember, you don’t need flash to make a strong statement.

2. T-Mobile’s “Drop the Balls”

We loved this year’s T-Mobile commercial for a few reasons. And believe it or not, those reasons do not include the presence of celebrity, Steve Harvey, as the spokesperson for the ad (so don’t start thinking you need an A-Lister to make an award-winning commercial). Instead, and more importantly, it was T-Mobile’s ability to creatively respond to their biggest competitor’s ad (which launched earlier this year) by adequately challenging it with an appropriate and compelling level of humor and intrigue. While the competitor focused on alleged statistics and used a ramp of swirling balls in an attempt to convey the numbers, some reviewers claimed that the result was simply confusing and somewhat boring.

So for T-Mobile to fire back within the same visual context – a ramp of swirling balls, but with a humorously exaggerated stance on the issue, they succeeded in painting a contradicting message in an even a more convincing way … without even needing to lean on facts. Not only did this make for a memorable commercial, but it served to discredit the competitor’s ad and, in a way, double the advantage for T-Mobile.

So what should small business owners take away from this cellular rivalry ad campaign? Regardless of your budget or industry, humor and exaggeration can be used in marketing to not only familiarize the audience with your brand, but to be used as a winning response should a competing brand ever choose to call you out.

3. Avocados from Mexico’s “AVOS in Space”

This commercial landed the third spot in our lineup because it was by far one of the most entertaining and memorable of the evening, without even featuring a well-known brand. In fact, for most viewers (including us!), it actually felt like a rather random product promotion. That being said, the randomness of it all didn’t keep the commercial from stealing the show. How? The “Avocados from Mexico” brand put a colorful and futuristically funny spin on a few of the world’s hottest topics and trends – such as the shared misery of flying coach, text emojis, the infamous “white and gold” dress debacle (or was it black and blue?) and even the legendary Rubik’s Cube.

Whether it was the trendy name-dropping or the exaggerated hilarity of aliens in a historical museum, the commercial immediately commanded the viewers’ attention (even if partially confusing them at first). This intentional marketing move was a wise one on the avocado aficionados’ part because with an item that doesn’t necessarily fit into any popular industry or category, it can be difficult to come up with a storyboard and ad campaign that will stick. So rather than worrying about how to specifically engage and excite each of the 112 million viewers over a green vegetable (or is it a fruit?), they got creative and invented a story surrounding the things that do engage the masses – like trending topics and current events.

So if you’re a small business owner, we’re not necessarily saying that futuristic alien museums should be the foundation of your next marketing campaign (although, if that’s what floats your boat…) But if you’re struggling to connect your product or business with an audience, and you’re not sure how to make it sell, give the “Avocados from Mexico” strategy a try as it clearly seems to work!

4. Advil’s “What Pain?”

You probably won’t see this commercial on other favorite lists this year because it’s one of the few ads that opted against glitz, glam and celebrity cameos. But from a small business perspective, it might just take the cake on our list. Why? Instead of spending millions on videography and high-paying actors, the household brand used a slew of preexisting video clips – all featuring someone engaging in activity that typically causes pain…like the break dancer busting moves on his wrists, the bride being hoisted in her chair, and the elderly gal lifting weights and doing yoga.

The genius behind this diverse compilation is that the resulting target audience becomes broad – broader than broad. Rather than focusing in on one age group or one demographic (such as the gym rats, the hikers, or the mommies of the world who likely use ibuprofen) Advil made their product accessible to everyone and anyone. And then, with a simple tag line – “What pain?” – Advil quickly and directly conveyed their message. And they did it all in a relatable, affordable, and memorable way.

What could be more encouraging to a small business owner? Knowing that not only is this type of campaign achievable on even the smallest budget, but that one of the biggest brands in the world chose it as the key strategy for their most visible and important ad of the year.

5. Subaru’s “Dogs”

Don’t worry, the reasons for choosing this Subaru ad as our final pick of the favorite list do go beyond the obvious (and adorable) appeal of puppies and golden retrievers driving cars. However, if we’re being totally honest – adding a stereotypically, universally-loved element to your promotional campaigns rarely hurts results – as long as it’s thoughtfully and tactfully executed.

But like we said, there is a winning strategy behind this commercial that actually speaks louder than the puppy’s bark. What we loved about it was that unlike the majority of its four-wheeled foes, Subaru didn’t use its 30 seconds in the spotlight to ramble off a list of engine features, technology capabilities, horsepower speeds, interior bells and whistles … etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. Instead, they chose to tell a simple and unassuming story about a mother and her child – a story that’s so relatable that it instantly gave viewers ‘all the feels.’

In an intentionally sentimental move, Subaru decided to leave the ‘hard sell’ at the door and, instead, demonstrate who they are as a brand – by connecting with families across the globe who have lived the very story they so simply and sweetly told. As a small business owner, sometimes that’s the best thing you can do for your company. Sometimes, an authentic message that shows who you are and what you value – not just what you sell – is the best way to capture an audience and develop brand loyalty. When done right, an honest and sentimental campaign can lead to customers to buy your product, simply because they feel connected to your brand and proud to be a part of what you do. So don’t be afraid to leave the ‘hard sell’ at the door every so often…and feel free to throw a puppy into the mix, too. You can trust we’ll be watching!

So there you have it … Super Bowl commercials aren’t just entertainment for football fanatics and they aren’t only achievable by the world’s biggest brands. The marketing strategies behind the best ones are just as important for small businesses. So remember, don’t let the flash, glamor and celebrity chaos fool you into thinking that those things are what the best ads are made of. You and your brand are capable of greatness, regardless of your budget, your product industry or even your connections with A-Listers.

So here’s to the 51st Super Bowl and all the success your business will achieve between now and then!

Happy Marketing!