Four bottles spelling Coca Cola
Coca-Cola's “Together is Beautiful” ad is a lighthearted approach on being a decent human being, said Nate Nowinowski, art director at Wieden+ Kennedy and a 2011 Brandcenter alumnus.

Decency, fear and other lessons from Super Bowl LIII ads brought to you by VCU Brandcenter alumni

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Marika Wiggan comes from a family of advertisers. But she’s the first to have an ad air during the Super Bowl.

In fact, last night’s game debuted Wiggan’s third career Super Bowl ad. The spot for SimpliSafe is the launching point for a larger campaign that Wiggan’s firm, Preacher, has developed for the home security company.

“The commercial's bigger themes that we landed on was acknowledging the sheer amount of fear and anxiety that's in the air and culture right now, and then looking at SimpliSafe and trying to offer up an alternative way of looking at the world,” said Wiggan, who graduated from VCU’s Brandcenter in 2010. “I think more than anything, what we were going for in this commercial is to be culturally relevant and sort of looking at the world at large and taking a point of view on whether or not that's how we need to be living our lives.”

The “Fear is Everywhere” ad features 30 seconds of reminders of everything we have to fear in the world — from porch pirates to the dangers of garage doors — and assures that home is still the one place you can feel safe.

Coca-Cola took a more lighthearted approach for Sunday’s big game. The “Together is Beautiful” ad is an animated primer on being a decent human being, said Nate Nowinowski, art director at Wieden+Kennedy and a 2011 Brandcenter alumnus.

“Our aim was to deliver a simple message in a simple and beautiful way,” he said. “We hope it stands out for that amidst the explosions and celebrity cameos.” He said he also hopes that the audience will take away from the spot a moment of hope or self-examination, or at least “the sudden need to grab a Coke from the fridge.”

Like Wiggan, this was not Nowinowski’s first foray into the land of Super Bowl ads.

“It’s always a bit of a journey, but in the end it’s pretty cool,” he said. “This is the one time out of the whole year where people are actively watching the ads.”

Expectations are definitely higher for a Super Bowl ad because of the eyeballs and also because of the cost of getting on air, said Tyler Moore, associate strategy director at R/GA Chicago. Moore, who graduated from the Brandcenter in 2012, worked on a regional ad for the Cleveland Clinic.

“Brands have a lot to lose if things don’t go well,” Moore said. “Many of us on our small R/GA team had previous Super Bowl experience so that was a huge benefit. It’s really hard to stand out in this environment. Most brands do this through humor, celebrity or some crazy thing no one has ever seen before. Our hope is that we connect emotionally with the people of Northeast Ohio and leave them with a little ‘feel good’ because we connected with their shared values.”

Wiggan’s experience with this year’s ad was slightly different because it wasn’t originally conceived as an ad for the Super Bowl. Rather, the director of strategy and her team wanted to come up with the most relevant point of view for SimpliSafe.

The team at SimpliSafe believed in the creative concept so much that they felt the Super Bowl was the right place to elevate it, Wiggan said. Once it was chosen for the Super Bowl, pressure was added, but ultimately the team focused on clearly articulating the difference in this product and its values to viewers.

“When you're on a stage where there's so much on the line and so many great advertisers putting out their message,” Wiggan said, “if you can get your message out there and people resonate with it, it's like the greatest feeling in the world.”

Super Bowl LIII ads by Brandcenter alumni

Hyundai Super Bowl spot featuring Jason Bateman by VCU Brandcenter alumni Tim Anderson (ST, 1999) and his team at Innocean (Los Angeles)

Hyundai No. 4 on USA Today’s Ad Meter
Tim Anderson (1999), Innocean (Los Angeles)


With endless combinations, there’s a flavor stack for everyone. Or is there?

Shannon Smith (2016), Grey (New York)


Nate Nowinowski (2011), Wieden+Kennedy (Portland, Oregon)


2019 Super Bowl Commercials: SimpliSafe Home Security


Jacob Pankey (2016) and Marika Wiggan (2010), Preacher (Austin, Texas)



We are unleashing a new era of electric, and it’s more thrilling than anything you can imagine (in this life or the next.)

AudiNo. 10 on USA Today’s Ad Meter
Avery Oldfield (2011) and Adam Wolinsky (2011), Venables Bell + Partners (San Francisco)


Cleveland Clinic - regional ad

Tyler Moore (2012), R/GA (Chicago)


2019 Super Bowl spot by VCU Brandcenter alumni Lane Karczewski (CW, 2011) and his team at Hecho Studios

CBS Network
Lane Karczewski (2011), Hecho Studios (Los Angeles)