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What Makes an Iconic Super Bowl Ad? The Elements That Make a Great Commercial

The Super Bowl, which attracts millions of viewers to both the game and the ads, is the biggest advertising event of the year. Brands invest millions of dollars in just 30 seconds of airtime (some even buy one second), so there is a lot of pressure to produce an impactful commercial. This year, a cost per 30 second ad is $7 million dollars. If you were to throw that cash behind an ad, how would you ensure it succeeds? What characteristics define a fantastic Super Bowl commercial? And really, what makes a memorable ad even on a regular day of the year? Let’s dive in. 


Proper Branding
The Super Bowl may be a one-off event but that doesn’t mean the marketing shouldn’t fit with all the other communication materials. No matter what you create, it should feel cohesive with your brand. Why is branding so important? A great brand can make people think of them without even saying a word. With the right logo and elements, people can quickly rationalize who is trying to reach them. A great example is this 2009 ad from Google

Stellar Storytelling
A powerful story has the power to move an audience and leave an enduring impression. An engaging tale that is pertinent to the brand and its audience is the key to a great Super Bowl ad. Nobody does that better than Budweiser and its famous Clydesdales. Every year, people look forward to seeing what these horses will get up to. 

It’s Enthralling
You can’t talk about Super Bowl ads without mentioning Apple’s 1984. It’s a classic for a big reason: it’s utterly enthralling. It only played once on TV (which is crazy!), didn’t have social media to go viral, but still managed to build huge hype. It catapulted Apple from an underdog company to the tech giant we know today. 

Even on a normal day, the ad world is cluttered. So providing a unique ad matters. People pay attention to new things. Take Volkswagen. They could have done the tried and true car commercial approach: pretty landscape, pretty song, etc. Instead, they showcased a unique feature of the vehicle through a unique story. It’s a car ad that doesn’t feel at all like a car ad. 

The Right Talent
These days, celebrities show up in almost every big game ad. It can create ads that feel hollow — like they just added the person for the news headline. It does help in some ways but if you want to leave a lasting impression, you have to choose the right person for the ad. Take the aforementioned Apple and Volkswagen ads: no celebrities in sight but they’re still talked about and rewatched to this day. They chose the right actors for the job, not the biggest names. 


That being said, we’re not against using celebrities – if they fit the story right. And by that, we mean Betty White is always the right call. 

Here’s a Secret
You don’t need Super Bowl budgets to get Super Bowl fame. You just need the right ideas. These days, sometimes the best ads associated with the Super Bowl didn’t even play during the game. Take Old Spice. Instead of trying to reach people on Sunday, they used YouTube and social media to get their ad out a few days before the big ad weekend. Then they added on TV buys but never actually appeared in the big game. Despite that, people, including new stations, thought it did.

Creating a Commercial? Call Us

They just followed all the other rules and came out on top, being named one of the top campaigns of the 21st century from Advertising Age. 

So, if you’re intending to make a Super Bowl commercial (or any commercial), keep these essential components in mind. Or, reach out to us and we’ll ensure all of these elements are factored in.