Michelob Ultra might just take the award for strangest Super Bowl ad this year—especially when you get the backstory behind it. If you feel a little tingle while watching Zoë Kravitz promote the company’s newest organic version of Michelob Ultra, you’re not alone. The beautifully shot commercial employs the recent Internet craze of ASMR: the occurrence when an auditory or visual stimuli produces physical results. You can find a whole treasure trove of ASMR videos online, but what’s the deal behind it? We’ve got you covered.
What is ASMR?
ASMR stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, and it specifically refers to a tingling, often-pleasurable sensation that people can receive from sounds or visuals that please the brain. Typically, people feel the pleasure in their head, with some people reporting that it travels all the way down their spines.
But why is Zoe Kravitz doing it in a Super Bowl ad?
Michelob Ultra specifically says, “The commercial induces tingling sensations as it encourages drinkers to reconnect with nature through the enjoyment of beer in its organic form,” but in reality, the Anheuser-Busch brand is grabbing onto ASMR’s pop-culture moment. In recent years, YouTube videos have been made specifically for ASMR enthusiasts to enjoy, and there are plenty of enthusiasts out there. Some videos with ASMR triggers have upwards of a million views on YouTube.
So people are just making videos of weird, every day quiet noises?
Yes! The videos have a wild following and are oftentimes just everyday people just doing things that could trigger ASMR. Some of the most often used noises in ASMR videos are whispering, turning book pages, and scratching.
ASMR has been compared to the similar sensation that comes from synesthesia, which is essentially the “mixing of senses.” Think of it this way: if you hear a word or phrase and “see” a color in response, that is synesthesia. Except in the case of ASMR, the response is specifically touch.
How long has this been around?
The sensation isn’t particularly new because it’s not like humans just started responding to these triggers, but in recent years, the science has been explored more closely. The most-recent era of ASMR kicked off in 2007 on an online forum discussion about the sensation. According to Smithsonian Magazine, the term was coined in 2010 by a woman named Jennifer Allen. Since then, it’s gained traction and has even been studied seriously in scientific communities. A 2015 peer-reviewed study was one of the first reports that worked to identify ASMR-science and test the validity behind people’s claims who had experiences with ASMR.
So, is it useful?
Perhaps. ASMR has been said to reduce stress and anxiety in some people. There’s not a lot of scientific evidence that suggests this is anything more than anecdotal, but then again, if it makes you feel good, then why not?
Can you give a normal example?
You may have experienced ASMR without knowing it. Some people have reported the sensation while watching Bob Ross’s The Joy of Painting. That tracks: when you factor in the soft whisper he speaks in and the sound the brush strokes make against the canvas, a program like Ross’ is a gold mine for the type of noises that often lend themselves to an ASMR-type trigger.
So there you have it! You’ve learned something strange and new today. Perhaps you’re wanting to chill out but not at Xanax-level: give ASMR a try. Or maybe you just want to have one up on the youths. Either way, next time you scratch an itch, listen closely because it may be more relaxing than you’re giving it credit for.