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Game Time!

I've never been a big sports fan, but as a marketer, Super Bowl weekend -- where companies will spend millions of dollars to produce and air spectacular advertisements in the hopes of winning our hearts, minds, and wallets --  is one of my favorite weekends of the year. 

I usually prefer to watch the Super Bowl ads for the first time during the Big Game itself -- it's the only part of the game I truly care about, actually -- but so that I had something to write about this week, I watched all the 2020 ads that have already been released online. 

Here's a little of what you can expect on Sunday:

The Funnies
Lots (and lots) of companies use humour in their Super Bowl ads in an attempt to breakthrough... some more successfully than others. I laughed-out-loud at the Amazon, Hyundai, Little Caesar's, Reese Take 5, and Snickers commercials, but some others brands tried too hard. (I'm looking at you guys, TurboTax and Pop Tarts.) Every Super Bowl in recent history has featured several "funnies", and this one will be no exception. 

The Celebrity Sightings
Ellen Degeneres for Amazon. Chris Evans, John Krasinski, and Rachel Dratch for Hyundai. John Legend and Chrissy Teigan for Genesis. Lil Nas X for Doritos. Bryan Cranston for Mountain Dew, doing his best Jack Nicholson impersonation. These are just a few of the many celebrities starring in various Super Bowl spots this year. Some definitely worked better than others. (I've been thinking about it for hours, and I still don't understand the Audi spot featuring Maisie Williams singing a song from Disney's Frozen...)

The Tear-Jerkers / Emotional Ads
Some of the best emotional ads I've ever seen were introduced to the world as Super Bowl ads. This year, the Google ad and the New York Life ad are the ones you have to see. Americans will also likely applaud Budweiser's "Typical American" spot for the sense of national pride it tries to instill, but I couldn't relate. (And that's okay, because I'm clearly not the target audience here.)

The Woke Spots
Some companies choose to produce advertisements that encourage us to make the world a better place. These can range from the inspirational to the flat-out hypocritical. An example of the latter: Audi's 2017 Super Bowl spot, which tried to tell viewers that the German automaker was committed to gender equality in the workplace... even though it was later discovered the company performed far worse in that area than it's competitors. These spots are inherently good or bad... but they certainly work better when they're authentic, and when the company has earned the right to talk about a given injustice based on it's demonstrated actions in addressing it. Nike's controversial Colin Kaepernick campaign worked because Nike has a long and authentic history of supporting it's athletes. But sometimes you see a spot, love the message, but can't understand why the company is the one starting the conversation. This year, Microsoft put together a truly wonderful ad starring Katie Sowers, offensive assistant coach for the San Francisco 49er; it's a full minute long and describes her journey from a childhood passion for football to becoming the first woman to coach in the Big Game. It is an inspirational story and a really important message... I just couldn't figure out why it was (or should be) a Microsoft spot, aside from the fact that they're a sponsor of the NFL.

The Spectacles
Every Super Bowl has a spectacle, an advertisement that wouldn't be out of place at the Sundance Film Festival. Sometimes it has action. Sometimes it has humour. Sometimes it features a twist. The Porsche ad for their new electric car has all three. I enjoyed it. It's not going to make me buy a Porsche, but it was a fun watch. The Wal-Mart spot is another spectacle, although in an entirely different way. (It's still an excellent commercial, though!)

The Fails
Fact: they can't all be winners. I think the award for Worst Super Bowl 2020 Ad (so far) goes to Heinz. Honestly, I don't even want to say anything more about it. If you see this spot and love it -- or even understand it -- please send me an email to explain it to me.

The Home-Runs
Once in awhile, we're gifted with a Super Bowl ad that's so good, we can't talk about anything else. So good they become instant classics, and for marketers, instant case studies: Coca-Cola's "'Mean' Joe Greene" (1980), Apple's "1984" spot (1984), McDonald's "Larry Bird vs. Michael Jordan Showdown" (1993), and Volkswagen's "The Force" (2011) to name but a few. I can't say for certain whether we're going to see one of those instant-classics this year... but I really, really liked that Snickers ad.

If you don't want to wait until Sunday to start watching all these commercials, AdWeek has assembled everything that's been released so far and put them in one convenient place.

And if you watch the ads and find yourself disagreeing with me, let me know your thoughts!

- dp


  • Brand Finance released it's 2020 Global 500 report, "the annual report on the world's most valuable and strongest brands." Retail behemoth Amazon topped the list, with a staggering valuation of $221 billion dollars; second-place Google was valued at "just" $160 billion.
  • "IBM artificial intelligence can predict with 95% accuracy which workers are about to quit their jobs," according to a CNBC report. IBM CEO Ginni Rometty won't specify how, but she believes, "The best time to get to an employee is before they go," and has been using AI over the past seven-years to help with employee retention. Watson is watching...
  • CEO David Soloman has announced that Goldman Sachs will no longer take any company public unless it has at least one “diverse” board member. (He added that the requirement will be at least two diverse board members in 2021.) In particular, he told a crowd at the World Economic Forum this year that he wants to see more women on corporate boards, because, "the performance of IPOs, [when] it’s been a woman on the board, in the US is significantly better than the performance of IPOs where there hasn’t been a woman on the board."

Why Super Bowl simsub is a big loss for Canadians

For many Canadians, this year’s Super Bowl isn’t going to be nearly as good as last year’s event. I’m not talking about those who watch “The Big Game” for the football. I’m talking about those who watch it for the ads.

Bell Media, supported by the NFL, scored a big victory late last year when the Supreme Court ruled the CRTC had overstepped its authority in 2016 by banning simultaneous substitution (or “simsub”). 

Practically speaking, simsub is what allows Bell Media to strip the Super Bowl broadcast of its U.S. advertising and replace it with Canadian ads. The CRTC decision to ban the practice for the Super Bowl was based on a simple truth, albeit one that turned out not to be legally defensible: Watching U.S. ads during the Super Bowl is a part of the total Super Bowl experience, and Canadians want the same ad-tastic experience as Americans.

For three glorious years while Bell fought the CRTC’s decision, Canadians were given the option of watching the Super Bowl on Bell Media’s stations with Canadian ads, or watching the game on a U.S. station with U.S. ads. What do you think they chose to do?

Read the rest of this article on The Message...


* an interview conducted completed via text message... so please excuse all typos *

For this week's text-talk, I peek into the weird and wonderful mind of my friend Doug Maugham, Executive Creative Director of Brandfire (a brand, digital, advertising, and shopper-marketing agency).
If you want to know what Doug said made for a great client, his thoughts on this year's Super Bowl, what you need to do to become a Creative Director, and more, read the full interview here.

ADdicted: Super Bowl 2020 Edition

The Super Bowl can only have one winner every year, but you can have more than one winner when it comes to Super Bowl ads.

This list may be premature — since not all of the 2020 Super Bowl spots are yet available online — but below are some of the best commercials I’ve seen this year so far.

Best Use of a Recognizable Accent:
Hyundai, "Smaht Pahk"

Honestly, I can't figure out what either Boston or a Boston accent has to do with a Hyundai Sonota. But if you're willing to look past that and just appreciate a funny ad with a few great celebrities, this is nice spot. More importantly, it highlights an interesting, useful, and differentiating feature of the car it's promoting in a memorable way, so that maybe you'll remember Hyundai the next time you're in the market for a new car. (You do remember that marketing is actually about selling more stuff, right?)

Most Likely to Make My Wife Cry:
Google, "Loretta"

After seeing it first, I asked my wife to watch this ad; halfway through I heard a sob, and when I turned around to look at her face, she was in tears. (Me? I wasn't crying! My office is just really dusty.) Google has put together some really, really great ads in the past decade. This is one of them, although some will undoubtedly find the Google Assistant features showcased in the spot more than a little creepy.

Best Ad for a Product I Can't Buy:
New York Life, "Love Takes Action"

This ad was a close runner-up for the "make my wife cry" category. (After I showed it to her, she showed me her arms: literal goosebumps.) It's a surprisingly emotional spot with a great message that's relevant for the company, and I can't say I've ever seen another insurance ad that resonated with me so well. Would it be enough for me to switch insurance companies? Well, New York Life isn't available in Canada... so I guess we'll never know.

Ad Most Likely to Make a Difference:
Michael Bloomberg for President, "George"

This isn't intended to be a political newsletter, but let's take just a moment to talk about this astounding Bloomberg ad. First, it's a full minute long, which means if it airs on Sunday, it may cost Bloomberg $11.4 million. Of course, that doesn't matter for him, because a) he has an estimated personal net worth of $60.5 billion, b) he's self-funding his bid to become the Democratic Nominee, and ultimately, the US President, and c) according to the Washington Post, he's "promised to spend $100 million on a digital effort to defeat Trump in swing states." Second, this is an emotional spot... any parent is going to sit-up and pay attention once they realize what it's about. And third, it drives home a very powerful message at a very important time: Bloomberg isn't afraid of the gun lobby. At a time when many Americans are fed up with the number of school shootings and believe it's time to implement tougher gun laws, this ad clearly says that Bloomberg -- who very clearly doesn't need the gun lobby's money to either get or stay elected -- could be the one to make it happen. I'm not a political analyst, but I'll bet Bloomberg's poll numbers skyrocket next week. 

Best Use of Pop Culture and Nostalgia:
Wal-Mart,  "Famous Visitors"

I can't love the entertainment industry as much as I do, and not include a spot that features characters from Toy Story, Star Wars, Star Trek, Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, and more. This is a pretty typical big-budget Super Bowl ad, but not every ad has to change the world, and this one does a nice job in delivering it's "free, convenient pick-up at Wal-Mart" message in a light-hearted, entertaining way.

My Favourite Spot of the 2020 Superbowl (so far):
Snickers,  "#SnickersFixTheWorld"

Not every advertiser chooses to release their Super Bowl ads prior to the actual game, so I can't say for certain if this is going to be my favourite ad of the 2020 Big Game. But boy-o-boy did I like Snickers' "#SnickersFixTheWorld" spot!

"...the world is out of sorts, we need to fix it quicker... we're going to fix the world, but feeding it Snickers!"

Yes, that's an actual excerpt from the hilarious song performed in this spot. In a clear parody (homage?) to Coca-Cola's 1971 classic "Hilltop" spot, the Snickers ad has various characters singing outrageous lyrics as they come together for an outrageous finale. And that last bit at the end? That's comedic gold.

This is a terrific example of an "on-brand" ad with a relevant message -- "fix big problems with a Snickers" -- that I'm willing to bet will earn high preference and recall scores. Well done, Snickers... that was satisfying.

And there you have it!

If you liked these ads and want to share them all with your friends, either forward them this entire newsletter or send them to this Medium post.

Win-of-the-Week: Ryan Reynolds

Ryan Reynolds might be my favourite marketer. The work he did to promote the Deadpool movies was hilarious, everything he does to support his Aviation Gin brand is genius... when it comes to breaking through, this guy just GETS it!

And as we approach this year's Super Bowl, where brands will spend MILLIONS to produce and air spectacular television commercials, Reynolds decided to promote Mint Mobile (in which he owns a stake) by... running a full-page ad in the New York Times to tell us he's NOT buying a Super Bowl Ad.

I don't get the NYT, though; I saw this ad when Reynolds posted the two photos below on his Instagram page... where he has 35 million followers! Between the ad, his Instagram post, and the subsequent media attention that followed, I'm willing to bet this will work out to be a very efficient marketing spend, and a great way to get people to consider switching to Mint Mobile. #WinOfTheWeek

The Last Word.

Kobe Bryant, Aug 1978 - Jan 2020
(Image Credit:

“Those times when you get up early and you work hard, those times when you stay up late and you work hard, those times when you don’t feel like working, you’re too tired, you don’t want to push yourself, but you do it anyway. That is actually the dream. That’s the dream. It’s not the destination, it’s the journey. And if you guys can understand that, then what you’ll see happen is you won’t accomplish your dreams, your dreams won’t come true; something greater will.”
   - Kobe Bryant, from his jersey retirement speech in 2017

Kobe Bryant's talent and work ethic made him a role model for many people, but you don't have to be a sports fan to mourn him, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, and the seven-other lesser known (but not in any way less important) people who died in a helicopter crash this week. May they all rest in peace.

I enjoy putting this newsletter together every week, but it's a lot of work. If you enjoyed this edition, please help me justify spending so much time on it: share it with your friends and colleagues using one of the links below, and encourage them to sign themselves up at so they get their own copy delivered to their inbox next week. Thanks for your support!
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"And you are...?"

My name is David Pullara, and I'm a senior business leader with a passion for strong brands and experience across multiple industries. Both my first and my most recent jobs were at start-ups, but in-between I spent 12 years in leadership roles at some of the world's most renowned, consumer-focused Fortune 500 organizations: Starbucks, Yum! Brands (Pizza Hut), Coca-Cola, and Google.

To learn more about me, use one of the links below. 

And if your business needs an innovative thinker to help bring an idea to life or help solve a tough business challenge, then let's chat.
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