5 Digital Lessons We Learned from the Super Bowl Ads
Yes, a football game happened yesterday. As a lifelong 49ers fan, was I happy? Definitely not. But as someone who pays attention to how businesses are using digital, it was fascinating to see all of the creative ways that brands combined Super Bowl ads, social, technology, and good old fashioned offline activations.
We’re breaking down the most interesting ads to see what we can all learn from the brands that have seemingly unlimited resources to pay upwards of $7 million for a 30-second spot, and how they tried to turn those impressions into a win for the business.
1. Less Social, more Snapchat
In recent years, a lot of brands have tried to create their own “viral moment” by getting people to comment, share, and otherwise engage in various newsfeeds. Snapchat picked up on the fact that social can feel like a pretty dark place these days, so they offered an alternative.
The campaign featured a call to action to visit moresnapchat.com, where people can learn about how Snapchat is the place to connect with friends, and not “Friends.”
Takeaway: this year, social is happening in private. People are seeking out group chats, WhatsApp, smaller communities, and even Snapchat as a way to connect with each other without having to deal with the chaos of a public newsfeed.
2. “A website makes it real”
It wasn’t long ago that we looked at the internet as a secondary place, where we’d try to grab people’s attention in order to create offline interactions, sales, and visits. Squarespace hired Martin Scorsese to tell a story about today’s reality and an alien invasion that no one notices because we’re all too busy looking at our screens. It’s not until someone creates a Squarespace site about the arrival that people become aware.
It’s a powerful statement and a reminder that, for most of us, digital experiences are not secondary – they are the first, and most common, way that people interact with us.
Takeaway: Digital experiences are the most important way we’ll interact with our customers this year.
3. AI made its Super Bowl debut
Microsoft’s ad opened with a series of shots about people doing inspiring things on a computer. They were building new businesses, earning degrees, launching projects, and “changing the world.” How were people doing all of these amazing things? By using Microsoft’s new AI tool, Copilot.
The ad apparently worked, because Copilot rocketed up the charts to become the second-most downloaded app of the day (behind only Paramount+, which was streaming the game).
Takeaway: People don’t care what your product is, they care what it helps them to do. That applies to all of our content, not just Super Bowl ads.
4. Every ad became a DoorDash ad
Back in 2018, Tide ran one of the most creative ad ideas of all time: They showed how other Super Bowl ads — and even the game itself — were actually Tide ads, because after everyone got muddy/ covered with hot sauce/ blasted with confetti, they all had to do the same thing: Wash their clothes.
This year, DoorDash took that to another level by giving away (nearly) every product from every other ad. Viewers were asked to go to doordash-all-the-ads.com and enter the on-screen promo code to be entered to win trips from Booking.com, a BMW, a $50k down payment from Homes.com, a boat from Bass Pro Shops, and dozens of other prizes from other advertisers.
Not only was this a clever way to drive traffic and sign-ups on their website, it also used the power of every other brand in their favour.
Takeaway: Collaborations are powerful, and they can be found in unexpected places. We can all find ways to incorporate partners, suppliers, and seemingly unrelated brands into our own content to create mutually beneficial outcomes.
5. Miller Lite ran 1,000 Super Bowl ads for $0
Every year a few brands try to subvert the big game ads by doing something that capitalizes on all of the buzz without actually paying for an ad spot. This year the best example came from Miller Lite.
Rather than pony up $7 million, they printed 1,000 t-shirts and distributed them to beer drinkers across America who received “beer money” for agreeing to wear the walking ads out in public, to their Super Bowl parties, and when they went shopping on Super Bowl Sunday.
These shirts were more than just merch, they each had a QR code that anyone could scan to also get beer money.
Did it have the same impact as the 100 million+ impressions that a traditional ad would get them? Certainly not; However, they were able to track exactly how many scans, entries, and new email subscribers the effort racked up, and it likely created a lot of word-of-mouth among those t-shirt wearing fans.
Takeaway: After more than a decade of trying to break through, QR codes are here to stay, and they can be a very helpful tool for direct-response campaigns, when used creatively.
Honourable Mention: Dunkin’ Donuts – The DunKings
America’s favourite donut shop ran a follow-up to their 2023 spot. Last year, Ben Affleck was working the drive-thru window when Jennifer Lopez surprised him by rolling up to his window while he was at work.
This year, Affleck flipped the script by rolling into a studio where J.Lo is recording with his friends, Matt Damon and Tom Brady, who have formed a dance group called the DunKings.
It’s hilariously cringey, and features cameos from Charlie D’Amelio, Jack Harlow, and Fat Joe.
Takeaway: I couldn’t help but include this one, just because it was my personal favourite, so as far as takeaways? I guess, if you have access to J.Lo and Affleck, double down. For the rest of us, there’s a lesson in the behind-the-scenes content that pokes fun at Affleck, and his ridiculous idea. When we have something that people love, it just makes sense to give them more of it through making-of, and other follow-on content.
See all of these ads, and more:
Cover image source: AdWeek