Super Bowl LIII: Advertisers Stayed Cautious, but Got Social


Super Bowl LIII: Advertisers Stayed Cautious, but Got Social

Ashley Sanders

These are the ads that challenged stereotypes.

Nearly half of this year’s Super Bowl audience was women, and representation increased significantly. The past 2 Super Bowls featured nearly 2.5x as many men as women, but this year was markedly different as women took center stage in many ads. However, advertisers focused on safe formulas like humor and celebrities and skipped politics or statements that could be viewed as controversial. Ads that stood out challenged stereotypes in different ways -- for a deep dive, keep reading below. 

The 3% Conference watched for women, diversity, and brands with a purpose.

They rallied ad pros with #3PercentSB at Digitas San Francisco and other New York, Boston, Denver, Los Angeles, Atlanta locations and at home nationwide to evaluate ads using a two-step test that asked:

  • Is the cast diverse?
  • Is it defying stereotypes? 

We focused on #MediaWeLike for positive, forward-looking ads that passed the test. Here is some of the best #MediaWeLike from Super Bowl Sunday.

Microsoft, "We All Win"

With its adaptive controller, Microsoft tells the story of kids with limited mobility and their love for video games that unlock bigger experiences. It was the highest positive sentiment of all the social cause spots.

Bumble, “The Ball Is in Her Court”

A clear winner among the 3% percent audience. Serena Williams’ call to action to empower women to make the first move in love, life and business was the most buzzworthy in the first half. Plus, the spot was produced by a nearly all-female production.

Google Translate, “100 Billion Words”

Google shares the power of language between loved ones and strangers through common experiences. Several vignettes in the :60 spot featured different languages and a global point of view shot in a way that feels completely human.


Toyota’s ad was a win for dispelling myths and showing how Toni Harris overcomes barriers. Toni is the first female football player who does not play a specialist position (for example, kicker) to be offered football college scholarships.

Coke, “A Coke is a Coke”

Coke skipped the Super Bowl for the first time in 15 years, but took a pre-game feature to promote an optimistic tone of unity. It featured a poem written by Rebecca Wadinger, who last year recognized the gender identity of a non-binary person by using the singular pronoun “they” in a Super Bowl Ad. Coke also donated $1M for free admission to the Civil Rights Center in Atlanta leading up to the Super Bowl. Pepsi earned bonus points with “More Than Ok” and passed the 3% test with Cardi B. However they failed to rally positive sentiment by canvassing Atlanta with 350+ competitive ads directed at Coke.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Michelob Ultra Pure Gold, "The Pure Experience”: Zoe Kravitz using ASMR, a relaxation and anxiety-reducing technique, in a unique :45 pod; created by a majority female creative team.
  • Stella Artois “Change Up The Usual”: Sarah Jessica Parker for Stella Artois included a tie-in with to #PourItForward for clean water in developing worlds.
  • The LA Rams Cheerleaders: First-ever male cheerleaders to perform in the Super Bowl
  • #ImWithKap activists who boycotted the Super Bowl
Ashley Sanders

Ashley Sanders

SVP, Group Account Director

Ashley is the Women @ Digitas and Publicis Viva Women San Francisco lead. 


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