The Best Story Told In Super Bowl 2021 Advertising

Anheuser-Busch’s spot “Let’s Grab A Beer” reached a blissful human truth: sharing a beer is never about the beer.  However, through great writing and production, the ad told us much more than that.  It showed us that we crave each other.  We love our communities, our pasts, our present, our achievements, our losses, and being human.

Throughout the commercial we see varying scenes of human experiences: newlyweds laughing at their disaster wedding, friends comforting each other at a funeral.  Through each of these we see the highs and lows of our existence, but one of my favorite lines is “Flight crew’s next door eating pizza.”  A great example of a six-word-story, and one that tells a bittersweet anecdote.

The stories Anheuser-Busch told were great because they told us they will be there for us when this is all over without saying, “We will be there for you when this is all over.”  We are tired of that messaging, but no one is tired of remembering the best (and worst) parts of communal experiences.  

Maybe this wasn’t the best advertisement of The Big Game, because it did not sell me Anheuser-Busch necessarily.  You barely see any branding in the commercial at all, and the line “it’s never about the beer” doesn’t exactly make you want an Anheuser-Busch beer.  Even so, it was the best story of the night.  As storytellers, we have to remember that insights are the most important part of reaching audiences.  The insight that “It’s about being together” remains true no matter what times we are in. 

Focused Creativity: Does Snapchat Advertising Work?

As a creative advertising student, social campaigns are completely taboo.  Our professors tell us that it’s a careless way to add OOH ideas to your portfolio.  My professor actually told us that Snapchat roll-outs don’t even count as a social leg of a campaign.

Maybe it is not groundbreaking or romantic advertising- but it works.  Not every creative campaign is good because it is new.  There is also value in campaigns with the highest returns.  (Something creatives don’t want to admit to themselves.)

In 2020, the most successful Snapchat advertising was those who used AR to create a try-on feature.  Gucci did it and saw a positive return on ad spend.  It is true that brands have been using AR for try-on features on different digital platforms since 2015, but given the context of this year it is a creative campaign. 

Creative isn’t always original.  It is using tools in context to achieve great things. (Don’t tell any creatives, but that can be sales for your client.) Albert Einstein said: “Creativity is intelligence having fun,” and he was right.

Advertising After 2020

The lifestyle changes that came with an unprecedented year have impacted creative communications from brands.  In March we saw a shift in tone of communications from brands from Toyota to Verizon reminding consumers they care. Over. And over. And over again.  There are some more effective communications that the pandemic popularized that will be more likely to stick around this year.  One in particular that pandemic advertising brought attention to, is Computer Generated Imagery commercials.  When shooting commercials with a cast seemed impossible, many brands used animation and CGI to develop meaningful communications in safe ways.  

Škoda finished this ad with CGI when production studios shut down in March.  The ad features sets and cars completely computer animated.  Sky Q also relied on computer animation to create a campaign with only one actor.  This five-part saga shows consumers the joy of a young boy imagining his favorite characters living in his city.

CGI can thrive in 2021 as a cost-effective content development tool, but with CGI creating stock photos, videos, and even virtual influencers – where is there room for creatives in the long run?  In order to keep CGI, along with all the other futuristic technologies once thought to be fantasy, there will need to be a shift in where we see creatives contributing.

If they are not needed to design characters or showcase products, creatives will always be needed to tell the story can be.  At this stage, CGI needs a lot of guidance to work successfully.  Unchecked, CGI is seen as unsettling and odd.  This digital recreation of Rita Ora was slammed by consumers, and actually went viral for being so creepy.  

CGI videos and influencers are not independent – yet.  Human motifs and individual idiosyncrasies of language are not understood by technology.  As creatives, it is our job to bridge that gap.  In order to do that, we need to be asking the questions that get us to the next steps of CGI creative development.  

This is where insight research comes into play.  Creative people need to be in the rooms where technology is being developed.  We need to be looking for what human truths are driving technology further and where growth is needed.  Moving forward – we may see the need for creative departments in more fields.  Progress will only make creative advertising more challenging if insight research is not present at every step of development.  For creativity to work well, it needs to be everywhere.

Christmas Means Coca-Cola

Nothing rings in the holiday season quite like the first sighting of the Santa cheersing to you through the shine of a Coca-Cola Christmas truck.  Every season fans anticipate the latest Coca-Cola Christmas commercial wondering: What will they do this year?

I remember when I first learned that the advertising legends working for Coca-Cola reimagined our modern idea of Santa Claus to align with the brand.  That’s when I realized there is no Christmas without Coca-Cola.  Here are some “Coke-mas” commercials that I love:

  1. Arctic Beach Party (2006)

The polar bears are cute, but what is special about this commercial is the hidden traditions.  While it is modern and uses cutting edge CGI for its time, the ad evokes 100 year old Coca-Cola messages.  

In 1932 Coca-Cola launched the “Ice Cold Sunshine” campaign because they wanted to popularize the beverage as a summer drink.  Before this, they were primarily thought of as a warm drink.  This campaign was the first time customers saw Coca-Cola on ice.  

Today, that message is so ingrained in the branding that we can feasibly see polar bears living off of it.  It is an example of a campaign that was not successful because it improved sales, and increased brand awareness – it permanently changed the American perception of a product for the better.

2. Christmas Wishes for Santa (1986)

Creatively, this TV spot from 1986 did not make major strides.  It is pretty common to get an emotional ad during Christmas time.  The reason this ad is special is because it puts Coca-Cola at the heart of Christmas traditions. 

Every child and parent gets a warm feeling from this commercial.  That might make them buy a Coke but, they definitely associated their Christmas delight with the brand.

  1. Give Something Only You Can Give (2020)

The best part about this ad, is that it showed us how hard this year was, without saying this year was hard.  Wieden+Kennedy London and Taika Waititi used a fathers long journey to the North Pole to represent the tumultuous year we have all had.

The tagline,  “Together Tastes Better” perfectly encapsulated the lesson we have all learned best this year: Time is Precious. The father in the story was able to give his daughter time with him for Christmas.  Thanks to a little Coke-mas magic, Santa was able to deliver the gift of togetherness on his iconic 18-wheeler.

The Luxury of Rejection

Luxury is relative.  It is a person’s idea of more than enough, something to strive for but something not expected.  I recently chatted with a friend about her father’s perception of meat at the breakfast table.  Growing up, meat was special and having meat in the morning was a treat.  Now, he gives his family meat with every breakfast to celebrate that he has normalized this luxury.  When the children do not want meat upon waking up, he becomes upset.  He tells them to be grateful they can have meat for breakfast, and to celebrate their good fortune.  The kids eat the meat, reluctantly and without celebration.  Meat in the morning is standard, it is not a treat and it is not coveted.  The children are so fortunate, that they can reject this luxury.

Social media is villainized by many people.  Complaints that people are too addicted, or that they rely on social media are commonplace.  Still, sites like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter are successful in keeping users addicted. They do what they can with updates and additives to convince you to use the app more, to keep you obsessed and slaving over your screen.

Tik Tok has over 800 million active users – anyone who is anyone uses it.  People laugh over their “addictions” to Tik Tok.  Tik Tok does not need to work any harder to keep users on their app for entire days, people already do that.  Actually, Tik Tok wants users to use the app less:


Pause your scrolling. Time for a night time snack break!

♬ original sound – TikTok Tips

Tik Tok has reached the ultimate standing as a social media platform.  There is no competing with them, they have user attention and they don’t covet other sites’ active user numbers, they don’t aspire to be more like other sites.  They don’t want to eat meat for breakfast anymore.

Art In Nature

I recently remembered this out of home advertisement by Cramer-Krasselt for Corona Beer.  Luna Corona watches over a dark Manhattan night.  If you look at the ad at just the right moment, it looks like a half-moon fits perfectly where a lime would.  

It takes great imagination to use the moon as a tool to sell an advertisement.  I love how they used the natural world to highlight the cultural world Corona lives in. 

 It would be interesting to see how much further Cramer-Krasselt could have gone with this campaign.  Though I did not see any other communications about this campaign, one idea is a digital leg where customers Tweet a picture of the moon shaped like a lime and win a Corona.

Elevating Spam

For most students of creativity, the dream is to sell America’s favorite products.  We strive to write taglines like “Have a Coke and a Smile” or “America Runs On Dunkin.”  But the truth is, while those are the hardest jobs to get, they involve the least consumer conversion. Who doesn’t love Coca-Cola and Donuts? The hardest thing for an advertiser to do is to convince the buyer to change their attitude about a product.

Spiced Ham… Special American Processed Meat…  How did SPAM become an American staple? I wanted to find out.

I looked back on the history of the SPAM brand. SPAM represented American cuisine during WWII and was sent overseas for GI’s.  A few years later SPAM rebranded as a “SPAM-dandy” breakfast to be eaten with eggs. In the 1990’s it became widely popular in Hawaii, and was a way to put Polynesian foods on the table in a budget-conscious way.  SPAM has consistently been the food for the real Americans.   It’s not 9-5ers it’s the real majority of 8-6 and 7-7ers. It’s special, American meat for the unspecial American.   

The brand sparked my interest over the last few weeks over a social media campaign. I was impressed by Instagram ads of recipes that looked so delicious that I was shocked to find out they included Spam. Eventually I started to see recipes for SPAM poke bowls and SPAM pizza trickling into the feeds of food bloggers, both sponsored and unsponsored.  This was one of the clearest ways I’ve ever seen digital marketing working. 

Watching this digital marketing work in a real way was so compelling that I wanted to try it myself.  Not only because I like to reward good marketing whenever I see it, but also because I needed to see this thing in action. 

Following Spam’s recipe, I made my own version of SPAM Musubi.  It tasted “SPAM-tastic,” like the Instagram ads told me it would, and made you feel like you were eating something more special than canned meat.  (Less Special American Processed Meat, more “Sizzle, Pork, and Mmm.”)  The campaign changed my mind about SPAM brand. SPAM is the pulse of a happy family that values cultivating joy at the dinner table.

The way I see it, SPAM Brand understands America’s most beautifully unpretentious citizens, and finds ways to elevate people while staying true to itself.  It is celebrated in a way that no other American classic ever could.

Creative Branding Through Covid-19

This eerie time can feel unthinkable and disheartening.  But there is always a silver lining, there is a reignited sense of community, and a special kind of togetherness that we feel by all being apart.

Among some of the many tragedies we will see, are the loss of small businesses.  One of my favorite things to see is the stand out small business owners who are fighting to stay open by continuing to come up with new ideas.

Barstool Pizza Reviews

Dave did not quit One Bite Pizza reviews when New York went into a state of emergency. Rather, he joined his viewers in staying at home, and continued reviewing pizzas by using popular frozen pizza brands. Rebranding to stay relevant, Barstool Pizza Reviews from Dave’s home have comprable views to his average pizza review posts.

Pritchard Music Academy

Local music academy in Gaithersburg, MD has joined the digital community by providing lessons over facetime.  Many businesses have had to move online during the pandemic, but doing music lessons online takes it a step further.  This is something that can help them not only stay in business for the time being, but also grow when the dust settles.


Clyde’s was known in the area for a higher-end choice for family’s Sunday brunches or celebratory dinners.  Without this option, Clyde’s rebranded. Clyde’s was known as a “home away from home” for many, and now they are bringing it to people’s homes. Now they are offering delivery for the first time ever.  

Ledo Pizza

Though pizza is a take out staple, Ledo’s is a locally owned pizza chain that was losing business after people started to stay home for the virus.  Ledo’s started providing make-your-own pizza kits, the perfect solution. Easy to sell, and great for families looking for ways to keep themselves busy.

Zoom Charlottesville 

As a local spin studio in Charlottesville, providing online classes was not going to cut it for Zoom to keep their doors open.  Rather than cutting their losses, the dynamic studio owners rented the bikes from the studio out to their customers. Now, Zoom can continue to operate online spin classes to their regular customers.  

Creativity is more than dreaming up great copy on just the right design, or the perfect cast for an advertisement.  Creativity is understanding the consumer in a way they didn’t know they could be understood, and then delivering.

The Most Creative Super Bowl Ad of 2020

“Famous Orders” McDonald’s Super Bowl Ad by Wieden & Kennedy New York is remarkable because of its audacity not to be just another Super Bowl Ad.  The 30-second spot highlights celebrity fans’, fictional characters’, and famous NFL players’ go-to orders. 

It is not obvious, but once you start watching – you’re hooked.  The viewer is intensely reading to see who orders what at McDonald’s.  The ad uses celebrity features and humor, but the creative team at Wieden & Kennedy did not opt to merely plug in the expected Super-Bowl ad formula for success.  This is something only a brand with great customer loyalty and tradition, like McDonald’s, could accomplish- and they did it perfectly.

McDonald’s is an icon, and the ad features iconic orders by icons.  Somehow, comparing Kim Kardashian West’s or Julius Caesar’s McDonald’s order to your own, the customer becomes a part of something larger than themselves- a community of icons, and maybe they are even an icon themselves just for lovin’ it too.

The Chicago Roastery

For those who worship, Starbucks in the morning is an important ritual.  But when you’re visiting the same shrine every day, it’s hard to keep the fire inside you ignited.  When Starbucks announced its largest Reserve Roastery was opening in our city, the zealots all praised the gods.  Finally- a cathedral for all fanatics to come together to honor their rite.

Although I do worship,  I was reluctant to join the celebrations at first, but once I saw this print ad the day before the grand opening, I knew I had to wait in line on opening day.

I admired the copywriting, and started thinking about why Starbucks is a great brand and what this opening means for the brand.  Located on Michigan Avenue, this location is more about the experience Starbucks can offer than anything else. The glass outer shell of the building makes it stand out on one of Chicago’s main tourist destinations.  Unlike the buildings around it, it has a modern yet welcoming look that matches the feeling of a traditional Starbucks in a non-traditional way. The inside of the store caters to travelers. Each floor features specialty cuisines and foods that aim to replicate traditional italian cafes and french pastry shops.  Though lesser celebrated by critics, my favorite attraction in the Reserve Roastery is the specialty espresso beans available from all around the world. The beans are for sale along with a coffee passport to encourage customers to try them all. This gives the consumer a sense of urgency to continue to explore all the options, and a feeling of special status to loyal customers.

Starbucks mission is “to inspire and nurture the human spirit.”   While the focus remains livening their customers daily routine, the growth of the Reserve Brand keeps people in awe of Starbucks.  The Chicago Roastery is truly a spectacle, (and so was the hour-long line I waited in on opening day.) This opening is a link in strengthening brand culture.  Starbucks has nurtured the human spirit by supporting local artists, offering college scholarship programs to employees, famously sending employees to an anti-racism training, and now- becoming tourist destinations. 

Consulted: Starbucks branding review

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