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Super bowl ads showcase companies’ humanity

In years past, the best-known Super Bowl commercials have been attention-grabbing, provocative and, most often, funny.  But this year, many brands took a different approach: connecting with consumers by showcasing the company’s human side.

This year's ads reflect a growing global public concern with the environment, the preservation of limited resources, and, especially, with the businesses' involvement in sustainable practices. This approach is exemplified by Chrysler’s Jeep Renegade "Beautiful Lands" commercial, which showcased stunning locations around the world and ended with the slogan: “The world is a gift. Play responsibly.”

The data supports the idea that highlighting corporate social responsibility can improve a brand’s appeal. According to a study published in the International Journal of Advertising, 76 percent of consumers are more likely to switch to a brand that supports a social cause. 

Another reason emotive storytelling dominated the 2015 Super Bowl ads: research shows that people strive for more social connectedness when faced with uncertainty, negative affect, and existential concerns. Given several escalating international conflicts repeatedly broadcast on national television this past year, it is no wonder that people are more sensitive to issues that make us more human (as opposed to machines) and more connected to others. This can be seen in Budweiser’s "Lost Dog" commercial that features a rugged and handsome farmer searching for his lost puppy. The puppy is eventually rescued and brought back home to the farmer and we see the twitter hashtag: #BestBuds. The story reflects the human values of love, friendship, caring and giving back to others.

A similar sentiment can be found in Coke's #MakeItHappy ad and Always' "Redefining ‘throw like a girl’” commercials. Both of these connect greatly with consumers in times of uncertainty. In Coke’s ad, negative activities—such as TV news pundits yelling at each other and kids receiving bullying text messages—are transformed into positive ones through the power of Coca Cola. Ending with the words: “The world is what we make it. #MakeItHappy,” the ad calls on people to make the world a better place to live in - a world full of love, respect, and free from cyberbullying.

In the Always ad, girls and boys are each asked to perform various activities (i.e., running, throwing) “like a girl.” The ad—which ends with the words “Let’s make ‘like a girl’ mean amazing things”—asks the audience to help create a world free of negative stereotypes that generally trigger low self-esteem resulting in depression or eating disorders, to name just a few examples.

Overall, during Super Bowl XLIX, many brands chose to demonstrate to consumers that they are not silent bystanders but instead are keenly aware of today’s greatest social problems and are eager to lead the way in finding solutions and preserving humanity, and, at the end of the day, to be more human themselves. 


By Marina Puzakova, Assistant Professor, Marketing Department, College of Business and Economics
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This year's Super Bowl ads, says Lehigh's Marina Puzakova, were intended to show consumers that companies "are not silent bystanders but instead are keenly aware of today’s greatest social problems."