Another Super Bowl has gone by. And with that, another opportunity for advertisers to speak to the largest American television audience of the year.
Here at the Ad Council, we’re always looking at how advertising affects our behaviors and social attitudes. And this year’s Super Bowl ads had no shortage of fodder for this discussion. Below are our notes on the ads that contained strong social messages.
Bank of America “Invisible”
Two advertisers dedicated 60 seconds of airtime to promote nonprofit partnerships that included strong public calls to action. In the splashier of the two, Bank of America teamed up with U2 to support Product (RED), an organization co-founded in 2006 by Bono to fight AIDS. In the spot, U2 performed their new single “Invisible” and encouraged downloads of the song on iTunes, where it will be available for free for the next 24 hours. Bank of America will donate $1 to (RED) for each download (up to $2 million) for one day. Beyond the downloads, U2, (RED) and Bank of America expect to generate more than $10 million in donations and funding for the campaign.
On a more subdued and emotional note – Chevrolet’s 60-second spot was equally captivating. To support the company’s longstanding relationship with the American Cancer Society, Chevy asked viewers to go online and change their Facebook and Twitter profiles to purple, the color of cancer survival, in time for World Cancer Day on Tuesday, February 4. Through its Purple Roads initiative, Chevy has committed to donate $1 per profile to ACS (up to $1 million) to help ensure cancer patients and their families have access to needed services, such as transportation to and from treatment for when they do not have a ride.
This past spring Cheerios released an ad featuring a multiracial couple that received some racial backlash. For their Super Bowl ad, Cheerios decided to revisit its biracial family – a subtle nod towards the changing demographics of American families. The adorable family moment captured in the 30-second spot shows a father telling his daughter she would soon have a baby brother, only to be countered with his daughter negotiating for a puppy. According to the New York Times, the ad is the first time that Cheerios has advertised during the Super Bowl.
Coca-Cola “It’s Beautiful”
Continuing with the trend of multicultural unity, Coca-Cola departed from its iconic polar bear mascot and instead produced a decidedly patriotic spot: “It’s Beautiful” celebrates several cultures, identities, and origins of Americans through a multilingual rendition of the emotionally evocative “America the Beautiful.” The ad sparked a hot debate on Twitter about what being American means. Some of the discussion focused on what appeared to be the first gay family featured in a Super Bowl ad, other conversations revolved around the ad not being performed in English. While it didn’t leave us thirsting for a coke, “It’s Beautiful” will undoubtedly leave a long-lasting impression, and keep the country talking about social issues (from immigration to family structures).
It’s not clear what product or service Microsoft was promoting with its “Empowering” spot. But what’s certain is that Microsoft aimed to position itself as a leader in technologies that produce social change. This 60-second montage of space travel and disabled-assistance programs tugged at the heart-strings. (Nevermind the fact that Microsoft is not necessarily known for its work in aerospace or medical technology.) This forward-looking ad recalled AT&T’s “You Will” campaign from the 1990s.