Yeah, there’s a game on Sunday. But what about the commercials that make the game worth watching for those of us in the ad biz?
Every year, AAF-DC holds its own post-game show called Between Downs critiquing the spots that hit or missed. This year’s gathering will be at ISL next Wednesday, Feb. 8, moderated by David Meeks, Managing Editor of USA Today Sports Media Group.
Meeks will steer an all-star creative panel featuring Nathaniel Kronisch, Media Director, Buying Time; Amanda Markmann, Creative Director, Adfero; Mike O’Brien, Associate Creative Director, IStrategy Labs; Louise Salas, Associate Creative Director, Wunderman DC; and Mick Sutter, Creative Director, Huge DC into sharing their creative insights on what they think made for a truly super branding experience.
Reserve your seat now, then enjoy this pre-game preview from our pros:
Q: What are you hoping to see in this year’s Super Bowl ads?
Kronisch: I’m looking for positivity; we’ve had enough negativity in our country this past year. Ads and brands can give us more positive energy instead of snarky jokes about opposition brands.
Markmann: I want to see what the mix is going to be. It’s usually telling about current events: sometimes silly, empowering or shocking. Given what’s going on in our country, I’m expecting it will be on the lighter side.
O’Brien: I’m hoping to see something different. I’m always dazzled by great graphics and animation. You see them in music videos [and they migrate into advertising] once they’ve proven themselves in the more experimental realm.
I also like when ads are not so straightforward and you have to think a little bit. For instance, OK Go has excellent concepts.
Also, I work in social and digital marketing and see how it bleeds into the Super Bowl. Traditional methods still reign but internet themes make their way in.
Salas: I’m looking forward to seeing the best of the best: thought-provoking work.
Sutter: I’m curious to see who shows up, and who’s going to punch through on social and steal the show.
Q: Do you have a comment about previous Super Bowl ads?
Kronisch: At the last Between Downs, the social insights were fascinating. We talked about what went viral during the game.
Markmann: We’re seeing mobile-first spots, intended for the second screen. Last year, I saw the NFL Babies spot pop up on mobile. It had a nice underlying message—football is family. It was a unifying message, done in a cute, clever, cheeky way.
O’Brien: You’re seeing a lot of emotional appeal and nostalgia. Bud Light featured a Best Man’s speech that played out in series of moments. It showed integrity—the product has been a part of your life. [This kind of ad] plays into postmodern culture as it looks back at themes from the past.
You’re also seeing post-internet thinking with Mountain Dew’s Puppy Monkey Baby.
Salas: Last year’s ads were middle of the road. Original thinking was lacking.
Sutter: I respect the brands who really connect with pure and simple ads. One of my favorites is the Clash of Clans spot with Liam Neeson. The brand stayed true to itself and didn’t feel the need to throw him into a battlefield. Instead, they leaned into his celebrity in a simple and smart way. Much in the same way T-Mobile used Drake last year.
Other brands go overboard in making a statement or a splash. Pyrotechnics can be effective but the message can fall flat. Some try to be heart-wrenching but fail, such as the Nationwide one with the dead kid. And some brands go with tasteless, gratuitous humor, such as Carl’s Jr.
Q: Between Downs is AAF DC’s biggest event. Why do you think it holds the crown?
Kronisch: This TV event is more uniting than any other, so it makes sense that it brings more people together to talk about it.
It’s also just fun to have the best creative of the year as the epicenter for a room full of ad geeks. I work on the media side, so I love to dip my toes in the creative waters.
Markmann: We have a good time dissecting the ads. I’m excited about it!
O’Brien: Advertising is part of the Super Bowl spectacle and becomes part of mainstream conversations. It feels like the Oscars of advertising.
Salas: Who doesn’t want to be a quarterback on the sideline? It’s good clean fun to hear local talent giving insights behind the madness in an invigorating, lively debate. We talk about the best of the best and discuss creative leadership; you hope that if you had a high-risk concept, you’d fall on the sword to make it happen. We all want to believe!
[Note: Salas helped to develop Between Downs, which came out of a similar event at Arnold.]
Q: What’s the importance of AAF DC to our community?
Markmann: It’s welcoming, not intimidating. Members get a lot out of it, including connections to people in other disciplines. AAF has a wider reach than, say, AIGA, and does a really great job of being inclusive. Everyone who touches our industry can get involved.
O’Brien: DC doesn’t have a strong reputation as an advertising hub, but we’re finding that the work we do is marketing and advertising, including internet distribution. (Advertising is becoming more entrenched in social networks: Their success correlates to their incorporation of ads.) We’re making it up as we go and AAF DC helps us with institutional and historical knowledge and resources.
Salas: It’s the crossroads for our industry, the flesh and blood. It’s where you network with people at all levels, in all disciplines.
Sutter: That’s for the community to answer. In an industry that’s become so disparate, I see it as the place to network and improve our craft.
Zohar Rom is a writer and project manager at Garfinkel + Associates and co-edits this blog. He drives brand success for clients and adores new challenges. Zohar is also a filmmaker; he earned the Cable Advertising Bureau’s first-ever Best In Show.