Key to Great Super Bowl Ads: The Client

By James Robinson, Chief Creative Officer, NA, Momentum Worldwide

What goes into putting together a “most talked about” super bowl ad?

  1. A great strategy.
  2. A great idea.
  3. A great client that trusts their gut.
  4. A great client that trusts their gut.
  5. A great client that trusts their gut.

Great Super Bowl ads are the ones that are fundamentally different from anything that has come before. How else can you stand out from the crowd of mega-celebrities, cute animals and massive-budget visual effects? The great ads have to be able to cut through and stop a party of drunk, distracted sports fans and cynical ad professionals cold. That kind of surprise cannot be engineered. I have been in so many meetings where clients and agencies try to reverse-engineer the perfect Super Bowl ad. All they end up with is a lesser version of what worked last year. You’ll never get to “It’s a Tide Ad,” “Dear Sophie,” “Superb Owl” or “Wassuup!” (for us oldies) doing what was done before. The real key to making those kind of ads? Sure, you need brilliant creative. But the real secret sauce? That is 100% a client with vision. Because that client has to see the idea for what it can be, and not just view it on a rational level. They have to believe it in their bones. Because those clients are going to have to shepherd that idea through the gauntlet of their own company, filter the feedback, fight the bean counters and the internal politics, and resist the urge to focus-group a horse into a camel. They have to be strong enough in their own opinion to keep the spot true to the idea they bought and, at the same time, be open enough to let the opinions of the creatives and directors involved take them to places that might be uncomfortable. That kind of client is so much rarer than an amazing strategist, brilliant creative or visionary director. Don’t get me wrong, you need all of them, too. But without the right client, your spot will be forgotten by Monday morning.


What kind of tone do you believe advertisers are looking to showcase this year?

Personally, I find myself gravitating toward ads that go for entertainment, surprise and escape. This has been a tough couple of years. So I would love for brands to help us just let go. Make us laugh, make us jump, and leave us entertained and wanting more. More Ted Lasso and less Chernobyl. But, most of all, I really hope that advertisers stay true to the tone of their brand. Don’t give us what you think we want. Who knew we would all want a multi-part detergent ad that spoofed other ads? Or a film from an earphones manufacturer that made us deeply and profoundly reexamine our relationship with race and celebrity? In other words, I hope brands totally ignore everything I just wrote about Ted Lasso. You do you, and do it brilliantly. That’s the tone brands should be showcasing.


How important is brand purpose to today’s consumer? How can brands achieve thoughtful and creative connections with consumers?

I am all for using the power of a brand to make the world a better place, as long as their role in that space is genuine. I don’t know that Drano should be unclogging the public’s consciousness, or that M&Ms should be wading into the Ukraine crisis, to make up two very bad examples. Consumers respond to purpose-driven advertising when brands have a real, honest point of view and a true role to play. Every brand should have a purpose. Sometimes that purpose is fostering a greater understanding, healing the wounds of history or saving the planet. Sometimes that purpose should just be getting a hairball out of the sink.


James accidentally stumbled into advertising while acting in very bad Japanese commercials while living in Tokyo. He parlayed this “experience” into a 20-year award winning career at agencies like Mad Dogs & Englishmen, Venables Bell & Partners, 215 McCann and the Martin Agency. As the Chief Creative Officer of Momentum NA, he is responsible for all creative output for Verizon, American Express, Walmart, SAP, and more. He lives in New Jersey with his wife (also an award winning creative), 2 daughters, a 110 LB dog and very little free time. He’s happiest writing about anything but himself.