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What We Are Hoping to See from the Commercials of Super Bowl 51

Trends and Insight 160 Add to collection

FCB West's Karin Onsager-Birch and Sara Mason on their expectations for 'America's Festival'

What We Are Hoping to See from the Commercials of Super Bowl 51

The Super Bowl is “America’s festival” of sorts, mirroring the temperature of our zeitgeist and popular culture through ads that cost more than $150,000 per second to run. It’s America’s brands on parade – wedged between periods of huge men hitting each other. In recent years, the Super Bowl is increasingly watched globally, as well, and has become a kind of ambassador for American culture – both for good and for bad. Now ad people around the world eagerly watch to see what the best minds and biggest budgets in our business can bring. 

And, despite our weariness with the usual clichés and seeing stupefying amounts of money spent on bad work – every year, we hope for something new and special, and we are glued to our screens, wishing to be surprised, looking for something that people will talk about and that will help justify the navel-gazing and sometimes narcissistic existence of the ad business. We hope to be inspired and lifted, and to see a brave brand do something different with their big spend and their moment in the limelight. This is the place where promises have been made, and brands have made big statements, such as Apple’s “1984” famously prophesying a new future and Budweiser’s Clydesdales celebrating American values. We tend to see the same brands advertised over and over – and the annual showing of pillar brands actually gives us a clear chance to see cultural shifts throughout the years. 

However, while it’s true that these spots reflect an ever-evolving American culture, it’s also critical to remember that they have the power to influence culture. Which is why, as ad makers, it’s so important that we take that responsibility seriously – for our clients, for our fellow citizens and for how the advertising reflects on America as a country. We must consider the all-encompassing message that we’re sending, not just how we are answering the specifics of the brief. 

Just in time for this year’s big game, America has a new pro-business president. Among his policies are relaxed regulations and reduced oversight for large corporations. The past decade has seen bad behavior from big business with regulations. Companies we loved from within the banking, automotive and oil industries lost the public's trust, and it'll take time for them to earn it back. What we hope is that these brands on parade, while enjoying the relaxed business environment, keep their promises to their consumers – 80 percent of whom are women, by the way, and that’s by conservative estimates.

With this intense lens on American culture during these three hours, we are craving inclusivity. Unprompted. The kind of inclusivity that angers ignorant people. The kind of inclusivity we saw in the millions who marched – and continue to march – worldwide. An inclusive society with darker skins, differently abled bodies and a spectrum of sexual orientations. With people who worship differently, and vote differently. An inclusivity that shows respect for the “other” and seeks to understand and empathize, versus continuing to alienate and isolate ourselves, convinced that we are right and they are wrong. With women who are more than “aw, shucks” moms and sex objects – and men who are comfortable enough in their manhood to be generous and kind, without being ridiculed for being wimps. Visibility matters more than ever now, to people inside and outside of America’s borders. 

Lastly, we hope we’ll see some funny stuff – some really funny stuff. While it’s our duty as an industry to communicate responsibly and thoughtfully, it’s equally our duty to entertain. To earn our welcome in people’s living rooms and, hopefully, into their thoughts. To reach across boundaries, both visible and invisible, and connect with the innermost parts of people, the parts that want – and need – to take a well-deserved break from all of the negativity. We all need a chance to laugh. Together. And since that usually doesn’t happen between the goalposts or on the halftime stage, it will have to happen during the ads. 

Karin Onsager-Birch is Chief Creative Officer and Sara Mason is a Junior Copywriter at FCB West

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Genres: People

FCB US, Mon, 06 Feb 2017 09:13:55 GMT