Super Bowl ads inspire higher ed comms

By Sharon Aschaiek | Feb. 5, 2020

Every year, Super Bowl television commercials offer new ideas and inspiration for how to achieve marketing and communication greatness, and this year’s ads were no exception.

The ads use a variety of techniques to engage us—mostly humour, celebrity and pop culture references, but also novelty, emotional appeal, family relationships, perseverance against obstacles, quirkiness, female empowerment, bromance and, of course, an adorable talking dog. They are instructive to all of us higher ed communicators and marketers looking for fresh ways to help our institutions shine.

Here are my three favourite ads from the 2020 Super Bowl and why I think they rock.


This ad for Amazon’s virtual assistant Alexa hits so many of the right notes. First, it stars one of Hollywood’s most popular couples, Ellen Degeneres and Portia de Rossi. With her playful and earthy personality, Ellen is a boon to almost any brand. And it’s heartening that featuring a gay celebrity couple is no longer a big deal. Much more than this, the ad’s depictions of life before Alexa are flat-out hilarious. The communication scenarios and fails featuring different historical versions of Alexa, some with modern cultural references, are funny and provocative. And sure enough, the ad has sparked a new hashtag, “I aint deleting.” The ad doesn’t persuade me that AI is always better than human communication, but it sure is one heck of a brand booster.


While Amazon relied on humour and star power for its Alexa ad, Google opted to pulling at our heartstrings to promote its own VA. Loretta shares the story of a senior widower with a failing memory who uses Google to help him remember the love of his life. It’s a simple ad with low production values, but it is highly effective because of the strong and emotional storytelling and visuals. While we all know the Google brand and its different services, this ad shows Google in a new light—as a tool to help us cherish our most important memories.

Password Paradise

Who among us can’t relate to password hell? The number of times I’ve been stymied by a password prompt almost exceeds the number of passwords I have. Dashlane taps into this common frustration with technology with its Password Paradise ad, which compares forgetting your password to a date with the grim reaper. It scores points not just for humour, but for elevating the profile of a password manager company that, until now, few of us had heard of.

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