At the Crossroads of Media, Culture and Technology

5 Super Bowl Ads You Should Watch After You Stop Celebrating

Graphic of Superbowl Teams and Advertising

(Graphic: Hanns-Peter Nagel)

Welcome to Hawk Heaven! The Seahawks win their first Super Bowl and while the team took apart the Denver Broncos, we here at Flip were breaking down the annual Super Bowl advertising fest to five spots that for some reason or another stood out.

Admittedly, the big trend this year was “real-time advertising.” Big brand social marketing teams around the country tried hard to create a so-called “Oreo Moment” to gain momentum online. JC Penny came closest with a campaign that initially seemed like drunk-tweeting but turned out to be a promotion for “Team USA” mittens. But all in all, “real-time” advertising just provided real-time commentary on TV advertising.  

So check out our Flip writers’ ad picks, complete with audience reactions, videos and more–because let’s face it: you can barely remember yesterday’s ad.

Microsoft’s “Empower”

By Pragya Mehta


No question, Seattle dominated this Super Bowl. On the field, the Seahawks routed the Broncos while in the commercial breaks another hometown hero lead the pack. Microsoft, our loveable neighborhood software giant, told the story of how technology improves lives and earned rave reviews from people across all social platforms.

The ad opens with Steve Gleason, former professional football player of the New Orleans Saints, working on a Surface (the Microsoft kind) asking “What is technology?” It goes on telling (and showing) us how technology empowers everybody and makes things possible we could only dream of a few years ago. It’s touching, inspiring and with a great story arc. Overall, good execution and a great example of reinforcing brand image through exemplary storytelling.

I watched the game with young techies and captured some of their responses. Navin Narra, a software developer, was very impressed with the commercial and thought that it was worth every dollar spent. “Technology is a powerful tool to solve problems and Microsoft is a technology company, so Microsoft is providing means to solve real life problems. They are trying to create market by making Microsoft synonymous with technology and technology synonymous with empowerment.” Megha Siddavanahalli, a young techie from Seattle felt that Microsoft did much better than in previous years. She was especially relieved that Microsoft didn’t try to make fun of its competitors - especially when many feel that it has no better product.

The commercial was trending on Twitter with the hashtag #empowering. In general, people shared the same positive impression. Microsoft has risen above its competition and communicated about the bigger picture of the positive development of mankind through technology. “Technology has the power to unite us” — the strong copy has definitely moved people and made the commercial one of the top contenders in the 2014 Super Bowl ad league.

T-Mobile – “No Contracts” Super Bowl spot featuring Tim Tebow

By Fritz Kessler

Full disclosure: I watched the game via the live stream at, which as it turns out, doesn’t necessarily feature the same ads as the TV broadcast, or even as many ads. This likely explains why I was subjected to the wretched “NutButt” Butterfinger ad at least eight times during the course of the game.

My pick of the night was T-Mobile’s “No Contract” ad featuring contract-less NFL free agent, Tim Tebow. I barely knew Mr. Tebow before the ad, but he comes out as a likeable guy in an ad that has him touting the advantages of life without contracts. In a fun, freewheeling montage he delivers a baby, throws a football on the moon, masters chess, and, of course, saves adorable puppies from a burning building.

tebow ad

Tim Tebow – Puppy Hero

Once we know how exciting Tebow’s life without contracts is, T-Mobile reminds us that it rolls the same way — and you could too. If you’ve followed T-Mobile lately, you’ll know they have pursued an aggressive and successful strategy of disrupting traditional cell phone contract models and claim to offer more choice to their customers.  The “No Contract” ad reinforces their new image as a force of change in the cell phone industry, with humor and attitude to spare.

The ads themselves were actually released by T-Mobile days earlier, with Tebow himself promoting the ads via his Twitter feed, and releasing mock posters on his Instagram of him as the various characters he portrays in the clip (see on the right).

Press and blogosphere response was positive – this piece from online sports community SBNation calls it “the best commercial you will see during the super bowl,” and called the ad “dazzling.”  Much of the response, though, also appears to have been generated days in advance of the Super Bowl.  Marketing for marketing seems to be all the rage now, but one can’t help but wonder if T-Mobile could have bumped up the post-game stats for their ad by waiting for the big game itself to show off their latest piece of disruptive advertising.

Small Business’ Inaugural Ad @ the Super Bowl: GoldiBlox “Come On Bring Your Toys”

By Shann Thomas

GoldiBlox, a small start-up that creates engineering and construction tools for girls, is the first small business to have an advertising slot during the Super Bowl.  The start-up won a Intuit-sponsored contest asking the public to vote for a small business to “go to the Super Bowl.”  GoldiBlox beat out 15,000 other competitors and got a $4 million 30-second advertising spot during the big game.

I watched the Super Bowl from the Madrona Alehouse, and although the GoldiBlox ad doesn’t feature any major celebrities, adorable puppies, Muppets, llamas and/or old movie characters reincarnate (Chuckie Cheese?  Radio Shack, why?) the crowd in the bar actually cheered after the commercial aired.

Why? I imagine it’s because it’s one of the few Super Bowl ads that features women in a role where they are driving the action (versus being used as props).  The closing scene in the ad shows young girls building a rocket ship out of dolls, which they then blast off into the air.  The lyrics playing in the background sing defiantly, “Right now is our time. Oh yeah!  So, come on bring the toys, girls build like all the boys. Time to fly, fly fly!”

I also imagine it’s because GoldiBlox was in a legal battle with the Beastie Boys because they re-purposed their blatantly misogynist 1987 song “Girls” for a commercial that ended up going viral (check our viral video of the week). The ad once again features young girls repurposing their tired pink and domestic toys towards experimental use and innovation. In any case, this ad is a huge win for small business, start-ups, young girls and women - marketing that creates possibility in the imagination of everyone watching.

Jaguar’s “British Villains ‘Rendezvous’”

By Hanns-Peter Nagel

Puppies, horses (better: puppies loving horses), sex, humor–the Super Bowl ads most people remember follow tried-and-tested formulas. But the commercials that keep the show going are for cars. They are on all the time but often seem strangely absent from the “top trending” lists (this one was a notable exception). So I decided to focus on car spots, the single most common type of ad during the Superbowl.

My favorite: first-time Super Bowl entrant Jaguar. Slickly produced and with strong star power (Ben Kingsley among others), this spot manages to tell the story of the brand in a convincing way with a originial idea: It’s fast, it’s British and a bit dangerous. The last part made it stand out. Everybody else went “nice”. The various trucks and SUV’s stuck to the familiar hard-working, off-road adventure themes, while VW (and Audi) tried to unsuccessfully replicate past success with a funny approach. Chrysler somehow convinced Bob Dylan to sing its praises but the spot somehow fell flat. (He seemed to imply that America for some reason is best at making cars. As a German, I have to disagree.)

I watched the Super Bowl at home with only a few people. Most had never seen a football game and were mystified by the game itself. So the focus was (mostly) on the ads. Car ads clearly did not catch the imagination, even though the Jaguar ad, due to its high production value and the unusual dark theme got some attention.

Like every other self-respecting brand today, Jaguar tried to extend the conversation to social media via a hashtag (#Goodorbad) and got mostly positive feedback. The brand apparently monitored and responded to the ad’s real-time responses through a social listening command center created by media agency Mindshare and called “The Loop.” The Loop was supposed to be used to quickly shift digital advertising dollars depending on where and how discussion of the spot caught on. Time will tell how it went.

Bud Light’s “Ian Up for Whatever”

By Katya Yefimova

Whatever your feelings about Bud Light, there’s a good chance that this ad got some kind of reaction out of you, and that means that Bud Light’s marketing team got something right. Here’s what the ad is about: A candid camera follows a guy named Ian, who meets a woman named Kelly, an actress. Kelly offers him a bottle of Bud Light if he promises to be up for whatever happens next. Ian agrees, gets into a limo with some bachelorettes, dances to Reggie Watts’ tunes, finds himself in an elevator with Don Cheadle and a llama named Lilly, defeats Arnold Schwarzenegger in a ping pong match and ends up on stage with One Republic. Ian supposedly doesn’t know he is on camera until the very end. The message? Cool things happen to people who drink Bud Light.

The ad was posted on YouTube Thursday and an interview with Anheuser-Busch previewing the commercial ran in The New York Times on Jan. 15. The goal was to win over millennials, according to the article.

A quick search on Twitter revealed mixed reactions, though the ad got plenty of laughs at the bar where I was watching the game.

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This post is categorized in: Advertising, Social Media

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