Super Bowl 2015 Ad Round-Up: Puppies, Pac-Man And The Brady Bunch

The Super Bowl is this Sunday, but you don’t need to care about American football to feel the event’s shockwave already. Rivalled only by the Olympics and the World Cup, the Super Bowl is perhaps advertising’s biggest day of the year, with brands, creative agencies and celebrities fighting tooth and nail to have the most talked-about spot of the game.

While the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots face off on the field this weekend, an equally tense battle has already started behind the keyboards of some of the world’s biggest brands.

The rise of social media advertising has irreversibly changed the face of Super Bowl advertising, producing hype and speculation days and weeks before the event. While the measure of a brand’s Super Bowl success was once the water cooler conversation on Monday morning, share rates and hashtags have made brand competition even more prominent.

When ads like last year’s ‘Puppy Love’ from Budweiser reached over 2 million all-time shares, it’s easy to see what the fuss is all about. With debuts, teasers and headlines dropping all week, Unruly is here to pick apart the best Super Bowl XLIX has to offer.

We’d be remiss if we didn’t start with Budweiser’s blockbuster follow-up to the ‘Puppy Love’, the ominously titled ‘Lost Dog’.

Not a brand to stray from a winning formula, the beer brand return to tropes that have served them well: an adorable dog, an all-American farmer and a stirring acoustic cover of a well-known song. While it’s not the most original ad you’ll see this Sunday, ‘Lost Dog’ is unambiguously heartwarming in a way that’s already garnered it 33,000 shares. Meanwhile, in a strange twist, GoDaddy’s ‘Lost Dog’ parody been cancelled and yanked from YouTube, amid complaints from animal rights activists. Perhaps Budweiser will benefit from the whiff of controversy after all.

Similarly opting for the cutesy route, Mercedes-Benz’ ‘Fable’ brings an unexpected Pixar twist to a car commercial. While ‘Fable’ might grab kids’ attention, Kia’s ‘The Perfect Getaway’ is more adult fare, a clever and rather meta takedown of standard Super Bowl fare.

One brand sticking resolutely to what they know is Victoria’s Secret, whose online teaser ‘Don’t Drop The Ball’  has been shared over 66,000 so far. Their actual game day spot, even less imaginative than the teaser, hits more or less the expected beats.

One trend to look out for this year is brands ‘hacking’ the Super Bowl. Newcastle Brown Ale and agency Droga5 nailed this last year with their brilliant anti-ad ‘If We Made It’. Now the merry pranksters are back with their overwhelming ‘Band of Brands’, which squeezes hundreds of brands into a single ad in order to pay the exorbitant advertising costs. Newcastle is calling it “the most fiscally responsible big game ad ever”, a claim few can dispute. Equally innovative, Volvo has foregone a  conventional ad this year in favour of ‘The Greatest Interception Ever’. Essentially hijacking other auto brands’ screen time, Volvo has promised to give away free cars to viewers who tweet during competitors’ ads. Very sneaky, very clever.

On the stranger end of things, Snickers’ teased a Brady Brunch remake, Bud Lite turned a grown man into Pac Man  and T-Mobile and Kim Kardashian teamed up to poke fun at celebrity narcissism.

Most encouraging of all, the NFL is running the harrowing and pretty incredible ‘NO MORE’ to draw attention to domestic violence in the sport. For an institution tarred by these instances, it’s a very socially-conscious step. Though we won’t be sure of this year’s Super Bowl ad winner until the dust settles next week, there’s certainly a full slate to pick from.