Did the Super Bowl pull at heart strings?

Super Bowl ads are notorious for being outrageous, comical, and sexy. This year marketers upped the ante with a much broader range of emotions aimed at targeting specific viewers. The historically provocative tone seemed understated as many brands focused on targeting families, giving way to #dadvertising as a common theme this year. However, it wouldn’t be the Super Bowl without a controversial ad like the fear-provoking Nationwide commercial featuring a little boy who was killed in an accident. Super Bowl XLIX proved to be one of the best brand bowls in a long time. Advertisers tugged on our heart strings, made us laugh, and even scared us a bit.

Here’s a few standouts from each category:

Feel Good Ads

Brands like Microsoft, Toyota, and Budweiser used sentimental stories to grab viewers’ attention and evoke an emotional connection. While this approach seemed effective for these brands; other brands took a more direct approach using emotional appeal to encourage a specific action or inspire change. Coca-Cola used its air time to promote a social campaign for ending internet negativity. Perhaps one of the most inspirational ads of the day came from the feminine care brand, Always. The #LikeAGirl campaign gained instant social traction among athletes, media reporters, and other public figures.

Funny Ads

Dodge, Fiat, and Doritos helped lighten the mood during commercial breaks with a more humorous approach. Dodge effectively used a mix of emotional appeal and humor to celebrate their 100 year anniversary. The ad featuring wisdom from 100 year old men and women begins with sentimental tidbits like “live for now” and “always tell the truth” but transitions into more crude advice like “tell it like it is” and “don’t bitch.” This one made us feel good while also making us laugh. Fiat has been known to create funny commercials featuring celebrities and iconic characters such as Godzilla, so it’s no surprise that the Fiat 500X ad was one of the funniest of the day.

Fear Based Ads

Nationwide sparked controversy with its somber ad about childhood deaths caused by preventable accidents. The company used fear based tactics to target parents whose primary concern is their children’s’ safety. Interesting to see such a polar approach from their humorous ad in the first half showcasing “Invisible Mindy.” Nissan also took a little flak for its #withdad commercial that shows a wife and young son helplessly watching the TV as the dad narrowly survives a racing accident. Although both of these brands may have had good intentions, the fear based approach seemed to be off-putting in the mix of an overwhelmingly feel good theme this year, igniting a trended topic on #sadvertising.