Super Bowl viewers who weren’t staying up to date with all of the advertising news leading up to the big game were likely caught off guard with a number of hard-hitting ads. Slapstick comedy was cast aside for more impactful, emotional storytelling.

Not only was this a new approach in creative development, but signals a changing of the guard in the way brands are positioning themselves. Brands are now latching on to social good initiatives and playing into the sentimental millennial mindset, which includes believing in and creating a better world for tomorrow.

The most talked about ads from Super Bowl XLIX all fall in line with this strategy. At the forefront of this discussion is Nationwide’s “Make Safe Happen” ad, which features a young boy describing all the things he’ll never do – learn to ride a bike, get kissed by a girl, travel the world – because he’s dead.

While the ad has been met with mixed reviews –after becoming the unofficial poster child of buzzkill – what is without question is its impact. Because of the aggressive approach, Nationwide joined the Monday morning cooler talk, along with Pete Carroll’s head-scratching play call. While Nationwide may have sacrificed a bit in the brand sentiment category, it’s the biggest winner when it comes to brand recall. It has become the ad that everyone is talking about from the Super Bowl.

In spite of football being a testosterone-driven practice, feminism and domestic violence awareness also were among the big winners. P&G always shows up big, and this year was no different. With its Always “Play Like A Girl” spot, P&G provides the blueprint on how to leverage a social cause – from creative execution through to strategic implementation – to create a strong brand position. Easily the most inspirational and empowering ad of the Super Bowl.

Although its hand was a bit forced (given the league’s troubles in this area), the NFL also delivered an attention-grabbing ad on domestic violence. The spot is part of the NFL’s “No More” campaign that has been running during the league’s games, which aim to curtail domestic abuse.

Other noteworthy sentimental advertising included, Budweiser’s “Lost Dog” spot, which won USA Today’s Ad Meter ranking and Nissan’s “With Dad” spot, which features a racecar driver who tries to balance the demands of his career and fatherhood.

This past Super Bowl provides a perfect snapshot of the methodical shift in brand marketing.  As the Nationwide spot suggests, this approach isn’t taken without risk, however. It will be telling to see how brands navigate through this trending tactic to cultivate strong storytelling elements to create emotional bonds with its customers.

In today’s everything all the time society, while it’s becoming increasingly difficult for a message to be heard and resonate, it’s just as difficult for individuals to find laurels to latch onto and identify with. By creating honest, open and socially conscience brands, this hard-to-create connection can be made between consumers and the products they buy. After all, creating an emotional connection is the truest way to cultivate brand loyalty.