This 55th edition of the Super Bowl was not quite like the others. It could hardly have been otherwise in this unique context of pandemic and after tense elections.

Even if the traditional big-budget, celebrity-filled, ads were still in the spotlight during this evening, other advertisers have decided to either skip the event altogether or to limit their expenses.

Cheetos - It wasn't me

Here are 5 lessons from Super Bowl 2021 you could use for your own communication strategy:

1. Know when to communicate and when to keep quiet

In the context of the COVID-19 epidemic, a few brands decided to skip the Super Bowl and to donate their usual advertising investments to support causes.

  • Budweiser decided to skip Super Bowl for the first time in 37 years and declared they will reallocate the spending to support the Ad Council’s coronavirus vaccine public education campaign.
  • Instead of advertising during the game, Planters said they will use all of the $5 million of their Super Bowl advertising budget to recognize people doing charitable acts.

  • Kia also decided it will not be making an appearance at the Super Bowl LV. They will instead expand their charitable initiatives towards America's homeless youth.

I think it's an excellent strategy as long as you orchestrate a communication campaign around it. Otherwise, it may seem gimmicky and inauthentic.

2. Authenticity is king

Authenticity is more than ever the key to successful advertising. Two brands have successfully used authenticity in their spots for this Super Bowl: Huggies and Cheetos.

Huggies - Welcome to the World, Baby

Far from the usual diaper ads featuring perfect, clean, and smiling babies in a sanitized environment, Huggies shows ordinary babies in very realistic scenes of everyday life: covered in yogurt, falling asleep on the potty, relieving themselves on a plane, etc. A great recipe to build an emotional bond with the brand!

Cheetos - It Wasn't Me

Though very polished, this Cheetos ad still feels very authentic and relatable. Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher might be celebrities but they are exactly like us. Mila Kunis sometimes eats Ashton Kutcher's snacks and lies about it.

Add a song that will get stuck in your head (It wasn't me by Shaggy, who also appears in the ad) - that Ashton Kutcher sings out of tune -  and you get an excellent commercial!

3. Convey strong emotions with surreal humor

The stronger the emotion, the more likely the content will be shared.

As is often the case at the Super Bowl, a few advertisers chose to rely on surreal humor that cleverly highlights their product's main feature.

Doritos - Flat Matthew Super Bowl LV

To highlight their new 3D snack, Doritos imagined the daily life of a - literally - flat Matthew Mc Conaughey. Hilarious and very clever!

Tide and Lyriq used a similar process to highlight their respective products: Hygienic Clean Heavy Duty power pods for Tide and the Hands-Free Feature of the Cadillac Lyriq. Deliciously absurd!

4. Bad buzz is still buzz

Orchestrating a bad buzz can be a great way to spread the word about your brand, as demonstrated by the Oatly brand.

Oatly - Wow, Now Cow

Swedish brand Oatly stood out by opting for a surprising creative choice. The brand recycled an ad that first ran in Sweden in 2014. The spot features Oatly's CEO Toni Petersson singing his jingle "Wow, No Cow" in an oat field.

This advertisement left no one indifferent. As soon as it aired, some people tweeted that they hated it:

What is so cool about their communication strategy is that the brand fully embraced the silliness of their spot and decided to make fun of themselves. They even created a landing page for people to order T-shirts with the message "I totally hated that Oatly commercial." Well done, Oatly!

5. Small budget? Go for something bold

30 seconds of Super Bowl advertising costs more than $5M. Not exactly the kind of budget decision you can take lightly!

Reddit - "Sorry we crashed your SuperbOwl party"

Reddit stood out by turning its lower budget into an advantage. They decided to air a 5-seconds only ad to celebrate their community. They draw a parallel between their underdog status in this Super Bowl advertising game and that of their community with the GameStop Phenomenon.

A clever move that fits well with the sarcastic humor of this platform and proof that you don't necessarily need to make a blockbuster to reach your communication goals!

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