NEW YORK, N.Y. – Super Bowl advertisers on Sunday night sought to win over viewers in a variety of ways.
McDonald’s called for loving, Coke demanded more positivity, and Nationwide told the story of a dead boy.
Here’s a look at the big game’s ad highlights.
Nationwide insurance company’s ad showed a boy riding a school bus and lamenting he’ll never learn to fly, or travel the world with my best friend, or even grow up, because he died in an accident. The ad for Nationwide was aimed at stopping preventable childhood accidents.
But the ad was so jarring it became the butt of jokes on social media.
Nissan, meanwhile, returned to the Super Bowl after 18 years with an ad featuring the story line of an up-and-coming race driver and his wife struggling to balance work and raising their son.
Some fans noted the ad was set to “Cats in the Cradle” by Harry Chapin, who was killed in a car crash.
TRYING TO IMPROVE BRAND IMAGE
Some companies had a lot to prove — and it showed in their ads.
McDonald’s returned to the Super Bowl with an ad for its latest promotion, which will let randomly selected customers pay for their orders with acts of love, like a high-five, fist bump or a call to a relative. The promotion starts Monday and runs through Feb. 14
The McDonald’s ad was an extension of the company’s recently launched campaign seeking to associate its brand with the positive emotion of loving as it fights to hold onto customers amid intensifying competition.
According to the contest rules posted online, McDonald’s says each participating restaurant will select 100 winners over the course of the contest.
Meanwhile, Carnival Cruise Lines’ ad included a voiceover by John F. Kennedy speaking about the sea. The world’s largest cruise company was trying to boost the image of cruises with its first ever Super Bowl ad after several years of bad publicity from illnesses on ships and the Costa Concordia wreck in 2012.
And Coca-Cola’s ad called for positivity in in the face of online negativity.
The company’s “Make It Happy” ad was an update on its long-running strategy of getting people to associate its soft drinks with happiness at a time when people increasingly see them as unhealthy.
VOICEOVERS WERE BIG
Toyota’s first ad starred Paralympic medallist Amy Purdy snowboarding and dancing, set to a speech by Muhammad Ali that ends with: “I’ll show you how great I am.”
A Microsoft ad with a voiceover by rapper Common told the story of Braylon O’Neill, a boy who was born missing the tibia and fibula bones in both of his legs, so he had to learn to live with prosthetic legs developed by the company.
And of course, there was Carnival’s audio clip of JFK.
PUPPY LOVE … AGAIN
Budweiser’s “Lost Puppy” ad was a winner before it even aired during the Super Bowl. The ad, which shows a puppy running away to find his Clydesdale buddies, already had 18 million views on YouTube ahead of the game.
It’s a tried-and-true formula. Last year, Budweiser broke records with its Super Bowl spot, “Puppy Love,” which was a Top 10 branded content video and Top 10 video overall on YouTube.
Chevrolet’s ad “Blackout” appeared to be a live game feed that turned into static and a blank screen. The company used the trick to show its Colorado truck has 4G LTE Wi Fi, so people could stream the game live in the truck. The spot was an early star of the ad game: It came just before kickoff.
LOTS OF FIRST-TIMERS
There were 15 new Super Bowl advertisers this year, the most since 2000, before the economy fell into what would be the first of two recessions. Advertising experts say the rookie interest in Super Bowl ads is a positive sign companies are feeling good in the most recent economic recovery. The newcomers included Skittles and Carnival.
In its ad, first-timer Wix.com showed retired NFL players opening fictional businesses; Terrell Owens starts a pie company, and Brett Favre starts charcuterie business, Favre and Carve.
Wix.com lets people create their own websites.
CAREFUL NOT TO OFFEND
GoDaddy decided not to run an ad that showed a dog being sold online so as not to offend dog lovers. Instead, it showed a business owner toiling away instead of enjoying the Super Bowl. The company says it was created overnight from file footage and narrated by an agency art director who had never done voiceover work.
Follow Candice Choi at www.twitter.com/candicechoi