These Ads Will Inspire You More Than Those Super Bowl Commercials

Few social causes can afford to pay millions of dollars for a Super Bowl commercial. These art students imagine what inspirational ads they’d put on the air if they could.

Most charitable causes couldn’t afford the $133,000 per second that brands will pay to air Super Bowl ads on Sunday. But a class of arts students in Atlanta has imagined: What if they could?


These inspiring advertisements, envisioned for nonprofits like the Alzheimer’s Association, Creative Commons, and the Make-A-Wish Foundation, are the result. Warning: On Sunday, the real Super Bowl ads for Budweiser, etc. might seem lame by comparison.

The project came about when graphic designer Ken Carbone, of the Carbone Smolan Agency in New York City, visited the Portfolio Center in Atlanta to give a talk to the students there. He wanted to give them experience shooting video, and he thought assigning them to design 30-second Super Bowl spots would be a fun challenge.

The students grouped into interdisciplinary teams based on their talents and each picked their own cause. “This is like the no budget approach to the Super Bowl commercial,” says Carbone. “The real aim here was obviously not the production but crafting the message.”

As inspiration for powerful simplicity, he showed them the Nike commercial from 2012 shot with a figure running towards the camera. By the time the figure reaches the camera, the viewer realizes he’s an overweight child. “That was one camera angle and one central action and it created, I think, this monumental impact for Nike,” he says. “Here’s something that, well it’s not easy to pull that off, but my point was: look how simple that is.”

The kids’ ads, put together over two weeks, range from playful to powerful. One features the camera slowly panning the figure of a bride in a wedding dress, until the viewer realizes she is holding a teddy bear and is a child bride. That’s an ad for the UN Population Fund’s Too Young to Wed campaign. Another, for Conservation International, is a campaign to cut energy waste from a comic personality named Dave, who also happens to be a power outlet. You can see some more in the slide show above and all of them at the project’s website here.

These are just videos on the web, of course, and they weren’t actually sanctioned by the organizations that they represent (many students will be trying to get in touch with those groups soon). But they could have an impact nonetheless. These days, the most viral online videos are seen by more people than a Super Bowl advertisement, and even Super Bowl ads get many of their views on YouTube. And that’s all for free.

About the author

Jessica Leber is a staff editor and writer for Fast Company's Co.Exist. Previously, she was a business reporter for MIT’s Technology Review and an environmental reporter at ClimateWire.