U of M Expert: Reacts to Super Bowl ads

Carlson School Faculty Weigh in on Super Bowl Ads

Monday, February 3, 2020

A 30-second Super Bowl advertisement this year cost a reported $5.6 million, according to AdAge. So who spent well and who didn’t? 

Wendy Lutter, senior lecturer in the marketing department, gives us her insight below.

“The Super Bowl ads this year focused a lot on the past and evoking nostalgia. We saw celebrities from the '80s/'90s abound (e.g., Winona Ryder, Molly Ringwall, MC Hammer, Bill Murray) and a general theme of feel-good. This is at odds with previous years where brands were meaner and directly pitting themselves against others. Remember Bud Light?

“Overall, humor was the big choice for ad type this year. However, research shows people don’t usually remember the product/service when related to humor. So, was it the best choice long term and for return on investment? We will see. It usually takes two weeks post Super Bowl for awareness data to be available.

“Another theme was inclusivity – including more women in the ads. This was a good move, as 47% of those watching the game were women. Even for brands that have been stereotypically male-oriented, such as Jack Daniels, we saw a few nods to women for their role in the process of creating a product. We saw more inclusiveness in ads featuring a drag queen, Ellen DeGeneres’ marriage and older women.”

Lutter's Winners


“Katie Sowers. This is a great, goose-bump producing ad. ‘It only takes one’ and ‘I don’t want to be the best female coach in football. I want to be the best coach.’ Great message. Great role model. Unexpected. Everything I want to see in an ad.”


“This was one of the few ads that was kept secret and not revealed until game day. It was filmed only eight days ago. The luck that Super Bowl fell on Groundhog’s Day for the first time in 54 years and the playful message that Bill Murray doesn’t mind a repeated day as long as he has a Jeep to do it in made for a great ad.”


“This is plain fun. It made me laugh. I like the old cowboy with the new. It was creative with the moustache dancing. Also, taking the most popular song from 2019 and using it since everyone loves it. This ad is time sensitive – very in the moment 2020.”


“This is the first time Porsche has advertised in the big game since 1997. This is what I expect from a Super Bowl ad. Fun, attention-grabbing, beautiful scenery, beautiful cars, and a twist at the end. Also, I loved that there was a woman also playing this game.”

Lutter's Losers

Avocados from Mexico

“It is confusing. What does Molly Ringwald have to do with anything?”

Audi’s Let it Go

“This is a counter-intuitive message. ‘Let it go’ as in forget it, but then it is advertising a sustainable auto? Muddy message with confusing casting. This young woman is driving an Audi? It doesn’t jive.”


“This is an example of external forces that are not controllable. The ad was seen by social media as not sensitive with the death of Kobe Bryant last weekend. The re-birth of Baby Peanut is a possible copycat move to try to steal some of the Internet’s Baby Yoda love. It was a fail.”


“What exactly is going on? With four screens, it is really hard to concentrate on the message. A good ad should have a clean clear message, understand its target market and not cause confusion.”