What Super Bowl Commercials Teach Us About Effective Copywriting

Caitlin Lemon
3 min readFeb 6, 2021
Photo by Thomas Serer, Unsplash.

It’s finally here. The night we’ve all been waiting for.

Super Bowl Commercial night!

Because some of us just watch for the ads (I don’t know anyone like that).

Unlike your typical commercials that interrupt Seinfeld reruns, these commercials don’t annoy viewers. This is one of the few nights where a commercial can make a brand rise to stardom.

And there’s something the commercials that do rise to stardom get right vs. the ones like “Puppy Monkey Baby” that sink (which is the most disturbing ad I’ve ever seen).

And you want your brand to be memorable. For the right reasons. So what’s this not-at-all-magical trick you can use to skyrocket your own copy?

Check out this ad from Toyota. Which is an example of doing this the right way. It’s not even Super Bowl Sunday yet and it’s already going viral.

Toyota Super Bowl Ad 2021

Those dang onions, right?

It’s only 60 seconds, and I’m already forecasting it as the winning commercial for the night. Let’s get to it.

Toyota masters the art of storytelling with this commercial.

Storytelling is one of the most powerful yet underrated tools for effective copy. Done right, it pulls the reader into the narrative. In a way hard data or quick plugs can’t.

Here we see a woman swimming. While next to the pool, her mother answers the phone.

“Mrs. Long, we found a baby girl for your adoption, but there’s something you need to know.”

It’s a hook. It makes you ask “What’s wrong? What does she need to know?” It compels the viewer to keep watching.

The commercial continues to pull the viewer in, with a clever combination of dialogue and visual storytelling. “Her legs will have to be amputated. Her life won’t be easy.”

We see two scenes simultaneously on screen. One of a little girl mastering her prosthetics. While in the pool a young woman races to the finish line at the Paralympics.

Each scene guides to viewer to the next. And it’s got a clever ending.

As the Paralympian’s head rises out of the water, she turns to look at her the woman on the phone. Waiting to hear the answer.

It keeps you in suspense, right? We’re all wondering if she’ll say yes or no.

And she says yes, which gives us a resolution, the closure we need. And that wraps up the story. Yes, your brand’s story needs an ending. It may not be exactly like this, but you need to give your audience closure.

Effective storytelling creates an emotional connection with your audience. All of us: football fans, content marketers, veterinarians, can relate to this story. No matter who you are, you can feel the concern, the suspense, and the hope (unless you’re a psychopath).

Toyota ends the commercial with the statement: “We believe there is hope and strength in all of us.” The purpose of the commercial, is to introduce their brand. It humanizes their brand’s values by conveying them through this relatable story.

So it has a point. And the story in your copy should, too. Because stories without a purpose, quite frankly, aren’t stories. It’s meaningless rambling. And will just leave your audience confused.

Using storytelling, you can form a relationship with your audience. You can introduce your brand and even inspire loyalty in a personable way.

It’s much more compelling than those commercials that yell at you. “At XYZ COMPANY WE BELIEVE IN A,B, AND C! SO BUY THE STUFF!”

(Are the loud people gone, yet?)

Toyota does it better, right?

Because we all agree: yelling is reserved for announcing free tacos.

So, next time you’re fixing copy for your brand’s website, social media, or blog (I know you’re already reaching for your laptop), take a tip from Toyota. Tell a compelling story.

Because that’s how humans (like you) connect with humans (your audience). And that’s copywriting done right.

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