Super Bowl 51: A New Hope

01/26/2017 03:10 pm ET Updated Jan 27, 2018

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Chris Cardew, Head of Strategy, Mindshare UK

Predictions, it turns out, are a dangerous thing when it comes to guessing what might happen when America thrusts itself into the star spangled spotlight of the worlds eyes and ears.

Not that I’m comparing the relative insignificance of the ad breaks of an annual American football game with that of a presidential election, but you forgive me for saying that in previous years, guessing the outcome of a US election might have been easier than guessing what shock advertising tactics Doritos or Hyundai were going to use to ‘win’ the Super Bowl.

My one prediction is that the Presidential Election, and result, will undoubtedly have been the context through which most brands and their agencies would have crafted their small screen stories.

It’s highly likely that many of the fifty or so brands that will feature in the Super Bowl would have needed to have created their ads in advance of the election result. Stakeholder approvals aside, the advanced production techniques required for the global advertising stage take time, and at around $5m a pop for 30 seconds, very few will have been willing to leave it until that gut wrenching result on November 8th to get going.  

My guess for those that did is that their ‘election-result-proof’ creative strategy would have been to create an ad that promotes the ideal of positive, peace and unity, but executed in a way abstract enough to not be explicitly making a political point of view. The advertising antidote to Trump’s policy on, well, everything, a big peace and positivity message would have perfectly ridden the coat tails Hillary’s campaign had she squeezed in, but will be equally relevant now the big guy is in, as a sort of ‘advertising call to arms’ to the nation to lift their heads up and get on with it. So peace and positivity, win win.

For those brands more nimble and prepared to wait until the result was announced to craft the perfect contextual response, and depending on the bravery (or political leanings) of the client, the brand and it’s target audience, my guess is that we will see the majority flipping a Trump sized bird at the man himself – especially if art directed or written by a woman, Mexican, Muslim or relative of a New York Times journalist. And if that bird had a name, it would be called Diversity.

In 2016 Beyonce set the stage and social feeds alight, with her politically charged performance in support of Black Lives Matter, sending an all-out message (and subsequent petition) to Congress that America wasn’t going to turn a blind eye to police violence. The stage has been set.

I would expect and hope that brands that serve ‘everyone’ (soda, cars, chips) will over-represent what right wing America believes to be the ‘minority’ – Muslims, Mexican and young black women, to celebrate America as wonderfully diverse and open nation. There is no excuse if they don’t. If the response to Trump winning should have influenced one thing in their creative process, is that the majority of America don’t want a country filled with just white people. This is a huge opportunity for a brand to win the hearts of minority communities at a time when they will likely be feeling under-represented, but hopefully defiant.

For any brand with a youth audience, the Super Bowl is a huge opportunity to engage this audience en masse with a message that makes them believe in the importance of their future. With youth advocate First Lady Michelle Obama stepping down, this generation risk being neglected so I wouldn’t be surprised if a youth brand such as Doritos grabbed the opportunity to fly their flag, albeit with a dose of satire and comedy, just to keep it on brand. They created rainbow coloured chips in support of the LGBT community so this is a brand definitely brave enough to put itself out there.

Brands that have traditionally used a male lead in their Super Bowl advertising will likely (or hopefully) have reappraised their casting strategy in response to Mrs Clinton failing to smash that glass ceiling. Last year 25% of the Super Bowl ads had no women in them at all, a missed opportunity considering 50% of the viewing audience are women (although Mini’s ad featuring Serena Williams was spot on).

2017 is a great opportunity for typically male-targeted industries such as autos, beers and tech to better represent their female customers, even if they aren’t the end user of the product. A great opportunity for Budweiser or Audi to demonstrate some cultural relevance and break the mould for women in advertising. If they need some ideas, they should look to Marks and Spencer’s 2016 Christmas campaign for an example of how to make a kick ass ad with a strong female lead.        

As President and First lady Obama step into the political shadows, the USA needs Super Bowl advertisers to keep their diversity message alive. If there is one thing these advertisers could learn from President Trump, it’s that shock tactics work. I just hope they use them for good.