Episode #75: Super Bowl Ads Part 3, the Best and the Brightest

Another batch of Super Bowl ads, this time focusing on some that really delivered the goods, including Frito-Lay, Chipotle, M&M’s, and WeatherTech. Plus, a quick look at the rather surprising lack of second-screen, online engagement, and what brands could have done to be more conversational.

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Okay, I’m calling heads to receive. And today we are continuing our super fun, Super Bowl commercial rundown. This is the CXM Experience. I’m Grad Conn, CXO at Sprinklr. And we’re talking Super Bowl ads.

You know, one thing I’ll extemporize on for a moment here, is it is a little bit disappointing/surprising to me at how little online engagement was overtly driven by the ads. Did you notice that? At one time, you could Shazam the ad, that’s kind of gone now. But that was like a thing for a while. Or they used… they got URLs in there, I guess. But that seems really super old fashioned, like super 90s. When they started having URLs in the 90s. That was really interesting, and there was a tie in. But most of these commercials were standalone, and they rely on the earned media around the commercial moment itself and didn’t really create a coincident online experience.

There have been examples in the past, where your second screen, that you typically have in front of you while you’re watching TV, is participating in the ad while you’re watching the first screen, which is a TV. Or, depending on your perspective, potentially your first screen is your laptop, or your iPad, and the second screen is a TV. But nonetheless, there was a two-screen experience. I didn’t see a lot of two screen experiences. I saw a lot of very broadcast-oriented, non-conversational advertising in the Super Bowl ads, which I thought was interesting and a little surprising. But still some very enjoyable stuff.

So, let’s talk about some stuff I liked today because I was trashing, mostly, the ads yesterday. I want to go to one that, I don’t know why, I just loved it. And it is a strong possibility, just to be clear, and this is full transparency here. I lived in Seattle for a dozen years. I’m obviously, maybe not obviously, but I am a dyed in the wool, lifelong Miami Dolphins fan. And now that I finally live in Florida, like, oh my gosh, I can finally sort of root for the home team. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, I know, are actually probably closer. Hmm, I don’t know. I’m probably equidistant from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Miami Dolphins, which is actually very convenient. I can decide to support whoever I want. But it’s pretty nice to be in the place where the team you actually like is playing.

I became a Miami Dolphins fan because I learned about football at a very young age at my dad’s feet, watching the Miami Dolphins, Larry Csonka et al., putting in the perfect season. And I thought wow, that’s an amazing team. They never lose a game. I’m going to be a Miami Dolphins fan. And what has followed has been decades of absolute heartbreak. It’s a terrible lonely task being a Miami Dolphins fan.

Nonetheless, I did spend a dozen years in Seattle, and I was able to suppress my Miami Dolphin fandom, I just kept it below, and pretended to be a Seattle Seahawks fan. Because, you know, you’re surrounded by. Every Friday before a game is Seahawks day. And everyone’s wearing number 12 because of the 12th player, and everyone’s wearing all their Seahawks gear. We have our staff meetings typically on Fridays, and everybody was wearing Seahawks colors except for me, I’d be usually all in black. But it was pretty fun. And I did get some fondness for some of the players, particularly Marshawn Lynch. Marshawn Lynch had an amazing rebel attitude. I just loved it. He would go to a press conference, sit in front of a microphone, have the cameras trained on him, and get asked questions. And he would not respond to any of them. He was just so badass. And I knew what he was doing which is creating a persona for himself. And I thought it was brilliant. I thought he did a wonderful job of marketing himself and creating a really interesting persona and really standing out. And of course, his performance on the field supported that.

Anyway, Marshawn Lynch is back, and he did an ad for Frito-Lay called ‘Twas the Night Before Super Bowl. This is an all-star NFL cast, narrated by Marshawn, and it tells the story, the night before Super Bowl. It’s got a recreation of the immaculate reception with Terry Bradshaw. The Manning brothers, who have matching sleepwear. Eli told People magazine that they didn’t even need a wardrobe, they just brought their own pajamas. And he said it was kind of embarrassing that Peyton I had matching pajamas coincidentally.

It was just a really charming, really football-oriented ad. People are playing with Doritos and shooting them through goalposts. You have all these different NFL greats. There’s a nice engagement because they don’t have supers for their names. So, you’re like, who is that? Oh, yeah. Right, and you’re remembering who they are. The ads got a very stimulus response kind of quality to it. And obviously very related to the game as well. So very engaging, very interesting. Probably could have done so much more with the second screen. Could have so much more fun with it. But did a great job. And it was nice to hear Marshawn actually talk. He did a nice job.

Another ad I thought was very different. Similar category, we’re going to stay in the Mexican food category for a second. But another ad that did a really nice job, and I thought was quite compelling… it was also very much on strategy with where they’ve been for a few years, was the Chipotle ad for “Can a Burrito Change the World?” And so, in this ad, Chipotle goes for messaging, there’s no celebrity in it. And it’s got all sorts of shots of cows and farmers and seeds and sustainability. And it did a nice job, I thought, of saying, Hey, you know, when you go to Chipotle you’re actually not harming the planet. And we take sustainability very seriously. They’ve been running this theme for many, many years. This is not the first time they’ve talked about it. But I think they did a nice job of doing it in the Super Bowl. Timing felt right, felt very appropriate. And at the moment that they played that ad and the moment that I was in when the ad came on, it just landed perfectly, and I loved it.

A third one that I’ll hold out is… I don’t know, I’ve actually seen it a few times now online, because I loved it so much. There’s a great M&M’s commercial. And it features Dan Levy, who’s Eugene Levy’s son, and sort of famous Shitt’s Creek star now. And it’s a whole story about people saying “sorry” to each other and offering M&M’S. So, it begins with someone somewhat deliberately smashing the back of someone’s seat on an airplane. And he says, sorry I deliberately smashed your seat. And gives them an M&M’s to say, sorry. There’s a number of scenarios. My two favorite ones: someone gets up from the confessional, and then hands the priest a package of M&M’s and says, sorry you had to hear that. I don’t want to know. And then there’s one with a Karen, where she says, sorry they called you Karen. And then the character says, Well, my name is Karen. And then she hands her another bag and says, sorry, your name is Karen. That was very woke and very of the moment. But what’s neat about the ad is it’s non-celebrity in the beginning of it. And then Dan Levy comes on and he’s actually talking to two M&M’s. And he says, sorry I’ve been eating, you know, you’re kind. And I won’t do it anymore. And then you see a captured M&M in his car, screaming and pounding on the windows trying to get out. And Dan’s like, well, maybe just one more. So, I love the darkness of that. It’s quite funny. And the ad is very charming. And M&M’s always does a nice job of bringing something that’s amusing that you want to watch again and again.

So, those were three that I would highlight as being great ads. In all three, I really feel like they could have done more. Done more to get me engaged, done more to maybe not just watch it, done more to pull the audience in, done more to have more fun with it. And certainly done more online.

One last thing I’ll mention before I come back on this tomorrow. And I do want to talk about the Disney+ and Paramount+ campaigns, which are both great. But I want to touch on WeatherTech for a second. They did a couple of ads during the big game. And they’re basically pro-America commercials. WeatherTech, of course, being the company that makes the mats that go in your car. And they’re specially measured to fit in all the different car types that are out there. They’ve got an amazing selection. And they’re all laser cut to be superduper accurate. And the message was quite simple. It was surprising in a way because… I’ll be curious to see how this sells. But instead of selling the product… and the product benefits of WeatherTech are actually pretty demonstrable, and pretty interesting. And pretty well understood. What they did is they just said, “made in America, always made in America.” We don’t have to bring jobs back. We’ve always been here. And so, there’s a very strong pro-America stance without becoming jingoistic. And without becoming politically fractured. I thought it was very interesting. So good on you, WeatherTech. Nice job, and enjoyed the ads. And it was nice to see the Americana during the most American of all festivities, which is the Super Bowl.

So that is it for today. We’ll come back with a few more tomorrow. I particularly want to touch on the multipart Paramount+ campaign, which I loved. But I’ll talk about what they did there. That was pretty interesting. And then we will spend a bit of time talking about halftime shows. And for today, that is it for the CXM Experience. I’m Grad Conn, and I’ll see you next time.