Super Bowl 47 advertising archetypes

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Literature, theater and, yes, Super Bowl ads are chock-full of general themes or archetypes which are used as models to connect you to a given point of view. Advertising provides a unique emotional shorthand to these archetypes in the form of characters (real or imagined) and through situational placements. Given a high percentage of ''average Joe and Janes" watching a telecast like the Super Bowl, it was not surprising to see this particular archetype played out many times throughout the telecast.

Watching this year's Super Bowl, I found these common archetypes depicted: The Average Joe or Jane. Volkswagen had an interesting take on an Average Joe from Minnesota-turned-Island Sage with its Beetle ad "Smile." A dismal office scene is turned into an opine for the optimist that exists in all of us if only we could bring our smile to the surface. One manifestation of the smile we all need rests in the Volkswagen Beetle, whose anthropomorphized front end is a smile incarnate—sorry, but couldn't resist that pun. The call to action is simply "get happy." The line, "Don't fret me brother, sticky bun come soon," is sure to be a classic.

  • The Damsel. Regardless of what one thinks about the ad's execution, the most obvious use of combined archetypes in their purest forms was from The firm employed a Damsel (sexy Damsel in this case with Bar Refaeli) and Smart Nerd to demonstrate a "Perfect Match" of sexy domain and smart website capabilities.
  • The Outlaw. Average Joe turns Outlaw in the Audi "Prom" ad. Our young hero goes to the prom alone, but his father's Audi gives him the confident horsepower he needs to make his move on the prom queen. He kisses the girl, get's a black eye from her prom king boyfriend and celebrates his newfound bravery all the way home.
  • The Devil. The new Mercedes-Benz "Soul" commercial with an extended play online provides a fun depiction of several common archetypes in one ad: The Devil (Willem Dafoe), the Average Joe (lead actor in the spot who via fantasy sequence experiences the Damsel (Kate Upton) and the Hero models as well. A wonderfully filmed fantasy spot with a payoff being an affordably priced car one wouldn't think he'd have to sell his soul to have.
  • The Trailblazer/Traveler. Hyundai's epic "Play Date" spot blended the Trailblazer/Traveler archetypes together with a bit of Outlaw prototype to answer the question, "What are we going to do today?" in a fun, energetic and engaging way. The spot featured an average family in dynamic situations with the Flaming Lips thrown in for good measure. "Every day is an adventure in the new seven passengers Hyundai Santa Fe."
  • The Child. Hyundai delivered a second clever spot called "Team" that utilized the Child archetype to cleverly bring home the seven-passenger Santa Fe selling proposition in a memorable and entertaining way.
  • The Hero. The entry from Axe this year features the Hero Axe Apollo Firefighter with the Damsel in Distress archetype. Spoiler alert: An odd deviation from the 'hero gets the girl" ending exists in that a new hero enters at commercial's end as an out-of-context astronaut who connects the girl to the name of the Axe product descriptor. In this case the descriptor is "Apollo."
  • Buddies. Budweiser, a perennial super bowl favorite, has an entry called "Brotherhood." It's a beautifully shot Buddy prototype that strongly reinforces an important corporate symbol. Seemed like a 60-second send-up of the movie "Warhorse," but done with a Clydesdale. Nice.
  • Preview Week before the Big Game. A strong advertising "preview week" ahead of this year's big game telecast was quite interesting. The previews run ahead of the game via online display, social media and other outlets garnered significant impressions, buzz and excitement. The end result was greater anticipation when the spots actually aired during the game, with the business result being enhanced amortization of the investment and greater potential for longer term exposure.
Speaking of longer term exposure, my favorite Super Bowl ad—no, strike that; my favorite ad of all time, in any venue—remains Apple Computer's "1984," which was aired only once by Apple, but continues to get impressions to this day. This spot's use of the classic hero-saves-the day opens us to new realities. It's a classic that endures with aspiration as much nearly 30 years later as it did the day it aired.

Randall Rozin is global director-brand management and marketing communications at Dow Corning Corp. ( He can be reached at [email protected], or via LinkedIn at and Twitter at @RandallRozin.

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