Well, Super Bowl 51 has come and gone. Along with it came some monumental milestones like the first-ever Super Bowl overtime, a modern-day take on the stage dive during halftime, and a few commercials filmed in (almost) real time. As 100 million Americans gathered around wings, beers, and television, they weren’t just served a game with a tremendous comeback story, but a series of heavily-produced commercials as well.
In a quick poll of the office millennials (we are a digital company, so naturally there are plenty of millennials around), I found a common theme about the commercials from the Big Game—a tug at your heartstrings. This year seemed to lack the same volume of commercials that made you laugh as compared with previous years. As one co-worker pointed out, she wasn’t disappointed in the commercials, but they were different than expected.
As those commercials were playing, many of the memorable moments were political. That being said, the commercials with a political undertone made the biggest impact. No matter what side of the fence you tend to fall on, the theme of immigration was prominent in many ads. Brands that did this most successfully made you feel invested by telling you a story. One advertiser told the history of their founder and the overwhelming challenges faced by him and other immigrants who travel to America.
Another advertiser showed a glimpse into the life of a struggling family, but showed just a teaser hoping that viewers would be curious enough to find out the end of the story by continuing the experience online. And these ads were impactful. They hit you in the feels. They really made you empathize with the immigrants and their search for a new life.
While immigration seemed to be the most repeated theme of the Super Bowl ads this year, topics like equal pay and diversity also made an appearance. The two ads that brought up these topics went as far as to commit to embracing the issue addressed in their ad as a core value of their company. Think about the impact that will have as they implement these changes. It isn’t just a simple one-time action, but an entire shift in their goals, focus, and progress from here on out. These companies aren’t just advertising a product—they are also advertising a belief, a mindset, a value system.
So as we gathered around the television this past weekend watching what is generally acknowledged as the largest advertising event of the year, we watched brands try to sell us an idea. Their goal is to get the audience to help them achieve this idea by using their product. They are saying that it is no longer about which car you choose, but what that car company does with their resources and their impact.
Millennials have been nicknamed “The Cause Generation” for their focus on contributing to the greater good, and advertisers are trying to capitalize on that. These advertisers make you feel that subscribing to an idea, a cause, or movement narrows your choices of how to spend your money. They are doing their best to appeal to this “Cause Generation” while they are still in their prime years for developing brand loyalty.
As we look back, the biggest lesson learned from the Super Bowl commercials of 2017 is that politics is everywhere. Political undertones are woven into our daily lives. As the digitally-inclined, cause-oriented, millennial generation is moving into the greater buying power demographic, we may expect to see more commercials similar to those presented during the Big Game. Hopefully, this leads to good things in our country, with more and more people (especially millennials) getting involved, contributing and taking an interest in national and local political issues.