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News & Insight

Super Bowl Commercials Transform Into Short Films With Strong Narratives

By Shivani Reddy on February 6th 2017

Storytelling. It encompasses a large percentage of what makes all of our work beyond extraordinary. The more thought and care we put into telling our story, the more genuine and relatable our images become.

Although it isn’t news that commercials aired during the Super Bowl have made political and social stances on certain issues plaguing society, the format has changed quite a bit to reflect a shift in how we experience media.


Our social newsfeeds are cluttered with video, whether it be political news, viral comedy, or pouncing puppies. It is predicted that in 2017 video will encompass 74% of media and it isn’t too far-fetched to think that we will surpass that statistic within the coming years. Companies with air-time during the Super Bowl are taking advantage of the influx of video by creating short films instead of 1-2 minute commercials.

Here are some of the best, most out-spoken commercials from 2017’s Super Bowl Sunday, take a look and see for yourself how they attempt to make their time on screen as valuable to the consumer as possible:

1. Audi’s empowering “Daughter” ad, promoting gender equality.

Similar to the 84 Lumber ad you will see below, this ad has an abundance of filmic toning, orange filled lifted shadows, giving it a vintage effect. This is definitely an interesting choice of style considering how flashy and rich-toned car commercials usually are.

2. AirBNB’s “We Accept” commercial, promoting support of their new non-discrimination policy.

3. Coca-Cola celebrated America’s diversity with a revival of its 2014 ad “America Is Beautiful.”

5. 84 Lumber’s “The Entire Journey” told a story about a mother and daughter’s journey to leave their country.

This video immediately received attention and high acclaim as it targets an immigrant family’s journey to a better life. The entire ad wasn’t aired on TV as it lasts over 5 minutes long but it’s safe to say it served as a short documentary highlighting the immigration crisis debate tormenting our nation. This ad also had a unique style with filmic qualities and color grading, a step away from the studio set produced aesthetic of ads in the past.

5. Budweiser told the tale of the company’s immigrant founder.

What’s worth noting is the inherent use of tone and theme across the board, and all seem to be promoting having a strong sense of worth, no matter what color, race, or size you are. Now we’ve seen inspiring commercials in Super Bowl past like this Dove ‘#RealStrength’ commercial that provoked the traditional definition of fatherhood, or even iconic commercials like Budweiser’s ‘WASSSAP’ or Old Spice’s ‘The Man Your Man Could Smell Like’. But what differs from ads of the past is the strongly driven narrative, especially pertaining to America’s current socio-political climate, introducing more of a filmmaking approach into the ad market. These companies are creating short documentaries hoping to strike a chord with the consumer base, reaching more for their heartstrings & minds rather than their wallets.


In a time where we face divergent views and an overall lack of harmony, it’s quite evident that companies are using this platform to discuss uncomfortable and extremely controversial topics by appealing to the masses: although their may be a downpour of discordance in our current times, we can find strength in our unity. And an amusing side-note to all of this: all these commercials were, most likely, begrudgingly aired on the ever so conservative FOX Network.

Gone are the times that we spend fast-forwarding through commercials because now their purpose and artistic vision have managed for us to take notice and more importantly relate to a narrative far too close to home.

What was your favorite Super Bowl Ad this year? Let us know below!

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Shivani wants to live in a world where laughter is the cure to pretty much everything. Since she can’t claim “Serial Bingewatcher” as an occupation, she’ll settle for wedding/portrait photographer at Lin and Jirsa & marketing coordinator here at SLR Lounge. For those rare moments when you won’t find a camera in her hand, she will be dancing, eating a donut, or most likely watching Seinfeld.

Follow her on Instagram: @shivalry_inc

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Patrick Oconnor

    I agree that talking about issues is a good thing but only depending on who you’re talking with. If people, on both sides of controversial issues, are only talking with like-minded individuals but lecturing those with dissenting views, there’s no benefit whatsoever.

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  2. Pye Jirsa

    I thought it was super interesting just how many ads and companies were riffing off of the current state of political affairs. Love, tolerance, acceptance, racial equality, gender equality, etc. It felt like “this just the cool thing to do right now.” Kinda felt a little manipulative, like these ad agencies are just pandering to what people need/want to hear most right now. But, I guess that’s what they are always aiming to do. Never has it been so apparent tho. 

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    • adam sanford

      There certainly is some pandering going on.  I’m just shocked companies are okay wading into some contentious issues in which there might be a 60-40 split of their customer-base.  Such ads fire up the 60% of them but potentially drive the other 40% to the door — historically businesses avoid this sort of political participation.

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    • Shivani Reddy

      Pye Jirsa it’s also astonishing considering the cost – $15 milion for the 84 Lumber ad… 

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  3. adam sanford

    As good as the Audi ad was, you could file it away as an unabashed play on a viewpoint that many wealthy progressives share (which I 100% agree with). It’s smart, on-target, and if you have a daughter, it’s a home run, but it also was pushing an agenda to get you to buy a car.  (You can marginalize it that way.)

    But 84 Lumber crushes all others as far as on-target advocacy goes.  I dare you to watch the whole thing and not be either moved to tears or to anger (on both political sides both emotions will come up while watching it for a host of reasons), yet the ending was sufficiently cryptic as to spur more discussion rather than let people file it away as a political hit piece.  Brilliant, IMHO.

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