Super Bowl 50 Commercials That Embrace Purpose

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Workers have begun to pack up football-themed decorations on Market Street in San Francisco. The crowds have left and buses and San Franciscans can return to their regular routines following Super Bowl 50.

Although I don’t really follow football, as the author of a 2015 BSR Report on Responsibility in Advertising, I watched the Super Bowl ads, which were priced at around US$5million per 30-second spot — with great interest.

Last year we wrote that brands who embrace purpose, transparency and consumer empowerment will produce more effective and engaging ads for an audience that has learned to skip, block and ignore sponsored content.

Several spots I visited last Sunday took this philosophy to heart.

Budweiser’s #GiveADamn

Bud’s antidrunk driving public service announcement was true to Bud’s brand identity while addressing a serious issue. Helen Mirren, Oscar-winner and “notoriously candid and uncensored British lady”, berates anyone who thinks of getting behind a wheel after a drink. Her concise monologue manages to balance the seriousness of this issue with humor and self-awareness. The ad is funny as it is sarcastic. Effective purpose-driven messaging requires authenticity. In this instance, humor and a beloved celebrity were used to address a very important issue for the beer company.

Axe: Find Your Magic

The brand of men’s grooming products, known for its provocative advertising, has changed gears. Axe’s spot celebrates men’s individuality. It features a man with a large nose, a wheelchair and, most importantly, participation in a gender-bending, vogueing competition wearing heels. Axe may be aligning with Unilever’s purpose driven marketing and taking inspiration from Unilever’s Dove Real Beauty campaign which featured non-models and empowered messages to challenge women’s beauty standards.

Colgate’s #EveryDropCounts

Colgate focused its Super Bowl slot in the area of consumer behavior change. Colgate used imagery of a man cleaning his teeth at the sink, while others fill up a bowl and wash a pear. Adage wrote. The spot was a “distinctive messaging on a day that consumes” and featured a man brushing his teeth at a sink while people fill up a bowl, wash a pear, and then drink from the running tap.

Although Super Bowl spots may have a way to go before reaching the levels of Patagonia’s “Don’t Buy this Jacket” or Chipotle’s “Scarecrow” conscious-consumption campaigns, the messages of this year’s commercials could signal a further shift in advertising messages away from pure product pitches and toward a new model that focuses on positive change. This can be achieved with humor and cleverness, not preaching, as these ads showed. “This is supposed be fun,” Dame Helen reminded us while we sipped Bud.

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