This year’s batch of Super Bowl commercials were chock full of poignant homages paid to dads. Zach Rosenberg breaks them down.
I spend a lot of time talking about fathers in commercials, and one thing’s certain in my mind: Super Bowl advertisers are very kind to fathers. It was no different in Super Bowl XLIX, where we saw a couple of tear-jerking fatherhood moments mashed between the normal beer and burger ads we’ve come to expect.
It has been said that as many as 50% of Super Bowl viewers tune in just for the commercials. This has lead to escalating costs over time. In fact, Super Bowl commercials have gone up 75% in price over the last decade. Super Bowl XLIX begged a whopping $4.5 million per 30-second ad.
That’s a lot of money. That’s a lot of pressure. But it’s also going in front of a lot of eyeballs. Advertisers want to put their best foot forward, but the truth is, you can even make a bad commercial and you’re still the talk of the town. Right, Nationwide?
It seemed like the volume of commercials featuring fathers was actually lower this year than it was last year; Super Bowl XLVIII saw “dadvertising” from Hyundai, Volkswagen, Cheerios, Microsoft, and Priceline. Hyundai and Volkswagen declined to advertise this year, which was interesting since they rounded out the top five ad spenders in the last five years (Hyundai Corp. at $70m and Volkswagen at $68m).
Nevertheless, the car industry still had a showing for fathers during Super Bowl XLIX. Last year, Toyota banked on Terry Crews and The Muppets. This year, Toyota punched everyone right in the heart with a touching tribute to “My Bold Dad” in their spot for the 2015 Camry:
Toyota hits all the right notes in this one. “Being a dad is more than being a father,” the ad begins. What we’re then whisked through is 18 years of father-daughter relationship, culminating with the daughter leaving for the Army. The final scene where dad is crying as he watches his daughter walk into the airport. Oh. My.
Toyota also featured a commercial called “How Great I Am“, featuring Paralympian Amy Purdy and the words of Muhammad Ali. Interestingly enough, leading up to the Super Bowl, Toyota had featured other Purdy spots on their YouTube channel, instead including Purdy’s father.
Saatchi & Saatchi LA was the agency behind both “How Great I Am” and “My Bold Dad” (as well as last year’s Terry Crews spot). The agency is no stranger to commercials featuring dads though; in 2014, they were responsible for at least three other Toyota spots featuring dads, as well as a handful of Tide, Crest, and Cheerios spots. Cheerios, by the way, opted out of the Super Bowl this year as well, though before the Big Game, they re-ran a 2014 Bromley agency commercial called “Third Shift“, about a boy that wakes up in the middle of the night to have a midnight meal with his father before he leaves for his late-night job.
Nissan’s journey to the Super Bowl took them from featuring YouTube viral video creators (and their dads, kids) on their channel to creating a scripted spot for the game about a father who just couldn’t seem to stop racing to be with his family:
Featuring Harry Chapin’s classic father/son song, “Cats in the Cradle”, the commercial has drawn mixed reviews from viewers. Is the father a jerk for not being around? Is he a father stuck at the intersection of work/life balance? Could he have taken time away from racing to raise his son? Should he have? Why “Cats in the Cradle,” a song about a father who can’t make time for his son, only to have the son grow up and not have time for his father? Does anyone remember that Harry Chapin died in a car accident?
TBWA\CHIAT\DAY\LA handled the commercial for Nissan. They were also behind Johnson & Johnson’s 2014 spot, “For All You Love”, and a couple of past Infiniti ads featuring fathers.
Unilever’s Dove Men+Care brand debuted at Super Bowl XLIV in 2010, and they hadn’t returned to advertise since. This year, Dove Men+Care modified their 2014 Father’s Day spot to focus on their tagline “care makes a man stronger”. Titled “Real Strength,” the ad actually features some dad bloggers and their kids alongside actors:
The spot was aided by Edelman and The Marketing Arm. Dove Men+Care actually partnered with Dr. Michael Kimmel, a sociologist and author specializing in modern masculinity, to do a study about what men feel defines their strength. In brief, Kimmel and Dove Men+Care found that men overwhelmingly say that the definition of “masculinity” has changed, and that 9 out of 10 men say that their caring side is a show of strength. You can read more about that study here.
Those big three brands made for the major dad-featuring commercials at the Super Bowl XLIX. On a lighter note, Frito-Lay brand Doritos flat-out said that they’d been hearing a lot about dads and puppies this year, so they decided to make a commercial with both:
But even better than that, Doritos tweeted out during the rest of the Super Bowl, lampooning other brands’ commercials (or cross-promoting, depending on how cynical you are). One tweet took aim at Nissan:
— Doritos (@Doritos) February 2, 2015
If you showed up late to the Super Bowl party, maybe you missed an Avocados from Mexico spot featuring ex-NFL players Doug Flutie and Jerry Rice, discussing babysitters:
The spot came from Wieden + Kennedy, who gave people a groanworthy glimpse of dads in 2014 in their Old Spice commercial, “Dad Song“.
Elsewhere: A dad and daughter walked through Carnival cruise line’s “Come Back to the Sea” spot, probably on the way to one of responsible-agency BBDO’s better father-featuring commercials for brands like AT&T and Lowe’s.
McDonald’s wraps up this list with a couple of dads hugging their kids in the “Pay With Lovin” spot to score a free burger. Agency Leo Burnett helped with the spot, which also featured dads in 2014 in commercials for Nintendo, Hallmark and Allstate.
Overall, dads did really well at the Super Bowl. Though we still have to sit through our beer and burger ads, Super Bowl commercials have grown-up in some ways. It’s good to see fathers in caring and loving roles, and with the recent surges of fathers as caregivers and family consumers, it’s no wonder agencies and brands are quick to invest millions into the image of dads in Super Bowl commercials.
What’s our over-under on seeing more dads in commercials next year?
Photo Credit: YouTube/screen capture (Nissan commercial)