Public Label VP CD Gary Westgate talks Super Bowl

(Public Label’s Gary Westgate)

It’s the day after the biggest football game of the year and as is the goal for Super Bowl advertisers, we’re all gathered around the watercooler to talk about the best and worst ads. Only this year, it’s a virtual one. 

There have been epic commercials in Super Bowl history. Some that have defined a movement and even created one. When you think back to Apple’s ‘1984’ or Ram Truck’s ‘Farmer’: These sparked conversations, inspired movements, challenged our perceptions, made us all think beyond ourselves, and showed us human ambition and love.

For decades, the creative bar for Super Bowl ads has been drifting higher and higher.  

There is an added element to this year’s commercial contest. Could Covid-19 be a defining moment in how marketers choose to talk about themselves? This was the big element I anticipated seeing this year.

As the evening wore on, there were a few messages that had fun-ish entertaining looks at how 2020 sucked. Some adverts capitalized on stories worth mentioning, the ‘proud to’ sponsor-type messages. But I never really saw the Covid-19(84) message. One that made us think way beyond a commercial. A movement.

ALSO READ: Complete list of all our Super Bowl coverage. Enjoy!

To be sure, this edition of the game had its fair share of entertaining spots. Dan Levy’s murderous ways for M&M’s was probably the highlight of all the snack commercials. Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis only reminded me that I, too, am getting old. 

GM had a fun spot with Will Ferrell which, for me, downplayed their epic PR release from a week ago outlining their 2025 electric car goals. Some of the best spots I saw were north of the border; WealthSimple introduced ‘anyone’ can do tax returns. Their message was simple and a highly entertaining way of introducing a new product.

Others that caught my eye were Huggies and Verizon with a gamified Samuel L JacksonJeep and Bruce Springsteen’s take on Middle America was conceptually cool, it just felt a tad over-the-top. Entertaining nonetheless.

Overall, good to very good…but not great. We needed great. 

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Gary Westgate is Vice-President and Creative Director of Public Label‘s Toronto office.