The Super Bowl is known as the mecca for the biggest advertisements of the whole year, but what makes a Super Bowl Ad a success? Does it have to tell a story in the traditional sense or is there something else entirely?

An advertisement that stood out to me from them the 2017 Super Bowl was the one aired by Airbnb. It is no secret that there were many politically charged commercials aired at this year’s event but I think this one took the cake. The Advertisement featured close-ups of many different people’s faces of all different races and backgrounds with words scrolling that read: “We believe, no matter who you are, where you’re from, who you love, or who you worship, we all belong. The world is more beautiful the more you accept. #WeAccept”

The advertisement went viral and resulted in an extremely successful commercial that left the audience with an inspirational feeling about not only Airbnb’s ideal but those of this nation. What made it even more impactful was the fact that Airbnb didn’t identify themselves as the ads creator until the very end and then just by briefing showing their companies logo.

The message of the advertisement was clear, acceptance. But it did not really tell a story, at least not in the traditional sense. There was no action, no climax, and no resolution but I still felt a sense of fulfillment at its close.

Freytag’s Five Act Story Structure

Marketing Professor & Researcher Keith A. Quesenberry’s, conducted a study on what makes some Super Bowl advertisements more successful than others by studying over 100 different advertisements in relation to Gustav Freytag’s five-act story structure. What he found was there was a correlation between the more complete of a story being told in a commercial and its ratings/likability. His research suggests that for a Super Bowl Ad to be good it should tell a complete story.

The Airbnb ‘WeAccept’ ad doesn’t fit this pattern suggested by Quesenberry but I don’t think its lack of a story distracts from its unique success possibly because of the emotion they showed during their video.

Another extremely successful advertisement from this last year’s game with a similar political theme was Budweiser’s “Born the Hard Way” ad. The commercial followed the traditional story structure showing the story of Budweiser’s co founder Anheuser-Busch immigrating to America from Germany and starting the Bud empire. According to research, the Budweiser commercial should be way more likable but personally I enjoyed the Airbnb ad more.

The main factor, for me, of why the ‘WeAccept’ Airbnb ad was more successful was its upfront delivery. There didn’t seem to be a way to argue that any of it was wrong because they chose such simple, reasonable words. It brought together a nation with vastly divided political views together in the singular idea of acceptance. It didn’t tell a story but it did leave a resonating positive feeling.