Super Bowl LV represented a unique challenge to brands, who struggled with the directionality of this year’s ads given the backdrop of COVID-19 — while also contending with the usual tensions between playing it safe and going bold. 

Post-game, it became clear that viewers appreciated comedic ads that made them laugh and took their mind off COVID-19.

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Viewers took comfort in laughing in the trenches, and we can see this reflected in the ads they best remembered and most enjoyed:

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However, while the brands that embraced comedy over sympathy may have made a lasting impact, some brands, like Indeed, saw a substantial brand boost by plugging into the deeper emotions that define many consumers’ pandemic-era lives.

In the same vein, Guaranteed Rate’s baldly uplifting ad earned the brand a 4% lift in brand equity despite scoring on the lower end of the spectrum for recall and enjoyment, at 8% and 2%, respectively. 

Brands with lower overall equity scores tended to see the biggest boost in equity from ads that dug deeper into viewers’ emotions by playing up themes of struggle, hard work and triumph. But overall, the data shows that a comedic approach was this year’s “safe” option for brands looking to linger in viewers’ heads post-game.

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Abhish Raghavan

Author Abhish Raghavan

Abhish leads the brand strategy and customer insights practice for Harris. With an extensive background in data analytics as well as primary qualitative and quantitative market research, he has developed strategies and thought leadership for a number of leading Fortune 500 companies globally. Prior to joining Harris last year, Abhish was an SVP at BAV Consulting, a WPP Company.

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