With the Kansas City Chiefs coming from behind to defeat the Philadelphia Eagles on a field goal with just eight seconds remaining in the game, Super Bowl LVII on Sunday (2/12) held viewer interest throughout--which is a good thing for advertisers who paid anywhere from $6 million to $7 million-plus for a :30 time slot on FOX. At least they could count on audience attention from kickoff all the way to the Chiefs’ triumphant hoisting of the Lombardi Trophy.
Viewers got a dose of comedy, nostalgia and celebs in the Super Sunday commercials. To put it all into context, SHOOT connected with a cross-section of agency creatives, steering clear of those who had a special interest or a particular axe to grand in assessing ad fare on the Big Game. SHOOT sounded out creative artisans whose agencies did not have any commercials on this year’s Super Bowl so as to get unvarnished, apolitical takes on the advertising.
Here’s a sampling of the feedback we received:
Amanda Abrams, group creative director at Team One, shared that two of her favorites were beer commercials “because they broke the mold of Super Bowl beer ads. The endearing relatability of the husband-and-wife duo Miles Teller and Keleigh Sperry--and that earworm hold music--in Budlight’s ‘Hold’ was smaller, quieter and, frankly, more aspirational. As a big fan of the Daniels’ Everything Everywhere All at Once, I appreciated the action-packed execution of Molson Coors’ “High Stakes Beer Ad” and loved both the twist to Blue Moon and the collab with DraftKings, allowing fans to bet on every detail of what we presumed would be a predictable beer ad.
“And I wouldn’t have a heart if I didn’t love the story of a woman and her lifelong best friend in The Farmer’s Dog’s ‘Forever.’ As one friend said, ‘There was dust in my eye. And someone was definitely chopping onions.’”
As for what missed the mark, Abrams said there were far too many. “Celebrity cameo after frenzied celebrity cameo blurred who the ads were for and what they were trying to say.”
Furthermore the inescapable trend this year could be summarized as “Celebrities. Celebrities. Celebrities. Hopefully, we’ve reach peak pack-in-as-many-as-you-can celebrity status and can get back to telling some stories with heart and humor.
Another prominent trend: “The pressure to have that high-dollar, in-game commercial stand out has led brands to create much more robust PR and social campaigns ahead of and around the Super Bowl (M&M’s, Molson Coors and Planters, for example). This feels like an approach that will continue to pick up steam, because the :30 (:60 or :90) spot no longer stands alone.
In the big picture, Abrams assessed, “This was far from the ad industry’s best performance in the big game. Here’s hoping for richer storytelling, less flash for flash’s sake and more surprises to come.”
Asked to identify her favorite Big Game spots this year, Samira Ansari, chief creative officer, Deutsch NY, related, “I totally went for the remote during the Tubi commercial. Ha! I thought Squarespace did what they do best, a memorable, well produced and odd spot. I liked it. Bennifer! Very funny and great use of celeb. Lots of ads were pre-released, as they are these days, I have a huge soft spot for Blockbuster’s spot on a VHS tape.”
Also making a favorable impression: “Rhianna, Rhianna, Fenty cameo, bump, and all the memes that went along with it.”
Regarding trends, Ansari said, “I didn’t see a huge front runner this year. It was an even playing field.”
She added, “I love the Super Bowl and all the work that goes along with it. It’s nice to be out of the haze of COVID and back to playing ball with commercials. The industry was back in full swing.”
Jen Bills, executive creative director, 1o8 in Chicago, observed, “When brands cast a bunch of random stars for no apparent reason I’m always bored. Feels like just a budget flex instead of an idea. So my fave use of stars and also my fave commercials were Dunkin with Ben Affleck and Bradley Cooper’s endearing T-Mobile spot with his mom. However they got there, doesn’t matter but I want to think they realized they had lightning in a bottle with Brad and his mom and stopped trying to stick to the script. Loved the real people flipping out over Ben at the drive thru window. But my absolute fave spot was Squarespace with Adam Driver. That script with Adam’s voice was perfection. Also Tubi was genius. Loved watching rabbits attack and loved the disruption one--way to get our attention. Five stars.”
As for what missed the mark, “ads with just too much in them happen every year. I empathize with the teams that are under pressure to fit a list of stuff into a spot. Most of our job is setting priorities. Ads that had too much were Paramount+ Mountain of Entertainment and Michelob Ultra Club. They were just too much--there was no time to feel invested in any of it.
A major trend for Bills involved ther being “so many entertainment ads—everything was a movie trailer!”
Her overall grad for this year’s crop of Super Bowl commercials: “B+ from me. Way less bro-y than years past which I loved.
Squarespace’s “The Singularity” is the big winner for Mike Bokman, executive creative director, 180LA. “It’s perfectly smart and magnificently stupid. Oddly serious yet totally silly. It’s surprising and quirky and really well-executed. And in a night full of arbitrarily chosen celebrities and random cameo on top of random cameo, Adam Driver was the perfect fit in a spot that felt tailor-made for him.
“GM and Netflix’s ‘Why Not an EV’ was entertaining in its own Will Ferrell kind of way. It strikes me as a weird thing to sell--putting EVs in TV shows—but they found a clever way to sell it. And it made for some fun moments along the way.
“Sam Adams’ ‘Brighter Boston’ made sense for the product and had a good number of laughs. There have been a lot of Boston accent spots over the years that have made me roll my eyes, but this one isn’t one of them. It even sprinkled in celebrity without feeling like it was trying too hard.
“The Farmer’s Dog delivered a nice, simple, well-told story. Maybe it was just a relief to see a spot without celebrities, or maybe I’ve grown soft since my family recently got a dog who has quickly become each of our best friends, or maybe it’s because it is a sincere, honest, and beautifully executed spot amongst a night of gags, but it felt like a bright moment.
“I also enjoyed how weird and disruptive the Tubi ads were. I’ll definitely remember those creepy rabbits, although they make me want to not go anywhere near rabbit holes. Not sure if that was the point?
On the flip side, continued Bokman, “A lot missed the mark, but it’s not nice to name names. After all that effort people put in, if it didn’t work out, it didn’t work out. No need for anyone to get kicked when they’re down. Unless they’re gloating about a piece of shit that they made. Then kick away.
On the trend front, Bokman cited, “Celebrities. And more celebrities. Too many random celebrities. And a big return of humor. Especially the Jesus and Scientology commercials. Hilarious.”
Overall, Bokman assessed, “It wasn’t the strongest year of Super Bowl ads. There were a few good ads, a handful of decent ads that no one needs to be embarrassed about, and a few that tried too hard to be ‘Super Bowl ads.’ But the biggest disappointment was the surprising number of ads that didn’t try at all. Seems like some brands thought it was good enough to buy the space and make no effort to fill it with something interesting. Oh well, there’s always next year.”
“The Super Bowl advertising stage so often turns into a throw-in-everything-and-the-kitchen-sink endeavor. It feels more like an assault of the senses. And along the way, too many brands lose their way in the point they were originally trying to make, all in the name of attention,” said Ned Brown, chief creative officer, Bader Rutter. “So I look for those brands and spots that don’t espouse the more-is-more philosophy. The ones that didn’t try to pull off the equivalent of a raspberry-grape-root-beer Mega Big Gulp from 7-Eleven.”
Brown identified four spots this year that delivered. “They showcased captivating ideas that tapped into a simple truth and brought together the unique point of view of a brand, its product, and the people they’re talking to in a way that felt completely natural and genuine. These spots–-The Farmer’s Dog “Forever,” Google’s “#FixedOnPixel,” Bud Light’s “Hold,” Publicis Groupe’s “Monday”--just let the idea do what a great idea does: pull us in, take us on a journey, compel us to feel something (besides annoyance).
“For example, The Farmer’s Dog beautifully expressed a classic George Carlin insight: ‘Every pet is a tiny tragedy waiting to happen.’ Statistically, we will outlive them, yet we can’t live without the joy and companionship they bring. This one is perfect, from the classic soul track to the eye contact between them. Beautiful.
As for the ads that missed, “There were too many to name,” commented Brown. “It was so much muchness. Celebrities being used in incoherent ways. Even a celebrity’s mom. And one giving a horrible rendition of a famous halftime speech made by one of the greatest, most iconic actors in the history of filmmaking. All of it to no effect. Reaching no clear point of view. And cramming in as much as possible into the time they’d purchased. It’s almost as if some group in a boardroom said, ‘If we’re going to get our money’s worth, we’re going to jam a three-minute storyboard into 30 seconds.’”
Regarding an overriding trend or theme, Brown cited, “The trend of putting celebrities on full blast, with no real point or idea behind it, continues to grow each year, unfortunately. This year was the worst I’ve ever seen. And it left me feeling sad and disheartened for our industry. While there were a few examples that let the idea rule the day, and didn’t get distracted by being on the big stage, most did not. So many brands, the agencies, and the people behind them seem to have lost faith in the power of an idea and the incredible stopping power it has. It seems too many have forgotten why we got into this business in the first place.”
Brown sees an overall regression in Super Bowl spots. He gave this year’s crop of spots a D+, adding, “Remember Volkswagen’s ‘Darth Vader,’ Always’ ‘Like A Girl,’ Google’s ‘Loretta,’ or Snickers’ ‘Betty White’? After this year’s batch, and the trend we seem to be continuing down, those seem a very distant memory.”
Eric Cosper, creative director, The Distillery Project, furnished SHOOT with a rundown of his favorites from this year’s crop of Super Bowl commercials. They are:
- “It was fun hanging out with Ben for a day of work at Dunkin’. Affleck is really funny, unexpected and a clever celeb pairing for the brand. Felt fresh like a nice warm donut.”
- “The Pringles spot was funny, entertaining, and well executed. Perfectly suited for Superbowl viewing. I think it’s smart to push off a key product attribute, the can.”
- “The dark horse: Tubi. I loved the dark intrigue or the Tubi spot with a rabbit tossing people into a “Rabbit hole.”. Sure, I might live the rest of my life in fear of being buried alive by a large rabbit, but it was well produced and memorable. I appreciate the unique approach and not relying on gags and/or broad celebrity humor.”
For Cosper the spots that missed included:
- “Tubi’s second and completely unrelated spot where they tried to head-fake us by scrolling for a different channel. After I realized I wasn’t sitting on the remote I yelled at the TV in disgust.
- “The T-Mobile campy song and dance number with the actors from Scrubs made me feel bad for John Travola. John, why are you singing and dancing all over the Universal backlot with those two goofballs?
- “The second T-Mobile spot where they ‘tried’ using Bradley Cooper and his loopy mom as spokespeople was just as bad but for different reasons. The back and forth banter was both heavy handed and not remotely funny. Bradley looked like he hadn’t showered in days. The entire spot should have been left on the editing room floor.
- “The Sketchers spot. Why is Snoop delivering newspapers in shoes that look like they are designed for a 9 year old? The spot had the production quality of an ‘80s sitcom. The Tony Romo and sidekick Martha Stewart cameos were cliche and painful to watch.
- “Dexcom showed up to the wrong party. Felt more like a daytime TV spot that you would want to skip over.
- “John Cena singing and dancing for Experian and FICO scores with a purple cow was a sappy and embarrassing display.
- “M&M’s make a clam flavor candy now? I’m confused.”
For trends this year, Cosper cited, “Weaving your brands selling points into popular entertainment properties (Breaking Bad, Clueless, Caddy Shack, Grease, etc),” as well as “using song and dance (Experian, T-Mobile, Bookings, and M&M’s) is a painful troupe that clearly has some staying power. Nice to know choreographers are keeping busy.
Handing out a grade for this year’s crop of spots, Cosper shared, “Overall, a little better than average for me. I’d give it a C+, maybe B. In general, I felt there were a lot of well done entertaining spots. Advertisers are staying true to what makes Super Bowl advertising what it is. Big, audacious, expensive, and just begging to be talked about.”
Sinan Dagli, executive creative director at Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners, gave a rundown of his favorite spots this year. “In the world of celebrity-dominated Super Bowl advertising, the Amazon spot “Saving Sawyer” hit differently. I should start by saying that I am a dog person. I watched the game with our dog Walter who took turns invading everyone’s personal space. You could say that I’m likely the target audience. As for the ad, the subtle yet emotional storytelling from start to finish is on point. The nuances in the vignettes are very relatable (for our family.) Even though you expect the twist at the end, it’s still unexpected. I thought it was well done. Also, a special shout-out to the good folks at the Farmer’s Dog for hitting us in the feels. To round out the other standouts this year, Coors vs. Miller Lite, Google Pixel, and Bradley Cooper’s mom telling him that he looks like a flamingo in the pink T-Mobile shirt.”
As for work that missed, Dagli said, “I want to acknowledge how hard it is to concept, write, sell, and produce a Super Bowl spot. And seeing your spot run in front of 100 million people will always be an incredible achievement. Regardless if someone (like me) criticizes it or not. That being said, I thought Remy Martin, ‘Inch by Inch’ was a swing and a miss. Having Serena Williams as your star, there could have been a more original approach than lifting Al Pacino’s iconic monologue from Any Given Sunday.
As for themes/trends, Dagli simply offered, “#DogBowl. And I’m not complaining.”
Relative to grading this year’s ad lineup, Dagli remarked, “I’d give it a C. (I was a C student.)”
Emma Eriksson, head of creative, Forsman & Bodenfors NY, assessed, “Tubi’s prank ad is the most memorable to me and shows how marketing works now. My family screamed ‘Who’s sitting on the remote?’ simultaneously. I highly admire creative thinking so relatable and rooted in real behavior. It beats everything. The rabbit hole and the garden spot were also cute.
“Rihanna did a quite astonishing job advertising Fenty Beauty touching up her makeup on stage. Everybody knows that powder by now. The red and white symphony with Rihanna in a cherry red Loewe jumpsuit and the background dancers as marshmallows (intentional?) was epic. Apple Music did well with their Rihanna tribute of NFL fans singing ‘Stay,” and the spot ‘Run This Town’ paying tribute to her childhood in Barbados, even if it technically wasn’t a Super Bowl ad.
“For the more traditional ads, I loved SquareSpace’s ‘The Singularity.’ An existential artsy sci-fi ad with a multitude of Adam Driver clones to illustrate ‘a website that does websites.’ How can you not like something this beautiful and weird?
“Dunkin’ with a shabby Ben Affleck working at the drive-thru was funny. It was great to see a brand using celebrities in a way that is authentic. Ben Affleck is long-time mocked for his Dunkin’ obsession, and flipping it around made me smile. Affleck also directed the spot himself and proved he doesn’t take himself so seriously. JLo just showing up at the end added extra sprinkles.
“Also worth mentioning is Workdays’ ‘Rockstars.’ Thank you Workdays for daring to make fun of people like me, makes me love you. There were also well-crafted spots like Farmer’s ‘Dogs Forever’ and Amazon, ‘Saving Sawyer’s’--emotional subtle storytelling at its best. Also enjoyed unexpected moves like Crown Royal’s “Thank You Canada” and Doritos’ “Try Another Angle” with all the ingredients.”
As for the other end of the spectrum, Eriksson observed, “People don’t know how extremely hard it is to make great advertising, and it feels so unfair to criticize. We all try hard and do our best. A reaction I can share, since I absolutely adore Serena Williams, is I was a little disappointed to see her in Rémy Martin’s spot trying on Pacino’s pep talk from Any Given Sunday. She’s in the most alone and individual sports and was talking about teamwork, which was a bit disconnected to me. And what does it all have to do with Cognac? In general, there were many expensive spots with multiple celebrities that felt forced or too obvious.”
Eriksson identified a trio of themes/trends: “Triangles, dogs and ants.”
She also acknowledged the degree of difficulty on Super Sunday. “It’s challenging to break through with traditional 60-second ads nowadays, even during the Super Bowl. No matter how many celebs you engage, famous hit songs, cultural references to TV and movies and all the bells and whistles, the memes and PR-driven actions hit harder.
Peter Herbst, VP, ECD, St. John, assessed, “As I waited for the breaks and watched the ads this year I did so with bated breath. Especially as the game went on. Eagerly waiting for the spots that would bowl me over and have me immediately texting my friends and colleagues with, ‘Did you see that?!?’ messages...and it didn’t really come. I found myself debating with old partners and present employees over whether this spot, or that spot was ‘ok.’ Not great, not funny, not poignant, but just ‘ok.’
“This is the Superbowl. The budgets are higher. The expectations are higher. And so, the stakes are higher. And it was a rough year in Ad-land.
“The one spot that I thought stood out was for Tubi, Fox’s VOD service. Such a simple premise and such a wildly extravagant execution. The Donnie Darko-esque rabbits dragging people away from their tasks and pitching them into their rabbit hole was captivating. Kudos to the creative, the score, the storytelling, film work, SFX and winning the battle to not have ANY VO. Unfortunately, it was really light on branding (despite the bug) and probably could have used a VO. Still, a solid A in my book.
“Another Honorable Mention has got to go to the ‘He Gets us’ campaign for Jesus. Making his Super Bowl debut with a stunningly powerful yet extremely somber ad reminding us to ‘Love your enemies.’ Its black-and-white photography scored to Rag’n’Bone Man’s “Human” was sharp mirror reflecting the divisiveness that seems to have a grasp on society presently. I’m not sure I needed this message during the frivolity of America’s biggest game...but maybe that placement was the point.”
Herbst felt “the majority of the ads missed the mark this year. I feel like everyone read the Gartner report from a few years ago extolling the power of celebrities and decided to double down this year. I’m not against using stars and influencers, but it doesn’t make up for not having a solid strategy and sharp Creative.
“The one celebrity spot I did truly enjoy was for Dunkin’ Donuts. If you’ve ever been to Boston, then you know it truly is a town that runs on Dunkin’. Using Boston’s favorite chosen son (Ben Affleck) was a brilliant connection that I’m sure had residents and fans of the brand tickled. Jennifer Lopez’s cameo at the end was another great touch leading to a dose of self deprecating humor not often seen in the world of celebrity.”
Herbst added, “I think the MVP of the Super Bowl trends this year was the catering to a certain audience, namely Gen X’ers. Nostalgia was at an all time high with ‘80s and ‘90s stars making appearances in what felt like at least half the spots. From Alicia Silverstone revamping her role in Clueless, Serena Williams showing up in Michelob Ultra’s take on Caddyshack, to the music of Sean Combs and countless other ‘90s artists creating Uber One’s new gingle--the vibe of Generation X was strong. Hell, even the NFL used bands like The Church for its interstitials. The Church on the NFL??? That’s blasphemy.”
As for this year’s overall crop, Herbst said, “About half way through the game I felt like I was grading everything on a curve. The abundance of spots that relied on nothing but celebrities, big budgets, good music and nostalgia made me feel like anything that wasn’t truly terrible got a passing grade, and spots that were pretty good stood out as great. I don’t think there will be many commercials from this years game that go down in history as great. I have to give it an overall C+.”
Colin Jeffery, chief creative officer, Doner, and co-founder/CCO of Wolfgang, shared his favorites:
- “Tubi ‘Interface Interference’--I loved how simple and disruptive this spot was. It literally had me (and millions of others) diving for the TV remote. No celebrities, explosions or puns, just a perfectly timed product demo. The response to this spot on social media was immediate and heated, Tubi clearly fooled us all, we now know who and what Tubi is.
- “Workday’s ‘Rockstar’--A good old-fashioned Super Bowl ad, and I mean that in the best way possible. A simple idea based on a common cringe-worthy phase. The spot has mass appeal with a wide range of ‘rockstar’ talent, perfect for a broad Super Bowl audience. The classic super formula is easy to over complicate, this spot has all the right ingredients and is perfectly cooked.
- ‘Budlight ‘Easy to drink, Easy to enjoy--It’s takes guts to go quiet and simple when everybody else is going big and loud. That said, I really enjoyed the Bud Light ‘on hold’ spot. It genuinely made me smile and was a nice moment of calm in all the chaos. The spot was beautifully shot, and the performances were great, you could tell (and feel) that Miles and Keleigh were having fun making the spot.”
Missing the mark for Jeffery were:
- “E*trade Babies ‘Baby Wedding’--As a rule, babies perform well in the Super Bowl. Unfortunately, this was an exception to the rule. It just lacked the humor and charm that previous installments of this longstanding campaign have had. It might be time to retire the babies for good.
- “M&Ms--I had high hopes given the brands past Super Bowl performances and the on-going M&M ‘controversy’ leading up to the game. The spot itself was a miss in my opinion, confusing and hard to track. Just feels like a missed opportunity.
- “T-Mobile “Neighborly”--Nostalgia tends to play well with a Super Bowl audience. The right song, movie reference and celebrity can be a winning formula. Unfortunately, this spot was a miss, the lyrics, the performances and the odd combo of John Travolta, Zach Braff and Donald Faison left me a little confused."
Relative to trends, Jeffery observed, “Pregame strategy continues to evolve. This year we saw fewer brands releasing their full spots early. Instead, we saw more conceptual teaser content being released. In many cases the teaser content and PR leading up the Super Bowl was better than the actual spot itself.”
He added, “We saw a significant drop in automotive brands participating in this year’s Super Bowl. Hopefully we’ll see more brands back in the game next year.”
As for the overall ad performance on this year’s Big Game, Jeffery shared, “Some years we see ideas that are bigger than just a commercial and make us as an industry rethink our approach to the Super Bowl. FanDuel’s live spot with Gronk was a first and something agencies have been trying to pull off for years. If brands and agencies are able to create real time Super Bowl content moving forward, things will become very interesting.
“All in all, I’d say it was an average year”
Brad Kayal, creative director & associate partner, Barrett, acknowledged an affinity for animals. “Like so many people, ads that feature animals usually work for me. This becomes almost unbeatable when you combine animals with some extremely emotional play about a pet’s mortality. With this combination, The Farmer’s Dog created a really powerful piece. My only fear, though, is every other marketer will learn the wrong lesson from this and next year’s Super Bowl ads will simply be the ending scenes of Old Yeller or Where the Red Fern Grows (but with a perfectly lit Jeep Grand Wagoneer or Michelob Ultra sitting in the background).”
As for what missed the mark, Kayal shared, “Some of the most amazing ads from my youth where the ones where a group of kids were doing some generic, kid-based-thing and a celebrity shows up (usually through a wall) to really turn the party up. This trope wasn’t complete until the kids all yelled the celebrity’s name in unison. “Woah! Macho Man Randy Savage!?” or “Nancy Reagan!!!” It was great, but it feels like we’ve really Fast & Furious’d this concept and now it’s more about how many celebrities can you fit per square foot. Sir Elton John in an ad should be kinda groundbreaking, but when he’s celebrity number 24 in the first 25 seconds of your 60 second ad, your audience’s collective brain has already melted.
Regarding welcome trends, Kayal said, “I was happy to see some weirdness come back with Squarespace and Tubi being the ones that come to mind. We all know how much these ads are costing these brands (it’s an important part of the context in which we are watching) so when you spend that money being weird it’s like the kid showing up at the prom sporting a Ross Perot ‘96 t-shirt under an open Hawaiian shirt. You just don’t forget that kid.”
Kayal graded this year’s crop of Super Bowl ads as a C+. “Lots of great talent, BIG productions, and some interesting concepts, but with too much riding on celebrity to carry it all. If you’re gonna do it, at least have them burst through a wall.”
Katie Keating & Erica Fite
Providing their joint assessment of Super Sunday were Katie Keating and Erica Fite, co-founders and co-chief creative officers of Fancy. Among their favorites were:
- “The YouTube Football Cat made us laugh. We’ve definitely fallen into a cat video rabbit hole (yeah, yeah, rabbit holes are a different spot) so when we saw the cat playing “football music” on the synthesizer I cracked up. Great way to use blend what everyone thinks YouTube is about with what it’s about now.
- “Turbo Tax: We hate doing our taxes. Also, we would never do our taxes ourselves. So, we felt seen with TurboTax’s Safety Dance spot and loved that the spots (this and the Plant Parent one) were so simple and literally just showed 30 seconds of anything but taxes.
- “If the success of an ad is to get people to stop what they are doing, get emotional then talk about it afterward, we’d say the Tubi Interruption Ad did just that. Watching the Super Bowl with her noisy family, including her octogenarian parents who were complaining that none of the ads spoke to them, so proceeded to mute them whenever possible, Erica said that Tubi ad was the only one that got them all to stop, get mad about whoever was sitting on the remote and then laugh and talk about it after—Tubi wins!
Missing the mark for Keating and Fite was Temu. “Do billionaires’ shop for dresses that cost $9.99? Do billionaires buy wigs for bald strangers? Do billionaires buy whatever a bird pecks on their phone? That ad just left us confused. About billionaires and whatever Temu even is.”
Relative to trends, “A friend texted Katie and said, ‘All these ads are made by people from our generation!’ She was referring to using the Electric Slide song for Jeep as well as Grease & John Travolta for T-Mobile, but there was also Safety Dance for TurboTax, Clueless for Rakuten, and even Caddyshack for Michelob. We don’t know whether the ads were made by GenXers and Boomers, but I bet they certainly resonated with them.
Assessing the overall crop of Big Game spots, Kating and Fite jointly stated, “The ads that followed the old K.I.S.S. rule won in our opinion, but there was too much complicated clutter to sift through to get to those. So, I’d say, overall, just okay.”
Stephen Niedzwiecki, founder & chief creative officer, YARD NYC, cited his lineup of favorites:
- “E.L.F Beauty--It’s rare to see a beauty ad at the Super Bowl but with women making up 47 percent of the audience, E.L.F is smart and brave to break the mold. You can’t go wrong by picking Jennifer Coolidge and Mike White as creators and letting them do what they do best. Flawless.
- “GM/Netflix--It’s hard to make brand partnerships work well at the best of times. Launching the electric vehicles within Netflix properties gives the brand scale and eyeballs differently, and it’s a stroke of genius to leverage some of the biggest Netflix shows alongside Will Ferrell to describe the partnership. Loved the moments of Squid Games and Bridgerton. Overall, it was well written and well performed.
- “Bud Light--This one stands out not only for the simple and relatable story but the bravery of the brand to take such a different approach. This was needed in a market where light beer is struggling to hold consumers’ attention. It was very unexpected and possibly a successful shift — a nice breath amongst all the high energy celeb induced spots being played.
- “Tubi--The rabbit hole is a smart and simple insight, delivered with a forceful, creative edge. Loved the twisted fantasy of it all. My 14 year old son and his friends loved the stunt after which was a fun idea and grabbed their attention. The stunt gave the brand a viral moment.
- “Dunkin’ Donuts--this spot got so much more interesting because it ended a week of Affleck memes and lip reading after the Grammys. It dipped Dunkin straight into the cultural conversation and gave Ben and JLo the last laugh. With Ben looking like he had just rolled out of bed, it also showed that the pair can laugh at themselves. The drive through format is classic but a great revival of the format.
As for his rundown of spots that missed:
- “T-Mobile--In general these spots had the star power without the success. John Travolta’s Grease Revival? It’s not enough to have famous faces. Even with Zach Braff and Donald Faison it could have been so much better.
- “Temu--If you’re looking to launch a new brand or app, making people aware of what it does is critical. ‘Shop like a billionaire’ doesn’t connect with the average consumer and the execution didn’t pay off. Somehow every viewing got worse and made less sense.
- “Rémy Martin--not the best use of Serena. It started off strong but meandered and didn’t connect with the moment or the brand.
- “Astella’s VMS--I applaud an ad about menopause at the Super Bowl, but we don’t need to make menopause even more complicated by making up another medical term. Menopause needs to be demystified and handled with great creativity and empathy
- “Doordash--It didn’t connect all the way through. I love Matty Matheson and am happy for him, but this didn’t work to sell the benefits of the brand.
- “Fanduel--For all the hype going in, it was strangely anti-climactic, and the live portion was a miss. Hopefully, this puts the live ad idea to bed forever."
On the trend front, continued Niedzwiecki, “Simplicity and escapism won out as the ads felt a bit lighter this year. There was a hard pivot away from the purpose and ‘values-based’ advertising. It tracks a broader industry shift away from that work and shows that businesses are stepping away from culture/politics.
“Most songs, films and celebrities who participated are from Gen-X. Nostalgia drove by that age group and created a shared language for everyone to participate in. It felt more prevalent than it has in the past few years and mirrors the shift to escapism.
“A big night for women with spots that hit on Diana Flores and flag football, beauty, menopause and of course, a killer halftime performance by Rihanna.
“The year electric cars made us laugh and dog spots made us cry.
“Less tech and crypto ads and the return of more mass consumer ads.”
As his overall grade for Super Bowl advertising this year, Niedzwiecki issued a B-.
John Nunziato, founder and CCO of Little Big Brands, listed the following ads as his favorites:
- RAM’S premature electrification
- Farmers Dog
- Pixel phone fix
- Jesus second commercial
- RAM Will Ferrel EV commercial
As for spots that came up short:
- “Binkydad is insulting and degrading to fathers and men. It was a complete waste of money.
- “Serena Williams hocked alcohol twice. Her coach’s speech wasn’t inspiring and lacked emotion.
- “Two commercials had chubby older men in red speedo-style swim bikinis. Plaque psoriasis & Pixel.
- “M&M Characters, literally no one understood the atoll commercial and the throwaway at the end that “they are back” was precisely that, a throwaway.”
Here’s a complete look at the crop of Big Game spots from best to last:
- RAM REV - premature electrification
- Farmers Dog
- Pixel phone fix
- Jesus second commercial
- Will Ferrel EV commercial
- Boston Lager
- Doritos triangle
- Rockstar workday
- Pringle’s hand stuck
- Amazon dog friend
- Bud light hold music
- M&M Characters
- Remy Martin Serena Williams
AJ Rivvers, group creative director, The Many, said, “I truly appreciated the grandeur of Tubi’s rabbit holes, and applauded their platform hack making it seem like the channel was being changed mid-game. The group I watched the game with all started shouting at the 3-year-old nearest the TV, thinking he’d unintentionally pressed a button. Though, I was surprised the Tubi channel hack didn’t land on a piece of content more in line with the rabbit hole work earlier in the game – why not click on Alice in Wonderland or The Matrix instead of Mr. and Mrs. Smith?
“The Bud Light dance with Miles Teller and wife Keleigh Sperry was a product demo done right. “Easy to Drink. Easy to Enjoy.” the ad stated. And I think the same is true for the commercial.
“PopCorners’ Breaking Bad tribute was really well done – props to featuring the flavor in the blue bag as a nod to the Blue Sky product in the series.
“But I think my winner would have to be RAM’s Premature Electrification pharmaceutical sketch. No pomp. No tenuous borrowed interest. Just a real-life concern of range anxiety framed up with strong copywriting, performed to perfection for men and women alike. Loved the attention to detail, like the sharp turn sign tilted flaccidly downward, the bent fishing pole, and the legal disclaimer that read, ‘Not a real condition, but certainly worth talking about.’ Is it tacky? Sure. But this is the church of football, not Sunday mass, and my money’s on the salt-of-the-earth target for RAM trucks saddling their naysaying friends with Premature Electrification anytime they need to defend their move away from diesel.”
On the flip side, Rivvers commented, “By far the biggest disappointment, for me, was Rémy Martin’s re-enactment of Al Pacino’s “Inches” speech from cult classic film Any Given Sunday. You’ve clearly got the budget to produce something memorable, but every decision was baffling to me. From the understated read of the script to drawing parallels between a football team, ballet company, and kitchen staff, I struggled to find the relationship they so confidently portrayed. A story about inches, and they missed by miles.
“While Remy Martin was off from the start, Doritos fumbled at the five yard line. I was in for the triangle narrative with Jack Harlow, continuing to leverage the brand’s unique shape. It was a big, audacious brand spot that had me right up until I saw the tagline “Try another angle.” Did you see what they did there? Try-angle. The average beer-holder won’t cringe at Frito-Lay’s strategy showing, like I did. But, they also won’t connect the dots between throwing away everything in your life that has made you successful in a bid to justify buying the BBQ flavor Doritos over your traditional Cool Ranch, or in my case, Spicy Nacho. I’m looking for a snack, not marketing KPIs veiled as life advice.
In the big picture, Rivvers said, “I think this year’s crop of commercials falls somewhere in the middle of the historical pack. Nothing really broke the internet. Nothing really had our viewing party in stitches or tears. I say this as a Monday morning quarterback, fully understanding the brand landmines my colleagues must navigate, but it’s such a powerful stage with a captive and welcoming audience, that I just wanted to see more, and I wanted to see better. Showing up at the Super Bowl takes serious money, but I hope we can find our way back to not taking ourselves too seriously.
Sergio Rodriguez, creative director, PPK, listed his favorites:
- “GM + Netflix Partnership- In the middle of the EV clutter, GM & Netflix ingeniously does what the ad talks about and ends up with one of the most memorable EV ads in the bunch… or is it a Netflix ad? Brands aside, it played like an EV ad. An incredibly entertaining one that most certainly kept things simple, fun and worthwhile. Let’s face it, it’s pretty hard to go wrong with Will Ferrel, still the story built around Netflix shows gave him an even bigger canvas to do his thing, like only he can. In the end, the ad that touts the fact that Netflix will start to feature more EV’s in its content, together with GM, served up an ad with EV’s in Netflix content. Pretty brilliant.
- “The Farmers Dog- Get napkins. Full disclosure, I am a dog person. That said, I absolutely hate that this ad was sooooo well done. They made my wife cry during the big game. Yes. Me too. A little. It’s obviously a dog people brand, and boy do they make a meaningful connection with THE INSIGHT that matters: I want my dog to be there, always. The ad taps into emotions all dog lovers connect with. First, the arrival as a puppy and second, the last days; plus all the moments in between. But the progression of that story was beautifully articulated. It was a simple, powerful, emotional crescendo, driven by the right music, ending on an arresting moment. Like it or not and tears aside, the brand delivered big for the big game.
- “Doritos- Jack Harlow… Wait… Elton John? Talk about an idea that is on point for the brand, the target and the product! This Doritos ad delivered bigtime on fun and entertainment! A beautiful exercise in letting loose and letting a crazy, yet brand centric idea take a life of its own. It delivered on the kind of snowballing humor Gen Z gobbles up. And just when you thought this ad was about Jack Harlow and triangles, no… it’s about Elton John and triangles. Voila! Generations have been bridged! I mean, enough said. Well done!”
Rodriguez then provided a rundown of work that missed the mark:
- “SquareSpace...Does Websites...Enlightening. Watching the SquareSpace ad left me wondering how much was spent on an ad that basically says ‘we’re a website that creates websites.’ I mean, they’ve been that for years now… Isn’t there anything more worthwhile, or insightful to communicate? Equally confounding was seeing Adam Driver turn into many versions of himself. A way too literal representation of the message. All in all it’s a full throttle, effects driven, celebrity clad ad, that ends up saying nothing worthwhile about the brand. Never a good combo. There’s a followup ‘making of’ video, which is way better than the commercial. It is all about Adam and nothing about the brand. So, if we take away something from this investment, it’s that Adam multiplies.
- “E-Trade. Babies speaking out proper words, realistically, were a cool thing back then. ‘Back then’ being the key words in that statement. By now the babies, although fun and entertaining, do very little good for the brand message in general.
- “Hellman’s. Unfortunately, the Ham and Brie pun never truly became an ad. It’s one of those examples where celebrities don’t truly fit the brand, so brands try to get ‘creative’ about fit, but fall short.”
Rodriguez further observed, “In terms of innovation and trends worth mentioning, to me it falls into two categories. First, brands collaborating in a Super Bowl ad, and managing to play nice in the sandbox and two, the EV craze and how can one manage to stand out, rising above the rest.
“Starting with the EV convo. GM and Dodge took home the bacon in this regard. They steered clear of the EV RTB flex and kept the conversation simple and fun. In the case of Dodge, the idea of premature electrification, served up in the feels of an ED commercial, but delivered on EV RTBs and turned out to be communication gold. The ad kept you in it and most certainly did not feel like ‘Oh boy! Here comes another one of those EV spots.’ GM on the other hand, subtly yet brilliantly positions themselves as EV ambassadors by promoting their skin in the game, apparently providing the vehicles Netflix will need, in order to feature more EV’s in their content.
“Something else which has been trending are brands partnering up during the big game. Two brands stand out. First Blue Moon, Miller and Coors literally fought it out on screen for the ad space. A very well done execution with stopping power featured Coors and Miller first, fighting over who’s king; only to be thwarted at the end by a proper Blue Moon stomp, proudly declaring: This is a Blue Moon Commercial. Now, asides from the fact that they are all part of the same brandhouse, still, many brand managers would cringe at having their brand share the limelight with any other brands. But in this case, it worked very well. True, Blue Moon came out on top, but in the end, all did look like contenders.
“Another great example of partnerships that worked was the GM + Netflix partnership. In this case, GM has what Netflix needed: EV’s to feature in their upcoming content. This is a case where brand interests played well with each other and created an organic fit that was simply capitalized upon in a brilliant, entertaining way.
“Both of these partnership scenarios show that this kind of approach is much less sacrilegious than many would think, when the fit is organic and the execution is managed in a way that cares less about “balance of screen time” or “roles” and more about proper roles within the storyline.”
And here’s are letter grades spanning assorted spots which appeared during the Super Bowl LVII telecast:
The List: Best to Worst:
- GM & Netflix
- Doritos Jack Harlow
- The Farmers Dog
- Dodge Premature Electrification
- Amazon Dog
- Door Dash We Get Groceries
- Blue Moon
- Crown Royal
- Tmobile Neighbor
- Pepsi Ben
- Sketchers Snoop
- Google Pixel
- Sam Adams
- Pepsi Setve
- Uber One Diddy
- Draft Kings
- Okios Yogurt
- Pop Corners
- Downy Unstopables
- Tmobile Bradley Cooper
- Peacock Poker Face
- Michelob Ultra: New Members Day
- Paramount Plus
- Turbo Tax
- Dexcom Feels Like Magic
- Mr Peanut Roast
- Avocados from Mexico
- Michelob: Full Gossip Swing
- Crowd Strike
- Busch Light
- Kia Binky Dad
- Square Space Adam Driver
- ETrade Baby
Jameson Rossi & Andrew Williams
Jameson Rossi and Andrew Williams, creative directors, McKinney, offered their joint assessment of the Big Game.
- “We really dug the SquareSpace concept and AD. Super simple and entertaining.
- “Tubi - Down the Rabbit Hole. Loved the idea and liked the execution.
- “The Farmer’s Dog- We have dogs, so obviously."
Ads that came up short:
- “Avocados from Mexico missed the mark for us. Was hard to retain the story/joke.
- “T-Mobile with John Travolta had some questionable singing."
As for themes:
- “Lots of self-aware ads. It felt like, “This is an ad for…” was probably said 150 times.
- “QR codes up the wazoo. Did anyone scan?
- “Strangely, a whole bunch of ads took place or featured a recording studio. Weird.
- “And then the celebrity thing is on another level these days. Which made it cool to see things like The Farmer’s Dog ad getting so much love without a celebrity."
Rossi and Williams split on the letter grades they would give to this year’s Super Bowl commercials:
Rossi went with a B. “It felt like we were just bombarded by celebs without any ideas to back them up. I am glad that most ads leaned into humor versus heartstrings.”
Williams rated Big Game adds with an overall C+. “Felt like an okay year where nothing blew you out of the water but nothing made you want to quit advertising. Just another year that’ll blend into the middle.”
Justin Sottile, director, motion at Pearlfisher, said, “Pepsi and Dunkin’ won for me. Both ads had writing that felt organic to their celebrity and not as a crutch. (Looking at you, Hellman’s) Honorable mention to The Farmer’s Dog for that second quarter sobbing.
Missing the mark, he continued, were: Budweiser which “felt lazy,” and Bud Light which “couldn’t find an audience for whatever that was. M&Ms had a head start last week and fell kind of flat come showtime.”
On the trene front, Sottile remarked, “When not bludgeoned with celebrity cameos, the real stars were cute animals, electric vehicles, and Boston accents. Not even Popeyes could escape a mention of an EV.”
Overall the commercials “were all a bit tame and a bit forgettable. Here’s to hoping for another ‘Wazzzaaaaap.’”
Nicolette Spencer, SVP, head of content production, INNOCEAN USA, cited her favorites:
- "Will Ferrell, EV, GMC – It’s challenging to be in the automotive space, selling an EV on the Big Stage. GMC did this right. They used their :60 wisely, showcasing more than one of their EV models and highlighting the chops of what America knows and loves of one of its Comedic Heroes.
- "Turbo Tax, Safety Dance – Simple, brief, effective execution. Safety Dance as a musical tie-in makes this one of my favorite spots for its pure simplicity.
- "Dave Grohl, Crown Royal, Canada – Had no idea Canada was responsible for so much of our favorite things. These unknowns made this spot 100% watchable.
- "Farmers Dog – Not only because it stood out in a field composed primarily of comedy, but it genuinely pulled at my heartstrings."
Missing the mark for Spencer were:
- "T-Mobile, Bradley Cooper/Travolta – Love you Bradley, Love you Travolta – but no.
- "Temu – …huh?
- "Amazon – Do they sell dogs on Amazon? This will do well on the “lists” but with everything Amazon does, this seemed like a light effort from one of the biggest brands."
Spencer’s laundry list of themes/trends consisted of:
- "Celebrities, IP, Celebrities Oh My.
- "Celebrities were lost in a sea of same
- "Comedy is King
- "Comedy may have been lost in a sea of same"
Spencer’s letter grade for the Big Game ad crop is a C+. “A lot of star power, not a ton of originality.”