The Best Superbowl Commercials of 2016

Although small businesses like ours are a far cry away from affording a multi-million Super Bowl slot, there is a lot to learn from these video advertisements. As we have discussed, storytelling is essential in any brand messaging. 

Here are some of the Super Bowl ads we love the most (and why):

Budweiser - "Give a Damn"

There are so many reasons why this Budweiser ad makes the list. The message is simple, strong and effective. It is all about brand values -- supporting a safe drinking environment and eliminating drunk driving. Budweiser has been known to air some serious spots (like this post-9/11 tribute). As opposed to the post-9/11 commercial (that stars the trademark clydesdales), I like that "Give a Damn" focuses entirely on the PSA-style message.

Audi - "The Commander"

Audi aces the Freytag Plot Pyramid in this heart-wrenching advertisement. The main character, a retired astronaut, rediscovers his passion for life with the help of his son (and an Audi R8 V10 Plus, of course). For the first time in a long time, we can empathize with the commercial's main character. Many companies forego ad vulnerability and depth in favor of a humorous plot or no plot at all. Audi took a chance (and won). 

Clash of Clans - "Revenge"

Many times, humorous ads come off as cheesy, cheap and lazy (and not funny). This advertisement for Clash of Clans defies all "funny ad" stereotypes. I thought I had this ad completely figured out -- I couldn't have been more wrong. Not only did Supercell completely surprise me (a necessary element of quality comedy), but the company capitalized on a well-known movie character in a smart and memorable way. 

MINI - "Defy Labels"

This socially conscious TV spot surprised me in the best way possible. MINI made a bold message against harmful labels and stereotypes. The ad features well-known personalities including Serena Williams, Abby Wambach, T-Pain and Tony Hawk -- all of whom point out ways they are harmfully labeled by society. Although we never forget the ad is about the car, the statement MINI makes about its company values makes this my favorite ad of the bunch.

Audi took it a step further and created a "Defy Labels" website. Each featured celebrity has their own short video highlighting their personal experiences with labels. I recommend watching each one. My favorite is the interview with Michael Whinnett

The lessons from these Super Bowl ads are simple and can be applied to campaigns of any budget: Stay true to your company values. Make a statement. Tell a compelling story. Make a surprising and witty connection between your brand and pop culture. And don't be afraid to be different and take a chance.

And as Michael Whinnett says, "Listen to yourself. Never be afraid to do something different if it makes sense to you."