February 2, 2016

Super Bowl Ad Trends + What to Expect in 2016


Super Bowl 50 is less than a week away, which means it’s almost time to gather around our TVs or devices of choice… to watch commercials. One survey found that 78 percent of Americans are more excited about Super Bowl commercials than the game itself. The Super Bowl is a huge day for advertisers, who compete to make the best and most memorable spots — with good reason, as it recently became the most-watched American television event in history.

Agencies examine societal trends for months before creating spots, in order to reflect the current zeitgeist. This can cause some similarities, and every year, there seems to be at least one common theme in multiple Super Bowl ads. Let’s recap on trends from the past few years, and see what’s in store for us this year.

2012: The Year of the Animals

Some of the most popular ads of Super Bowl XLVI involved animals, and the reasoning for that is simple: everyone loves them. In a Doritos spot, a Great Dane casually buries a family cat, and then bribes the owner with Doritos to keep him. VW’s “The Dog Strikes Back” by Deutsch L.A. and Bud Lights “Here Weego” by Cannonball, St. Louis also featured dogs. Other animal cameos included chimpanzees, a cheetah, and animated polar bears.

2013: The Year of the Uplifting Cars

A Volkswagen spot showed an office full of gloomy coworkers with one overly enthusiastic VW owner. In an Audi spot, a high school kid goes dateless to prom, but the stars align in his favor when his dad hands him the keys to his car. Then, in a Hyundai spot, a kid assembles a team to take on a neighborhood bully, which is made possible by his mom’s seven-passenger Santa Fe. Basically, a lot of advertisers wanted us to believe that cars would make our wildest dreams come true in 2013.

2014: The Year of the Good Feels

Ads that were made to put a smile on your face reigned supreme in 2014. Some of the most popular ads from this year incorporated nostalgic elements like the Muppets in a Toyota spot and Full House stars for Oikos Greek Yogurt. The champion of 2014, however, was Budweiser’s “Puppy Love,” by Anomaly. The ad, which featured an adorable friendship between a puppy and a Clydesdale, racked up over 23 million views before it even aired for the game. For those of us who would have rather been watching the puppy bowl, this commercial was on point.

2015: The Year of “Dadvertising”

2015 was a big year for Dad-positive spots that dramatized touching fatherly moments. Notable “Dadvertisements” of Super Bowl 49 include “Be a Dad” by Toyota and #RealStrength for Dove Men + Care. Clearly, this approach is popular with viewers, as the 2015 Nissan spot “With Dad” now has more than 22 million views on YouTube.

Several brands have released teasers for upcoming Super Bowl ads. This approach helps to get people talking about the content before it airs live. This year, it looks like brands are making a move towards humor over the sincere, lecturing style we’ve seen in years past. Budweiser’s spot featuring Seth Rogan and Amy Schumer, Kia Optima’s Walken Closet, and Shock Top’s pre-released extended spot indicate that we can expect a lighter tone for Super Bowl 50.