Adams & Knight Marketing Blog
POSTED BY: Pat Dugan

Will this year’s Super Bowl ads be purpose-driven? And should they?


Here’s a scenario. You’re the manager of a brand. A big one. Like, big enough to buy a $5 million spot during this year’s Super Bowl. So here’s the question:

Do you go the “socially conscious” route?

That is, will your Super Bowl message be “purpose-driven?” Will it make a statement about what your brand stands for? Will it plant a stake in the ground and say, “these are our values…this is what we believe?”

Or…do you say “Ehhh, we may do that at some point, but not during the Super Bowl.” Do you decide that millions of Americans, and your audience, are looking for pure entertainment and a much-needed distraction from the issues of the day…not a preachy lecture?

I know, I know…you can’t really make this decision without knowing what your brand is, and who it’s talking to. It would be one decision for a snack food company and a much different one for, say, a pharmaceutical conglomerate.

But it’s a decision many brand managers are wrestling with, as research shows younger generations want brands to stand for something bigger than products or services…and inspire a lot more than just sales. Hence, recent brand statements like Gillette’s “The Best Men Can Be” campaign and Patagonia’s very public decision to sue the Trump Administration over protected land like Bears Ears National Monument.

Personally, I think a Super Bowl spot can be both purpose-driven and entertaining at the same time, but it’s a nerve-wracking, live-wire needle to thread…the slightest misstep gets your brand talked about for all the wrong reasons. Nobody wants to be the Super Bowl’s Debbie Downer (see Nationwide’s now infamous “Dead Kid” ad).

So, hypothetical (or perhaps real) brand manager, what’s your decision? Will your Super Bowl ad make a powerful statement about your brand’s purpose…on the world’s biggest stage? Or will you save the issues-oriented messages for days other than Super Sunday?

On Sunday, February 3, we’ll find out what the managers of the world’s biggest brands decided.

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Pat Dugan
Executive Creative Director
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