Super Bowl 50 Recap: The Travel Ads

by  Laura Motta | Feb 8, 2016
Ben Affleck (as Bruce Wayne)
Ben Affleck (as Bruce Wayne) / Turkish Airlines

Some watch for the game. Some watch for the halftime show. And some watch for the ads.

If you’re like us, you’re keeping a particularly keen eye out for the travel ads. Remember Carnival’s splashy Return to the Sea campaign that ran during last year’s Super Bowl, complete with a sober voiceover from JFK? Or how about the beautiful Visit Ecuador ad with people walking down hazy cobblestoned streets and gazing up at cathedrals? You can’t deny the power of those ads. Here’s a look at the travel-related advertising spots that ran during the 2016 game:

1. Colonial Williamsburg: It Started Here

Perhaps the most striking travel-related ad in this year’s bowl came courtesy of Colonial Williamsburg. What was the most compelling thing about it? It didn’t show the destination at all, and maybe that was a wise choice. So many Americans associate Williamsburg with people in colonial-era costumes and the Busch Gardens amusement park. Maybe it was time to hit the reset button on the destination’s image. Instead, the ad comprised a series of iconic shots from American history -- triumphant and tragic -- all of which ran in reverse. President Obama stepped backwards down Pennsylvania Avenue. The Wright brothers' plane moved from the sky to its takeoff position on the ground. A crumbling World Trade Center tower seemed to reassemble in an instant. The message was clear: The formation of American history began in Colonial Williamsburg. With narration by news anchor Tom Brokaw, you can’t argue the ad’s boldness. On the other hand, the use of these broad-spanning events to focus on a single destination felt a touch overstated. America has a number of destinations that can claim plenty of their own Colonial history, not to mention the fact that there were already people and history here before the arrival of European settlers. People at our Super Bowl party also balked at the use of the 9/11 image in particular -- and felt that it wasn’t necessary to get the message across. Still if the goal of the ad was to provoke a conversation, this one did.

2. Expedia: Get a Room

The most interesting thing about Expedia’s role call of couples necking in public places was that it wasn’t actually a Super Bowl ad. It was a Valentine’s Day ad. We can only speculate, but we’re guessing that the outrageous cost of Super Bowl ad time prompted Expedia to consider an advertisement that had a longer shelf life than just a single day. Granted, it didn’t buy them very much time. With Valentine’s Day just seven days after the Super Bowl, the target was clearly those last-minute romantics who haven’t exactly been planning their Valentine’s Day weekend for months on end. Bonus points to Expedia for including a same-sex couple in the ad -- although an attractive female couple making out on a street corner doesn’t exactly shatter many stereotypes given the mostly hetero-male-centric tone of Super Bowl Sunday.

3. Turkish Airlines: Batman vs. Superman

What does Turkish Airlines have to do with crime-fighting superheroes? We don’t really know. Part movie trailer for the new film Batman vs. Superman and part ad spot for Turkish, this ad plays on a strategy we’ve seen before: that a real-life travel partner is servicing a fictional destination. Remember when Hilton sent out press releases about a new resort called the Hilton Isla Nublar that was supposedly situated within Jurassic World? This campaign tries something similar, only the ruse is that Turkish Airlines is now flying to both Gotham City and Metropolis -- the fictional hometowns of Batman and Superman, respectively. We can’t argue with how beautiful the ad looks -- including the cities themselves and, naturally, the plane's sweet-looking business class section. No guarantees, however, that Ben Affleck will be on your flight.

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