Super Bowl 50 Ads Trends: Brands Want To Make Viewers Laugh

Humor is a big trend among Super Bowl 50 adver­tis­ers. Many brands have teased fun­ny spots, some with big-time come­di­ans. Here’s a pre­view.

Lisa Lacy By Lisa Lacy. Join the discussion » 0 comments

If 2015 was the year of Super Bowl ad poignan­cy, 2016 is shap­ing up to be the year of Super Bowl laughs. Many brands have already teased spots with big-time come­di­ans as they also use the Super Bowl as spring­boards for new cam­paigns and/or taglines.

It’s a rel­a­tive­ly dra­mat­ic shift, one insid­ers say is dri­ven by a desire to har­ness influ­encers to real­ly wow audi­ences, a one-time off-the-field Super Bowl sta­ple that has been sore­ly miss­ing in recent years. Brands them­selves, how­ev­er, say comedic tal­ent helps them com­mu­ni­cate their val­ues and stay true to their ideals as they embrace spir­its of inclu­sion and unite view­ers over laughs.

Super Bowl XLIX: The Year of Poignancy

The emo­tion­al Class of 2015, of course, was led by Nation­wide’s dead kid spot, which gen­er­at­ed mixed reac­tions, but also includ­ed: Toy­ota and Nis­san with duel­ing homages to father­hood, Bud­weis­er’s infa­mous Lost Dog, Always’ Like a Girl, Microsoft­’s Bray­lon, Coke’s Make it Hap­py, McDon­ald’s Pay with Lovin’ and Dove Men+Care’s Real Strength. What’s more, six of these ads ranked among the top 10 of 2015 and they cumu­la­tive­ly gen­er­at­ed mil­lions of views. (Bud­weis­er has since pulled its Lost Dog spot from YouTube, mak­ing a pre­cise tal­ly impos­si­ble.) This year, how­ev­er, only a hand­ful of brands have announced ads that car­ry on this theme: Colgate’s #Every­Drop­Counts, Mini’s #Defy­La­bels and WeatherTech’s salute to Amer­i­can man­u­fac­tur­ing.

The Comedic Touch

Instead, many brands have opt­ed to make Amer­i­ca laugh this year. And many brands have enlist­ed big-name come­di­ans to do it. That includes Amy Schumer for Bud Light, T.J. Miller for Shock Top, Kee­gan-Michael Key and Jor­dan Peele for Square­space, Bil­ly Eich­n­er for But­terfin­ger and Kevin Hart for Hyundai. When you include the humor­ous com­mer­cials with celebri­ties that don’t nec­es­sar­i­ly focus specif­i­cal­ly on com­e­dy, like Alec Bald­win for Ama­zon, Christo­pher Walken for Kia, Lil Wayne for and Drake for T‑Mobile, addi­tion­al exam­ples abound and a trend emerges. What’s more, this light­heart­ed approach to 2016 Super Bowl mes­sag­ing seems to res­onate with con­sumers so far: Schumer and her #Bud­Light­Par­ty coun­ter­part Seth Rogen have dri­ven 1.7 mil­lion views for the beer brand and Miller’s repar­tee with Shock Top’s orange slice mas­cot Wedge­head has 1.4 mil­lion views. And in three teasers, Lil Wayne and George Wash­ing­ton have racked up 4 mil­lion views in their homage to the Jef­fer­sons. One could argue the about-face is a reac­tion to Nation­wide, which chose not to return in 2016 after it per­haps took the emo­tion­al theme too far last year and the response among adver­tis­ers is to there­fore shoot for laughs over mean­ing in Super Bowl 50. Gary J. Nix, chief strat­e­gy offi­cer at brand­ing agency bdot, said the shift reflects adver­tis­ers sim­ply try­ing to make noise with influ­en­tial celebri­ties. “Late­ly, few spots have made that real­ly big splash and the past few Super Bowls have col­lec­tive­ly received grades of ‘Ehh,’ and ‘So?’ from the ad indus­try,” he said. “Thus, because laugh­ter is a pow­er­ful tool to evoke good feel­ings and emo­tion, I think com­pa­nies are try­ing that par­tic­u­lar method this go around.” Here’s a look at what these brands have in store – and why they say com­e­dy is the right fit this year.

Bud Light

In a press release, Bud Light calls itself “America’s most inclu­sive beer brand” and says its cam­paign is meant to embrace a new tagline – “Raise One to Right Now” – and pro­vide a “unique and light-heart­ed Bud Light per­spec­tive on time­ly cul­tur­al moments,” includ­ing Super Bowl 50. The brand also says its humor­ous cam­paign is part of a larg­er effort to “evolve the way Bud Light looks, acts and con­nects with mod­ern con­sumers.” It will con­tin­ue through­out the year with Schumer and Rogen ral­ly­ing “beer drinkers to put their dif­fer­ences aside and agree to agree on Bud Light.” In a pre­pared state­ment, Bud Light vice pres­i­dent Alexan­der Lam­brecht said, “This is more than just a Super Bowl ad. It’s a com­plete­ly new com­mu­ni­ca­tion of what Bud Light stands for – inclu­siv­i­ty, pos­i­tiv­i­ty and fun.”

Shock Top

Accord­ing to Shock Top, it part­nered with Miller “to deliv­er unfil­tered expe­ri­ences to beer lovers” in its first Super Bowl spot, which also marks the begin­ning of a year-long rela­tion­ship with the come­di­an. “Shock Top embraces an unfil­tered lifestyle and the Super Bowl will help launch our 2016 ‘Live Life Unfil­tered’ cam­paign, estab­lish­ing who we are with peo­ple around the coun­ty,” says Jake Kirsch, vice pres­i­dent of Shock Top. “We hope our ad strikes a chord and evokes a laugh among our drinkers and encour­ages them to con­sid­er us the next time they’re at the gro­cery store or bar.” Fur­ther, Kirsch says humor “is in our Shock Top DNA” and notes it’s also a great way to break down bar­ri­ers. In addi­tion, Kirsch says the brand opt­ed to work with Miller because he embod­ies the brand’s unfil­tered per­sona and, “We fig­ured if we are going to do this, we bet­ter go big or go home. And so to stay true to our brand and mantra of liv­ing life unfil­tered, we engaged [Miller] to say it like it is…to deliv­er a fresh, unex­pect­ed expe­ri­ence that promis­es to enter­tain, sur­prise and dri­ve a few laughs on Super Bowl Sun­day.”


Accord­ing to reports, Square­space is going for some­thing dif­fer­ent in its third Super Bowl com­mer­cial with comedic duo Key and Peele play­ing “two ridicu­lous char­ac­ters.” Indeed, Chris Paul, vice pres­i­dent of media and acqui­si­tions at Square­space, says the choice to work with Key and Peele was nat­ur­al because in part they are smart, cre­ative, and enter­tain­ing col­lab­o­ra­tors. “We’re high­ly con­scious of the fact that for most Amer­i­cans, the Super Bowl is an occa­sion to come togeth­er and cel­e­brate with friends and fam­i­ly,” Paul says. “We want­ed to make sure our ad was light and enter­tain­ing, while being aligned with our brand val­ues.” In a teas­er, Key and Peele – as aspir­ing sports­cast­ers Lee and Mor­ris – announced they will under­take the daunt­ing task of pro­vid­ing live com­men­tary through­out Sunday’s game.


But­terfin­ger announced its Super Bowl spot in Decem­ber with help from Periscope and a pro­fes­sion­al sky­div­er. And But­terfin­ger, too, is kick­ing off a new brand mes­sage — Bold­er Than Bold — with its 2016 Super Bowl play. In addi­tion, But­terfin­ger is anoth­er brand that says humor is in its DNA. And, per brand man­ag­er Kris­ten Man­del, “We always aim to make you laugh in the bold­er than bold approach we take in every­thing we do.” Fur­ther, Man­del says But­terfin­ger engaged Eich­n­er because he “embod­ies Butterfinger’s Bold­er Than Bold per­son­al­i­ty, and was the per­fect fit to help bring this fun and unique cam­paign to life for fans.”


The auto man­u­fac­tur­er is also launch­ing a new brand­ing cam­paign with its Super Bowl buy, which it says reflects its “mis­sion to make its vehi­cles and the entire con­sumer expe­ri­ence bet­ter.” In addi­tion, actors Kevin Hart and Ryan Reynolds will make cameos as the brand high­lights its 2017 Elantra and 2016 Gen­e­sis mod­els. “We want­ed to use a unique sto­ry­telling approach and A‑list tal­ent to delight and enter­tain the fans while show­cas­ing the lat­est tech­nol­o­gy avail­able in our vehi­cles,” said Dean Evans, chief mar­ket­ing offi­cer of Hyundai Motor Amer­i­ca, in a state­ment. In addi­tion, Eric Springer, chief cre­ative offi­cer of ad agency Inno­cean, said of come­di­an Hart’s spot, “Part stunt­man, part over­pro­tec­tive dad, alto­geth­er hys­ter­i­cal­ly fun­ny. There will be plen­ty of beer com­ing out of people’s noses this Super Bowl, thanks to [Hart] being in this spot.”

Lisa Lacy

Written by Lisa Lacy

Lisa is a senior features writer for Inked. She also previously covered digital marketing for Incisive Media. Her background includes editorial positions at Dow Jones, the Financial Times, the Huffington Post, AOL, Amazon, Hearst, Martha Stewart Living and the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.

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