Anatomy of a Super Bowl Commercial

While the Super Bowl may be a few weeks passed, the good commercials likely have kept you coming back, feeding the replay buttons. We’re breaking down the essence of the best so you can bring these ideas to your work.

Every year the Super Bowl continues to challenge the top spot for America’s most televised sporting event. Over 111 million, on average, participate in this U.S. spectacle over wings, pizza, and Budweiser (or Bud light if you’re looking to stay thin). Because of these great statistics, the average 30 second commercial costs about 4 million U.S. dollars, and that is only to air. With such huge stakes on the line, companies go all out on these great 30 second to 1:00 minute spots and we’re looking at my two favorites to see what makes them so successful.


The Premise

Depending on your ad spot, amount of time the ad will be airing, advertisers are going to set the premise of the commercial; usually a quick note, joke, or imagery that foreshadows the commercial.

The premise is incredibly important. With a large percentage of viewers watching the Super Bowl just for the commercials, advertisers need to grab their attention quickly. Setting the premise informs the viewer if they will like the commercial, and therefore watch it, or turn away. This is done through many different techniques.

Volkswagen Game Day 2013 Commercial - Get In. Get Happy.

Volkswagen Game Day 2013 Commercial | Get In. Get Happy.

In the Volkswagen commercial, my Super Bowl favorite, they set the premise early and quickly by making it first relatable (the drab office setting) and then set up intrigue with the Jamaican accent. The actor then says, “No worries mon, everting will be all right. Haha. Yea mon!” creating a deeper connection to the audience explaining the story to be.

So the premise is set with visual and audio cues that are likely relatable and the Jamaican accent, often funny and whimsical, sets up the intrigue. The dialogue describes what is exactly going to transpire in the commercial. This office man will be the office hero, bringing happiness to all those who have a bad case of the Monday’s  (or any office day in general).

Samsung Mobile USA - The Next Big Thing - YouTube

Samsung Mobile USA – The Next Big Thing

My second place favorite, brought to you from Samsung, develops their ad in a very similar way. They set up intrigue and “relatability” with actors who are funny and pretty well recognized. After catching your attention, the foreshadowing hits with their bickering back and forth, bringing forth questions on who is the spokesman and who, or what, the “Next Big Thing” is.

Bringing Home the Meat

Hook, Line, and now the Sinker. Ad marketers keep your stomach full and your teeth chewing by continuing to reiterate on their initial premise. If that’s what got you to start watching, surely it will be what keeps you watching.

Volkswagen Game Day 2013 Commercial - Get In. Get Happy. - Good Vibes

While setting the good vibes, clever jokes, and subtle nuances perpetuate the story. Bringing you in to what you are already familiar with in what could be the end. Does the office hero save everyone from unhappiness? How does he do it? Don’t worry, your questions will be answered—and then it will all come full circle to start again.

“No worries mon, everting will be all right. Haha. Yea mon!”

In Samsung’s case, as their actors build on the jokes, they bring in LeBron James to curb the risk of losing their audience (recognizing that you can only listen to rambling jokes for so long). This keeps the story fresh, brings in new jokes, and begs to question: Who truly is the next big thing?

Coming Full Circle

In a similar fashion to how each ad starts, they must equally end. Killing an ad is not easy and is a labor of love much like starting a story: How do you write the first sentence? As with most ads, the key are these 2 things:

  • Positively Increase Brand Awareness
  • Make you Buy their product

So how effective are these commercials? Do they do the 2 things above? If you aren’t creating positive brand awareness and you aren’t creating a new customer, you haven’t really developed much of a creative or successful commercial. In the end, if it doesn’t do the any of the 2 above, no matter how funny or great it may appear to be, isn’t really worth the 4 million invested.


So do you go out and buy? These ads do, at the very least, build positive brand awareness. If you own either product, you might feel happy or invigorated. You might just think you did the right thing in your purchase. If you’re a new buyer, you may take a second look at these companies. The products they show aren’t necessarily what they are selling—You might feel inclined to buy a VW but not necessarily the Bug.

As such, these ads end as they begun. Samsung still doesn’t have a concrete way to say who will be “The Next Big Thing” for their commercial; LeBron, Seth, Paul, or maybe another celebrity? Volkswagen shows the positive infection growing, soon others will be office heros, taking fellow coworkers in rides until the office is happy. Ensuring that the commercial ends similarly to how it began is very important: it keeps your trust. They understand that if they tried to throw you a curveball and do the opposite of your expectations, you might feel cheated or betrayed—that they toyed with you in the beginning to watch. This doesn’t bode well and likely wont help sell or build better brand awareness.

What were your favorite ads and how did they engage you? How important do you think these ads are in delivering ROI or extending brand awareness? Let us know in the comments below!