Insights From The Super Bowl Ads

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By: Dr. David Bridwell, People Scientist

The 2020 Super Bowl ads demonstrate where we are as a society in terms of changes in the way companies advertise on media. The key change that we’re going to see in the next five years is that commercials will become personalized — people who are watching the same TV show might not all see the same commercials. 

If we imagine that the 2020 Super Bowl was the first time the perspective of personalization reached public awareness, then our experience with these ads reflects an early cultural exposure to what personalized TV will look like. In short, it might look a little confusing. 

The viewers will have to adapt, for example, since they might see an ad designed for a niche community that they aren’t a part of. The advertising agencies will have to adapt in conjunction with the technology so that their ads are personalized appropriately for the audiences that are targeted. 

There are some Super Bowl commercials that appear to reflect the personalization mindset, even though we currently can’t send personalized TV commercials. The best example comes from the Sabra hummus ad. The ad featured 19 mid-level celebrities, including YouTubers and Tik Tok stars. 

If the ad were personalized, we might expect that each celebrity could have posted their individual segment of the commercial to their social media platform: therefore, allowing the commercial to reach its optimal audience. You might imagine that creators of the commercial started with this perspective and then adapted it to the mass appeal super bowl commercial by combining the 19 celebrities together into one commercial, generating broader appeal. 

Now, we’re not recommending this strategy for generating an effective ad, we’re just recognizing that the commercial reflects a mix between the personalization perspective, social media culture and the mass appeal TV ad. The commercial reflects the increasing influence of social media on culture. It reflects the growing impact of social media cultures on the mass appeal TV commercial. 

And this is something that might be really appropriate and impactful 5 or 10 years from now when personalized commercials are possible. For example, if the Sabra commercial could have been segmented into 19 separate ads for the fans of each celebrity, then each commercial would find its appropriate audience (and those who aren’t familiar with the celebrities wouldn’t have seen it). 

There’s a similar mentality in the baby nut commercial from Planters peanuts. This commercial leverages the power of social media in engaging people, and it leverages the fact that people aren’t just watching the Super Bowl; they’re using social media to talk about it. The commercial also appears to leverage the cultural zeitgeist of Baby Yoda. Society is prepared for a baby version of a brand spokesperson as a result of our recent exposure to Baby Yoda. 

Psychologically, we aren’t quite ready to see companies leveraging meme culture, and many people were confused by these commercials. But this perspective might be very effective in 5 or 10 years when personalized ads are a possibility. If you have the ability to know which viewers are involved in niche internet communities, then you can show that commercial only to that niche community.  

This transition between traditional and personal ads is going to result in growing pains at multiple levels. Viewers will have to psychologically adjust to seeing more personal ads, the technology will have to adapt, and brands will have to adapt to this new perspective. It’s not going to be a smooth fit until they’re all aligned with each other. 

Check out our video Did That TV Commercial Just Read My Mind? to learn more about the future of personalized TV ads.

To learn more, check out our webinar on Psychological Insights and Marketing Trends for 2020.