The turn of the new decade offers an inflection point for brands and consumers to look back on the progress we’ve made, tracing where we’ve been and how far we’ve come. The Super Bowl ads tapped into this introspective, celebratory current, projecting an overarching tone of compassion, camaraderie and humanity.

Many of last year’s Super Bowl ads offered commentary on technological advancement, demonstrating the pervasive influence of tech on daily life, while simultaneously poking fun at our dependence on it and highlighting its limitations. This year, however, brands chose to shine a spotlight on the complexities of the human experience.

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Turbo Tax commiserated that “being a person is complicated. We all have different – sometimes crazy – things to deal with.” Google aired an ad that explored how tech can be used in deeply human ways. The spot heard a man – who is reportedly an 85-year-old grandfather of a Google employee – recalling memories of his late wife, Loretta, and enlisting Google Home to help cement and store those memories.

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Walmart projected a unifying grassroots perspective in their “United Towns” ad, saying in the spot, “when we stop and look around, what we see are sparks. Sparks of hope; of compassion; of communities who stand firm when neighbors lift each other up, expecting nothing in return.” Budweiser’s “Typical American” ad turned American stereotypes on their heads in a rallying celebration of strength and community.

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Brands also took the opportunity to dust off pop culture favorites from decades past. Jeep recreated the cult classic film Groundhog Day in their spot and Walmart featured iconic intergalactic characters like Buzz Lightyear, Flash Gordon and Marvin the Martian.

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Amazon took the most literal approach to measuring humanity’s progress with an ad that humorously reimagined what life was like before Alexa’s voice-activated assistance, taking a step back to appreciate the simplicity and ease of modern-day conveniences.

After a decade wrought with divisive sociopolitical currents, dire environmental concerns and economic instability, Super Bowl LIV offered a brief moment of appreciation and reflection.

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