Super Bowl Campaign Review: Tide rises to the top, Robin Hood ‘should’ve sat this one out’ and Jeep falls short

In this special Super Bowl edition of Campaign Review, Bear Meets Eagle on Fire's Micah Walker and Saatchi & Saatchi's Joe Heath tackle the big game offerings from Amazon, Cheetos, Jeep, M&Ms and Tide, as well as Anheuser-Busch InBev's first masterbrand ad and Robinhood's efforts to skirt its recent controversy.

Micah Walker, co-founder of Bear Meets Eagle on Fire, says:

It’s certainly been an interesting year for the US with the ongoing roller coaster of COVID-19 fears combined with one of the most turbulent periods ever in American politics.

What that means for brands and advertising, I dunno. I have to believe that any relief from the intensity of it all, has to be welcomed. So, I’m thinking a smile is probably more welcome than a sermon (always, but particularly now).

Right or wrong, that colours my review this year.

I will say, Nickelodeon’s Super Bowl brand integration and animated overlays, is by far the most fun, inventive and creative thing I’ve seen this year. They haven’t done an ad, but sharing the game in a slightly different way, that’s as playful and fun as you are as a brand, is really great stuff. They win the Super Bowl for me this year.

Brand: Amazon
Agency: Amazon and Lucky Generals
The verdict: Unoriginal but effective

Walker says:

This is ok. It doesn’t really tell me anything I didn’t already know about Alexa and I find the execution of it a bit cringe, but hey. I do think it’d be better if the hyperbolic ‘package’ Alexa came in was something more clever than just ‘sexy’, but I’m sure it’ll get some attention.

Rating: 5/10

Joe Heath, planning director at Saatchi & Saatchi, says: 

Amazon’s ‘imagine a world in which a big celeb is Alexa’ makes for a reliable formula that seems to do the trick year in year out. It means we never get a terrible ad from Amazon, but I’m not sure we’re ever likely to get anything too spectacular either.

This one does move the needle a little. Although the message that Alexa is more than just a smart voice and can operate smart ‘things’ does get a little lost. The heavy dollops of sexual innuendo and lashings of Michel B Jordan’s ‘beautiful vessel’ make sure of that. This approach was all in a good cause.

If YouTube comments are anything to go by it definitely got the ladies and men of Super Bowl salivating over their half-time snacks and thinking about the brand. All in all, a good spot made even better by the husband’s futile, but humorous interventions along the way.

Rating: 8/10

Brand: Anheuser-Busch InBev
Agency: Wieden+Kennedy
The verdict: Beautifully crafted but questionable motivation

Walker says:

Not sure how successful I think ‘parent company’ ads are but putting that to one side, there’s a good message here. The underlying thought, that you’re never really “just having a beer”, is interesting, but the VO is a bit spoon fed for me. If they would’ve just observed real, varied moments of when people have beers and then said “it’s never just a beer” at the end, it would’ve felt more genuine to me.

Rating: 7/10

Heath says:

You can hear the AB President’s remarks now: “We’re not in the business of selling beer, we in the business of selling human connection”. The insight that beer brings people together is rock solid, and although being stretched wafer thin across an array of life moments, I think I’m still buying it.

Given the widespread division across the US, this does take on added cultural significance. I’m relieved they’re not claiming beer can solve all our problems, they’re simply showing us the times it’s certainly helped. With the involvement of David Fincher and Atticus Ross this is also one of this year’s most beautifully crafted spots.

As a message from the parent company of a range of ordinary beers, this is definitely a hail Marry pass from the ordinary beer segment in the dying seconds of a game against a dominant craft beer team. Maybe it will prove to be a game winning strategy, who knows?

Finally, it’s difficult not to raise the questionable decision from Anheuser-Busch to run a spot after making such a song and dance about Budweiser gifting their Super Bowl budget to an awareness driving fund for COVID-19 vaccinations.

Rating: 8.5/10

Brand: Cheetos
Agency: Goodby, Silverstein & Partners
The verdict: “About as fresh as a two-day opened packet of Cheetos”

Walker says:

I could say I thought this was better on paper, but that wouldn’t be true.

Rating: 2/10

Heath says:

After last year’s glorious ‘can’t touch this’ Cheetos spot with MC Hammer, in which the sticky, dusty Cheetos fingers were used as a perfect excuse to not lift a finger, this is most definitely not a return to form. The only good thing to say about it is ‘at least it it’s not another message about healing division.’ That’s about the only positive thing I can find to say. There’s Mila, Ashton, Shaggy, incriminating sticky fingers and lots of deniability. You get the picture.

Ashton agreeing to go all Les Misérables and sing live wasn’t his finest move. I guess we do get to feel the genuine emotional distress crackling behind his every word, probably as he processed his decision to star in such a ‘cheesy’ commercial. In fact, neither of the power couple really looked or sounded like they turned up on the day. Shaggy reliably does what he always does, but I feel like I’ve seen it all before.

Super Bowl ads are supposed to be fresh and original. This feels about as fresh as a two-day opened packet of Cheetos. Lack-lustre performances from big name celebs and a tired set-up means the message that ‘Cheetos are so damn irresistible you can’t keep your hands off them’ gets completely lost.

Rating: 5/10

Brand: Jeep
Agency: Doner
The verdict: Falls short

Walker says:

Hmm. It’s shot well. I don’t mind the thought that “we need the middle” as a truth about American society at the moment, but I just can’t get past how damn self-important this is. Kudos for landing Springsteen, but for me, the Boss just seems a touch disconnected to a lot of words and it never really quite hits you. Or me, at least.

Rating: 6/10

Heath says:

After bringing us the classic ‘Half-time America’ Super Bowl campaign, which roused a nation in the wake of the GFC, Chrysler had every reason to believe they could take shot at healing yet another cultural schism in American life. This is the most direct of all the ads to respond to a post-Trump world. It’s the Biden stump speech of beer ads. And who better to front the spot than the legendary healer of American society, Bruce Springsteen.

I can’t fault the intent. After four years of President Trump sowing division, there are very few amongst us who don’t want the US to find some common ground. What could possibly go wrong? For starters, making it all about ‘the middle’. It might be amongst the most gorgeously crafted and cinematic spots, but ‘the middle’ has to be the least inspiring place on the planet, both literally and figuratively. There are too many people hurting in the US to yearn for a return to the middle. People from all sides want a new hope, a new vision and new ideas that can forge a path to a better time and place. And then there’s the role of the product. At least with ‘Half Time America’ the car industry had a reason to speak. Not sure the promise that Jeep can take you to ‘the middle’, if that’s really where you want to go is a credible role for the brand. Yes, the Reunited States of America is something we can all get behind, and yes, we all needed another ‘Half-Time America’ spot, but this one fell short. I think I lost interest about half-way through, you know somewhere in the middle.

Rating: 6/10

Brand: M&Ms
Agency: BBDO New York
The verdict: ‘Lacks charm’

Walker says:

There are a couple funny lines in this. Overall, it’s fine, but nothing stand-out or surprising.

Rating: 5/10

Heath says:

Yup. Yet another one about how a brand can heal division in society. To its credit, it is the first to directly suggest the product is the antidote to said division. Didn’t the whole Pepsi/Kendall Jenner saga warn brands off such claims? Clearly not.

Apparently, M&Ms are a great way to say sorry for any kind of modern-day sin or act of hostility. From calling people Karen, to mansplaining and of course the greatest of sins, purposely knocking someone’s seat in front of you on a flight.

It was all going sort of okay until Dan Levy from Schitt’s Creek’s dropped by at the end to confuse the whole premise. He apologises to actual M&M characters for eating M&Ms by handing over an empty packet of M&Ms, all while admitting to likely eating a few more M&Ms in the back of his car later.

Look, it’s not a terrible effort. It’s loaded with enough cultural memes from the past few years to make it mildly interesting. At the same time, it lacked
the charm and wit you need to pull off an ad like this. Also, not sure aligning eating M&Ms to mansplaining and being that jerk behind you on a plane is the smartest move on the part of a brand.

Rating: 5/10

Brand: Robinhood
Agency: MediaMonks
The verdict: Irrelevant to a brand facing controversy

Walker says: 

Probably should’ve sat this one out. It’s innocuous enough with the wall-to wall VO over pictures that have nothing to do with what she’s saying, but what a bore.

Rating: 2/10

Heath says: 

The Robinhood stock trading app people obviously decided that all PR is good PR. Despite being public enemy number one for anyone with a Reddit account they decided to ride their inglorious crest of a wave to shore and tell the rest of the world who don’t know who they are, what they’re all about.

Even as a Redditor myself I was ready to applaud their chutzpa and maybe even forgive them for their decision to limit trading on GameStop. As an ad guy, I’m not sure I can forgive them for the state of the ad. They failed to communicate with any clarity, who they are and why I might want to use their app.

Instead of inspiring me to sign up and get started, I got lost in a not so insightful insight about how we’re all ready-made investors. Apparently, going to the gym and colouring your hair are all types of investments that qualify us to make good investors on the stock market. It’s true, trading isn’t rocket science. Armed with a helpful app and some basic research we could all make a pretty good go of it. This insight just seemed off to me and dare I say, too long a bow to draw, even for Robinhood. To top it all off, they even lacked the guts to allow comments on YouTube.

Rating: 4/10

Brand: Tide
Agency: Woven Collaborative
The verdict: Simple and fun

Walker says: 

Pretty simple this one. I think it’s a good Super Bowl spot (especially this year) and while I don’t love the way it’s shot, it’s fun. The message is simple and clear- that just because something looks clean, doesn’t mean it is clean, so thumbs up here.

Rating: 8/10

Heath says: 

Tide is the hit-making machine of Super Bowl campaigns. They’ve worked out how to get the nation talking about their brand and dropping the product into the shopping trolley. This is one of this year’s better spots. Although, Tide’s winning formula of taking a simple product truth and making it culturally relevant stumbles a bit over a slightly opaque product benefit.

Apparently Tide Hygienic Clean product gets rid of the invisible dirt you can’t see just as well as the visible dirt you can see. This probably means it’s a COVID-19 killer, but not being able to spell it out leaves us all wondering exactly what the point of it is. The scenarios don’t really aid clarity, they all look like visible dirt-making moments to me.

While this might not make it into the Tide Hall of Fame, it plays neatly to a hard-to-reach crowd of young to middle-aged guys and Seinfeld cult-followers. It’s a well-crafted spot too. From the seamless transition of Jason Alexander’s facial expressions on the hoodie, to the hidden Seinfeld Easter Eggs and the one-liners that will be thrown around on the web for a few days. Add to that the chance to claim a Jason Alexander hoodie with a donation to charity and I’m sure this one will get the internet in a spin and help shift Tide products faster than you can say “give me back my face”.

Rating: 7.5/10

Lastly, what about Budweiser and other brands donating their airtime to PSA’s about COVID?


That’s a good thing, right? At least it feels considerate with all that’s going on.

Does your parent company also running a different ad in the Super Bowl kind of make the gesture feel less genuine?

Maybe a bit.

  • As told to Zoe Wilkinson. If you’re a senior creative or strategist who would like to take part in a future Campaign Review, please email zoew@mumbrella.com.au

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