The five best Super Bowl ads use CGI, celebrities and catchy tunes to bolster great ideas

With ads costing around $5.5 million for 30 seconds of air time, the pressure is on agencies to use that time wisely. Here’s who we think won the other big game yesterday.

Date
8 February 2021
Reading Time
3 minute read

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The Super Bowl is an epic event in so many ways. 100 million viewers; a mega-star halftime performance (this year delivered by The Weeknd); countless millions spent in advertising and product placement; oh, and the actual NFL championship match at the epicentre of it all. As the biggest event in the US adland calendar, brands not only have to decide whether to fork out the $5.5 million for 30 seconds of air time, but then how to make those seconds count. This often entails plenty more cash spent on celebrity stars and big budget productions – but when seemingly every advert ticks those boxes, how does one stand out?

The answer (of course) is great creativity; the best ads this year used CGI and animation to subtle comedic effect, clever writing and directing, astute casting, and a strangely catchy tune to catch viewers’ attention.

Woven Collaborative: Tide, The Jason Alexander Hoodie

The ad starts with a familiar setup: a mom asking her son to clean his clothes, specifically his favourite hoodie emblazoned with a giant portrait of Seinfeld star Jason Alexander, because “it’s dirtier than it looks”. Then a montage shows us just how it got dirty, and the ad’s twist reveals itself, as Alexander’s face reacts to being drooled, spilled and stamped on – showing a broad range of disgust, shock and appall in the actor’s expressive repertoire.

Goodby, Silverstein & Partners: Doritos, #FlatMatthew

This ad is a simple idea done really well. Matthew McConaughey is a slightly creepy 2D version of himself going about day-to-day activities – brushing his teeth, getting a coffee, playing catch, taking the dog for a walk – narrating his single-plane struggles in his recognisable drawl. It’s a bit of an obvious punchline (that eating 3D Doritos restores him to his fuller self) but the animation is worth a chuckle on its own.

Oatly, Wow, No Cow

Probably one of the lowest budget ads in Super Bowl history, the Oatly offering stars CEO Toni Petersson performing a catchy number, Wow, No Cow, which he also wrote himself. Fun fact: the ad originally aired in Sweden in 2014 but was soon sued by the Swedish dairy lobby and banned (maybe it’s the line “it’s like milk, but made for humans”) but that added controversy only serves to make the ad more interesting.

McCann, General Motors, No Way Norway

Savvy casting elevates this funny ad, which might not be quite as funny without the brilliant Will Ferrell, Kenan Thompson and Awkwafina. Ferrell’s character reveals an incredible fact, that Norway sells “way more” electric cars per capita than the US, and reacts in a way that pokes fun at stereotypically competitive and patriotic American traits by deciding to punch a globe, and ensuing on a mission to “crush those losers”. The protagonists then end their missions in Finland, and “adorable” Sweden, not Norway, a last sly jab at the ill-informed traditionalists.

The Special Group: Uber Eats, Eat Local

Reviving beloved franchises is an advertising go-to (see also Leo Burnett’s ad for Cadillac starring Timothée Chalamet as Edgar Scissorhands, Edward’s son, and Winona Ryder his mother) and the impact of the ad really depends on your own personal nostalgia. In the case of Uber Eats’ revival of Wayne’s World, the technique delivers (sorry) because of its own self-referential comedy, Wayne and Garth promising not to manipulate audiences with advertising tropes but then doing it anyway: cue the shameless celebrity cameo in Cardi B, holding up cute babies and tapping into a TikTok trend. It’s smile-worthy, and promotes eating local, part of the brand’s $20 million initiative to support independent restaurants.

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Woven Collaborative: Tide, The Jason Alexander Hoodie

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About the Author

Jenny Brewer

Jenny joined the editorial team as It’s Nice That’s first news editor in April 2016. Having studied 3D Design, she has spent over a decade working in design journalism. Contact her with news stories relating to the creative industries on jb@itsnicethat.com.

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