Why the weekend’s best ad perhaps wasn’t an ad at all
I was asked to write something this month and, as the film lead in the US, it made sense to review or rank the commercials at America's sporting show of shows. You know, the one I can't legally mention by name, but it rhymes with Looper Mole. At some point in the third quarter, I reconsidered the ask.
The commercials felt tired this year; unexciting and uninspired. The ones ‘Ad Twitter’ gravitated towards, I hated. The ones I liked were few and far between. A very smart Creative Director I know suggested I write about an age of 'Peak Borrowed Interest'. To quote him directly "brands in other brands ads, team-ups, celebrity as idea… sh*t's gone off the rails.”
If you follow these MC thought pieces, you'll no doubt remember a suggestion that there’s been a shift in communications as brands strive for meaning.
“What do you stand for? is the new USP, designed to enhance credibility and spur advocacy.” (Thanks Jarrad.)
If you watched Patrick Mahomes do his thing on Sunday, the game breaks showed that many brands (and politicians) are trying and failing to tell their story in this way. But you know who understands exactly how to communicate what they stand for? JLo and Shakira. So, let’s talk about that instead.
Look beyond the bright lights, the glitz and the glamor of ‘Halftime’ and you’ll find something truly inclusive and diverse. A production that could be both political and multicultural. The razzmatazz of celebrity used to authentically show support for Puerto Rico and recognize the immigration crisis. "Born in the USA" echoing around the arena as children performed in glowing cages. This was showbiz rooted in truth. In your face, but the message was overlooked by many who couldn’t see past the sequined bodysuits.
They revisited the African World Cup in the finale and Shakira’s Arab roots were brought front and center with the show’s most meme-worthy moment. They focused on youth and the importance of family. If you didn't know, it was JLo's daughter who shared the spotlight with her midway through. They were the first pair of female artists to share top billing at America’s most-watched annual event, and let's not forget - they're the first Moms to do it too.
It was their brand values, visualized and vocalized. With a social media curtain call that encapsulated it all:
"All I want my girls, the little girls on stage with me, and all over the world to know is how to use their voices and be proud of everything they are. We are proud to recognize that all of us together are what makes this beautiful country truly great.” @jlo
This is purpose. This is authenticity. This speaks to the elusive Generation Z. It was creative and accessible, on the biggest stage of all. Tell your clients and your colleagues to take note.
And that’s why it felt like the only thing worth writing about.
(PS - In case you're wondering about the other thing. The ranking of the commercials? The correct answer is Bill Murray in Groundhog Day for Jeep.)
Mark McKenna is Executive Producer of the MerchantCantos film offer in North America. He's a proud husband, father and very soon to be new #girldad.