Why humor in Super Bowl advertising belongs in our "new normal"

February 11, 2022 | 4 minute read
Mollie Spilman
Chief Revenue Officer, Oracle Advertising and CX – Advertising and Marketing
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This article was originally published on Toolbox Marketing.

In the U.S., there are certain things we have come to expect this time of year. We all anxiously await news from Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania to see if a certain groundhog sees his shadow–he did, six more weeks of winter, yay! Yes, I am being sarcastic. 

It’s also the time of year we all gear up for the Super Bowl. And even though my team, the Baltimore Ravens, are not playing, I will be intently watching the action on the field. However, like many of you, I will be watching the action off the field, as well. 

That off-the-field action being the Super Bowl ads, of course. Every year advertisers spend millions of dollars for the chance to show the world their ads. This year a 30-second spot is going for a record $6.5 million, according to Dan Lovinger, president of ad sales and partnerships, NBCUniversal. Remember, this amount represents the media buy, only. It does not represent any creative and production costs. 

So, to say a given Super Bowl ad has pressure on it to deliver maximum ROI would be a massive understatement. For years many brands incorporated humor into their Super Bowl ads to entertain and to engage. However, since the start of the pandemic, many of these same brands have been leery of using humor. According to Statista, nearly 4 in 10 consumers in 2020 believed humor was inappropriate in advertising. 

But that was then, and this is now.

"New Normal?"

Like many of you, I have no idea what the word “normal” means anymore. If nothing else, the pandemic has most assuredly changed everyone’s definition of the word to the point where the phrase “the new normal” is well, the norm, pun intended. 

And I, for one, surely support the use of humor when it comes to this new normal, especially in Super Bowl ads. I apparently am not alone either, over 50% of consumers, according to an Oracle study, say they watch Super Bowl ads explicitly for the humor. 

The use of humor in advertising is hardly a new idea. Used properly it offers a great way to connect and engage with customers. Humor ups the memorable factor too. According to a study, “Humor was employed at near unanimous levels for all viral advertisements studied.” Consequently, the study identified humor as the universal appeal for making content viral.

Not to play armchair psychologist but I believe a lot of us are drawn to humor for the same reason we’re drawn to the game itself; it’s an escape. An escape from well, whatever you need escaping from at that moment. 

So, bring on the humor! It’s time to laugh again at Super Bowl ads like these classic Super Bowl ads of the past: 


Humorous or Serious, One Thing Is True

Regardless of whether a brand uses humor or a serious tone in their Super Bowl ad it all comes down to delivering the best customer experience possible. And to be consistent across all platforms when delivering that experience. You need to make sure any Super Bowl ad is part of a larger experience that you are creating in advertising and beyond.

Don’t invest in a Super Bowl ad that is disconnected from how you speak to customers and prospects across every interaction. To do that, you need to not only use data to inform your ad investment and creative testing, but also to make sure you are speaking with the same voice to those consumers in your digital ads, your emails, your loyalty program, your customer service and so on.

This can be extremely challenging given the fact that, according to Deloitte, “Companies today have, on average, 16 applications that leverage customer data from 25 different sources;  yet nearly half of customer data managers lack the right tools to do the job.”

That’s why it is vitally important to gather first-party data and augment it with privacy-compliant third-party data to drive relevant campaigns on correspondingly relevant media while also fully understanding the impact.

You know the old saying, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression?” Well, this is extremely relevant when it comes to customer experience for companies need to tie their first impression through to a seamless customer experience. 

It’s why companies need to work with a solution partner who can provide the intelligence, expertise, and robust analytics you need to make sure your audience’s first experience with your brand lays the foundation for an excellent customer experience to come.

Touch Down

As I come to the end of this piece, or more aptly, the two-minute warning, allow me to touch down with some final thoughts. 

The Super Bowl is truly a sporting event unlike any other in the entire world for–as I mentioned previously–it is watched for as much as what happens on the field for as much as it is off it. There are many questions left to be answered:

  • What team will win? 
  • What brand(s) will win? 
  • What brand(s) will make us laugh? 

I don’t know the answer to these questions, of course, but I for one can’t wait to find out! 

Mollie Spilman

Chief Revenue Officer, Oracle Advertising and CX – Advertising and Marketing

Mollie Spilman is a 20-plus-year media veteran whose prior gigs include roles at Criteo, Advertising.com, and Yahoo!. Passionate about inclusion and diversifying the ranks of business, she has extensive experience developing, scaling, and leading direct sales teams to over 1200+ employees and a proven ability to manage complex deals, increase revenue, and grow existing business while building a culture of innovation through people development that empowers employees. In her spare time, Mollie loves sport fishing, playing golf, running, listening to country or classic rock and enjoying a glass of her favorite California chardonnay.

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