Opinion

Pokemon jumps the Super Bowl ad gun with a technicolour flying start

Social video expert Unruly reviews the latest viral by Pokemon.

"With nearly 250,000 shares since its release, ‘#Pokemon20’ has made a strong opening ahead of this weekend’s Super Bowl"


8/10

As Super Bowl 50 approaches, the advertising world is battening down the hatches for another weekend of blockbuster trailers, celebrity cameos and mega-brands vying to win the day.

While the majority of Super Bowl ad spend goes towards the big game itself, as well as the viral tail in the days following as viewers pick apart their favourite spots, there are certain advantages to teasing your Super Bowl campaign ahead of time.

Releasing early can give brands a jump on the competition, as well as tying the giddy anticipation of the weekend into your release.

For further proof, just ask Pokémon. Released last week, Pokémon’s Super Bowl ad is a celebration of the brand’s monumental 20-year history. Presiding over an empire of addictive card games, addictive cartoons and video games, the Japanese brand indoctrinated an entire nation of youngsters into its technicolour fantasy world.

The nostalgia effect

Though very much a phenomenon of the late 1990s, Pokémon remains a cultural touchstone because of the beautiful, searing nostalgia associated with it. Also, did we mention how addictive it was? However, Pokémon is not content to rely on memes and BuzzFeed lists to stay relevant, and its recent marketing output has become increasingly modern, slick and focused on iconic imagery. #Pokemon20 is no exception to this, recalling successful athletics campaigns like Reebok’s 'Freak show' more than it does a gaming company.

The spot begins with a child running toward a circle of people, desperate to see what’s going on inside. Though we only see a hint of dancing flames, the look on his face says it all. He whispers ‘I can do that’, before embarking on a training regime that involves legging it up a big mountain.

So begins a chain reaction, in which children around the world start to train intensively, presumably culminating in the biggest, baddest battle of ‘Pika-what’ versus ‘Chari-something’ the world has ever seen. Perhaps the most clever thing about ‘#Pokemon20’ is the way it abstracts the world of Pokémon away from videogames.

Since the ad is celebrating a phenomenon rather than heralding the latest game, the creative is free to focus on the mechanics of the game - strength, quick wits, agility - without cutting away to in-game footage. It’s this decision that allows the ad to feel so distinctively cinematic and suitable for the grand stage of the Super Bowl. There’s even an American football sequence thrown in for good measure.

A virtual success 

Pokemon has played the genre-mashing game before, previously with 2015’s hugely successful 'Pokemon Go' spot. Whereas its latest spot channels the best of sports advertising, ‘Go’ gestured towards travel and adventure spots, with its mix of real-life locations and superimposed videogame characters.

The spot finds weary travellers scouring the earth in search of the rarest fake monsters possible, with the help of their smartphones. While both ads have their partisans, their success boils down to the same core concept: injecting a little bit of Pokemon joy into the everyday world.

With nearly 250,000 shares since its release, ‘#Pokemon20’ has made a strong opening ahead of this weekend’s Super Bowl. While we’ll have to wait and see what the competition has to offer, it’s going to be tough to compete with the brand’s powerful mix of storytelling, nostalgia and a thoroughly modern, sporty style.