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Arts & Culture

Super Bowl’s Commercial Appeal

Consumer Behavior Expert Ranks Most Memorable 2019 Ads

By Annie Krakower

Tom Brady still from Super Bowl ad

Images by Verizon, Budweiser, NFL, Pepsi and Kia Motors

A Super Bowl commercial celebrating the NFL's 100th anniversary featured 44 current and past greats of the game, including Tom Brady, partaking in some banquet-hall antics.

The Super Bowl is one of those rare times when viewers don’t search for the “skip ad” option. And with that amplified audience glued to the screen, with wings and buffalo chicken dip in tow, companies might as well go for it with their commercials, said Henry C. Boyd, clinical professor of marketing at the University of Maryland.Henry Boyd

“It’s not a time to be shy, if you’re going to spend that kind of money,” he said. “It’s a rare window.”

A licensed attorney and expert in consumer behavior in the Robert H. Smith School of Business, Boyd (left) has consulted for brands including the NFL, Verizon and Progressive Insurance, which tapped him to help create its marketing campaign targeting Super Bowl 50 viewers.

He’s particularly an observer of social messaging in Super Bowl commercials, from the 2017 Audi “Daughter” ad that celebrated a future of gender equality to Coca-Cola’s classic 1979 “Mean Joe Greene” spot that brought together an iconic African-American football player and a young white boy.

“It had better be something, at a minimum, entertaining,” Boyd said, “and, even better, inspiring.”

With that in mind, here are Boyd’s five most notable ads and trends from Sunday night, when the New England Patriots defeated the Los Angeles Rams, 13–3:

1. Verizon

Verizon Super Bowl ad

As part of a larger campaign honoring first responders, this 60-second commercial reunited Los Angeles Chargers Head Coach Anthony Lynn with those who helped save his life in 2005, when he was hit by a car going 50 miles per hour. The emotional spot ends with the tagline, “First responders answer the call. Our job is to make sure they can get it.”

“Verizon can allude to the fact that we are reliable, we will be there,” Boyd said. “I have a feeling some folks shed a tear, too.”

2. Budweiser

Budweiser Super Bowl ad

While the Bud Light-“Game of Thrones” promotion was a surprise collaboration, the simpler, a more classic Budweiser ad also had an impact. The camera pans over an iconic Dalmatian riding on a Clydesdale-drawn carriage through a field, with windmills and Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” in the background to emphasize that the beverage is now brewed with wind power.

“Music forges an instant connection,” Boyd said. “It draws in boomers, but also younger generations.”

3. NFL's 100th Anniversary

Jim Brown NFL Super Bowl commercial

Going more the humorous route, the National Football League celebrated its century mark with two minutes of antics in a banquet room, bringing a bevy of the sport’s legends together. Marshawn Lynch goes all “beast mode,” Joe Montana shows off his arm and Tom Brady pops off his five rings—before earning his sixth Sunday night.

“You talk about having generations of people watching, saying, ‘That’s my star,’” Boyd said. “They even had Jim Brown—talk about reaching back.”

4. Celeb Spots (Bumble, Pepsi, Amazon, etc.)

Steve Carell Pepsi Super Bowl commercial

Several companies turned to the tried and true: famous faces to promote their product. Bumble, for instance, had Serena Williams stress taking action instead of waiting for your opportunity. Pepsi featured Steve Carell, Cardi B and Lil Jon to emphasize that its soft drink is “more than okay.” And Amazon drew on Harrison Ford’s appeal, showing him battling his dog, who’d gone rogue with an Alexa version of a dog collar.

“You see a celebrity, you stop what you’re doing,” Boyd said. “The use of celebrities in humorous spots works really well.”

5. Kia

Super Bowl Kia commercial

The car company featured a small Georgia town, miles away from the big game in Atlanta, and “the great unknowns” residing there. You might not know who they are, but the focus, the ad dictated, should be on what they do.

“They were resonating with small-town values,” Boyd said. “They were shifting the spotlight on folks who really deserve it.”

Maryland Today is produced by the Office of Marketing and Communications for the University of Maryland community on weekdays during the academic year, except for university holidays.