With the Los Angeles Rams coming from behind in a fourth quarter rally to defeat the Cincinnati Bengals, the Super Bowl held viewer interest throughout--which is a good thing for advertisers who paid up to $7 million for a :30 time slot. At least they could count on audience attention from kickoff all the way to the Rams’ triumphant hoisting of the Lombardi Trophy.
This year’s crop of Big Game commercials for the most part served as a diversion from what ails us--the pandemic, divisiveness, social injustice. Viewers got a dose of comedy, nostalgia, a future spanning cryptocurrency and electric vehicles, and a major helping of celebrity power.
What remains constant is SHOOT’s policy of steering clear of those who had a special interest or a particular axe to grind in assessing Super Sunday ad fare. Continuing its annual tradition, 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 on the Big Game spots:
Jen Bills, EVP/executive creative director, 1o8, furnished SHOOT with her five favorites from this year’s crop of Super Bowl spots:
- "All Electric Chevy Silverado Sopranos--the right kind of nostalgia
- "Uber Eats--funny and beautifully dumb, only strike: too many stars
- "Voice of the Mountains Busch Light--ridic and fun
- "Do It For the Phones--Dolly, forever
- "And Avocados From Mexico--coliseum tailgate ftw
On the flip side, Bills said regarding work that missed the mark, “I don’t know what to do with spots that overcast and overwrite, or have a brand say something they haven’t earned the right to say. I’m not sure why Salesforce gets to say whatever that spot said and needed Mr. ‘Alright, Alright, Alright’ to deliver it. Sounds like maybe an okay internal campaign but not something consumers need to know you think about yourselves. And I think we’re all done with the Clydesdale spots. Did anyone else think that dog was applying that horse bandage?
In terms of trends, Bills cited, “Lotsa crypto, lotsa electric vehicles, two diametrically opposed ecological forces; e-cars meant to save the climate and energy-wasting crypto mining out to destroy it.
Asked to assess this year’s crop of Big Game commercials, Bills said, “I can’t give grades. I’m too Montessori in my approach to advertising. We listen to clients, help them see what opportunities we see, collaborate, and make possible the solution. But keeping it simple wins every time. You know who you are, agencies and brands that nailed it.
Adam Chasnow, partner/CCO, Fortnight Collective, found Uber Don’t Eats most appealing to his creative appetite. “Uber took a real marketing problem they created for themselves and used the Super Bowl to attempt to solve it. That problem: their ‘Eats’ name is limiting to their new business plans.. And while the Big Game is not really the best forum to educate viewers about your product’s RTBs, in this case, Uber Eats used their ads to school us and entertain us. Others weren’t able to combine those two things as well. So until a time when they change the name--if they even have to now--we now know we can order anything, from Vagina Candles to French fries that don’t travel well, from Uber Eats.
As for what missed the mark, Chasnow said, “I wouldn’t want to discourage a brand or agency who took a chance on our industry’s biggest day of the year. But I will say that I loved the Lay’s teaser with Seth Rogen and Paul Rudd, which made a meta mockery of the commercial teaser thing. It’s nice to see that we can still laugh at ourselves.”
In terms of Big Game ad themes this year, Chasnow observed, “It’s almost like some Hollywood talent agency did a draft for brands to choose celebs. There are more celebs than ever before. There is also a let’s-rewrite this-movie- and-insert-our product-in-there trend happening. And maybe there will will see a trend to surprise us with a spot that wasn’t teased, like FTX did with the brilliant Larry David ad. It’s fun the see something great just while you’re watching the game.”
Asked how he would grade/assess this year’s overall crop of Super Bowl commercials, Chasnow said, “Very good. I think it met up to the annual over-expectations, All you need is a few great ones. Just a few we that all remember. And we had that. There are always unmemorable ones every year. People remember the good ones. That’s all that matters on any day in advertising. Not just Super Bowl Sunday.”
Sinan Dagli, executive creative director at Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners (BSSP), gravitated to what he called “the bold ads--the ones that take a shot with their celebrity usage or the ones that are attempting something never been done, or the ones that are the underdogs. I thought FTX--”Don’t Do It” (with Larry David), Liquid Death Water, and Irish Spring fit this mold this year.”
Dagli acknowledged how daunting the challenges are of just making it tothe Super Bowl--not just for the football teams but the advertising agency creative and strategic ensembles themselves. “As a creative, I know how difficult it is to make a Super Bowl spot in the first place. Your script has to survive numerous rounds, in some cases competing against hundreds of other scripts from dozens of creatives. And finally, you make it. I applaud every person who had a hand in these Super Bowl spots; it is an incredible accomplishment. Now that you made it to Super Bowl, some person somewhere will critique your work, like what I am doing right now. No Super Bowl spot is perfect (except for Apple’s “1984”). That being said (in terms of work that missed the mark), Wallbox’s :15 commercial is a good example of understanding your time constraints to tell a compelling story on the Super Bowl. Simply put, 15 seconds is not enough time. I would have found different ways to cut through instead of building a story arc within 15 seconds.
Dagli described this year’s Big Game as “CryptoBowl 2022. I don’t personally own any cryptocurrency, but I thought maybe I should after last night.” In the big picture, he assessed, “We didn’t have iconic ads like “Halftime in America” or “1984” this year, but overall, I thought we still had some solid ones. I’d give it a B+.
Jennifer DaSilva, president of Berlin Cameron, tabbed as her favorite ads:
- “Pepsi won big with the ‘Stay Golden’ Frito Lay spot. I also loved the Flamin’ Hot Doritos spots with Megan Thee Stallion, featuring the iconic, “Push It” by Salt-N-Pepa. They are simple, memorable, and make you laugh.
- “The Amazon Alexa spot tapped into an insight that strikes a chord--We all keep things from our partners and leave things unsaid. Alexa knowing it all is an anxiety-producing concept and one that keeps viewers thinking.
- “The electric craze took over this year, with great spots by BMW featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Salma Hayek, as well as the “Everybody In” GM commercial with Dr. Evil.
- “The Pringles ad used Lionel Richie’s hit, “Stuck On You,” to convey a unique and well known challenge for Pringles--getting your hand stuck in the tube. The music choice perfectly poked fun at it and made me laugh. We’ve all done it before.
- “I loved the Google Pixel ad by Director Joshua Kissi featuring Lizzo. This ad had a different tone from most of the ads this Super Bowl, but was so beautifully done. We all deserve to be seen.
- “Mailchimp and Intuit’s ad serves as a reminder that there’s so much work that goes into running a small business, and they still need our support.
- “Hologic and Mary J Blige’s spot on women’s health highlighted the importance of scheduling time for your health. I loved it even more when I learned that the spot was created by a diverse, all women team.”
As for ads that missed the mark, DaSilva cited:
- “At first, I thought the Taco Bell spot was just not made for my Gen X self, but my almost pre-teen son also throught it missed the mark. It felt more like a random music video than a commercial. I missed their old campaign, where people left anything, even their own wedding, for a taco, because it spoke to why people actually love the brand.
- “I wanted to love the Dolly and Miley T-Mobile ads (because who wouldn’t support Dolly?) but they just felt forced.
- “I loved the insight behind the Expedia commercial, but felt it was too preachy. We all know we have too much stuff, but we don’t have to be hit over the head with the message.”
Relative to trends, DaSilva observed, “It’s a CRYPTO world—do you know what that means? There’s a lot to talk about in the crypto world, but is :30 seconds enough for people to really understand the lexicon? Brands that did it best were ones that intertwined the real world with the metaverse like the Miller Lite bar and the Metaquest spot’s play on nostalgia. Coinbase’s minimalist bouncing QR code commercial was so popular that it caused the site to briefly crash. The trend continued with FTX tapping Larry David to announce that it’s giving away bitcoin to viewers, as well as Salesforce telling us it’s not time to head into the metaverse; rather, it’s time to engage in the real world. Even Drake is getting in on the action, betting 1MM bitcoin on the Rams.”
And the celebrities’ trend remains alive and well. DaSilva related, “The Super Bowl was flooded with celebrities, including Colin Jost and Scarlett Johansson for Amazon’s Alexa. It’s a hilarious spot about what’s really in your deep thoughts in a marriage. Hopefully for all of our sakes, Alexa won’t become a mind reader anytime soon.” DaSilva then gave a rundown of several celeb vehicles:
- Zeus and Hera (Arnold and Selma) and BMW Electric
- Dolly and Miley for T-Mobile
- Kevin Hart’s VIP experience at Sam’s Club
- Zendaya as the Shell Queen for Squarespace
- Lindsay Lohan and Planet Fitness
- Online retail company Rakuten featuring the hilarious Hannah Waddingham from Ted Lasso.
- Megan Thee Stallion and Doritos Flamin’ Doritos
- Eugene Levy’s Thrill Driver with Nissan, with millions of cameos
- And so many more.
DaSilva further observed that Creators are taking over the conversation. Take Matty Benedtto, a creator whose YouTube videos chronicle hilarious but unnecessary inventions. He created a Bluetooth-equipped speaker for rum company Captain Morgan for a Super Bowl ad. YouTube also tapped a budding journalist/creator as their sideline reporter. The NFL brought their best creators to the game to create live through the game. Lastly, even though Instacart didn’t have a Super Bowl commercial, they partnered with six TikTok creators leading up to the Big Game. It’s all a sign that more companies will be turning to creators for content and reach.”
Humor and nostalgia made a major mark, continued DaSilva. “Spots that strike a serious chord this year almost feel out of place. After two years of the pandemic, we need a release, to laugh, and to remember the good old days. This year’s Super Bowl ads got it right with tone—hitting on nostalgia (especially for Gen X and millennials), all the tropes (animals, babies, celebrities) and using humor in a way that feels organic.”
Mike Groenewald, executive creative director, Chemistry, identified among his favorites:
- “Best Classic Super Bowl ad--There were a couple ads that stood out to me: Amazon’s ‘What if Alexa Could Read Minds’ with Colin Jost and Scarlett Johansson, proving Johansson’s self-deprecating comedy chops. Avocado from Mexico’s period piece featuring Andy Richter as a Caesar salad eating Caesar, and BMW’s ‘Zeus and Hera Move to Palm Springs’ spot. But my fave for the evening goes to GMs ‘Return of Dr Evil’--it was fun, it was dumb--but with a good message and a real crowd pleaser.
- “Bold move of the night--This goes to Coinbase for their 30-second-long bouncing QR code on a black background, which took the viewer to a limited time special offer for free crypto currency… well, $15 worth. I can’t decide whether this was an amazing flex in grabbing attention with a super low-key commercial or pure insanity for spending $7 million on a bouncing QR code. Either way it got my attention.
- “Best Super Bowl hack--This goes to MailChimp’s #BigGameSmallAds on Twitter. A series of small ads for small businesses posted during the ad breaks. It was smart and simple and it’s great seeing a brand walk the walk by supporting small businesses. I even enjoyed their mini-half time show with indie DIY synth musician Taylor Alexander.
Regarding ads that came up short, Groenewald pointed to:
- “Budweiser with ‘Injured Clydesdale.’ This had all the hallmarks of a classic Bud Clydesdale spot. It was beautifully shot with heavy emotional storytelling, amazing music and sound design. The end resolve of ‘down never means out’ feels big and epic--but it just didn’t land for me. Maybe it’s the divided place the U.S. finds itself in, but something felt a little off with this one. Either way, it’s still bound to have been a crowd pleaser for many.
- “Intuit and Mailchimp. While I loved the Mailchimp hack with #BigGameSmallAds, it felt strange to have a hack outside of SB in support of small businesses who can’t afford an SB spot, and then have a big expensive spot for the same company run at the Big Game.
- “Hellman’s Mayo ‘Tackles Food Waste with Jerod Mayo.’ This felt like a very, very familiar ad where a sports company used an ‘office linebacker’ to crash tackle staff. Maybe ad ideas are reusable after 10 years?”
For Groenewald, “Electric cars, crypto trading and movie nostalgia were the three big themes of this Super Bowl. There were some really fun car ads, all boasting about their latest electrics. GM with Dr Evil’s return to help save the world… and then take over the world, again — and BMW’s Zeus & Hera retiring to Pam Spring were great. Although it did feel a little same-same having the likes of BMW, Kia, GM and Chevy all in the mix with car electric ads. FTX’s ‘Don’t Miss Out’ staring Larry David and his classic contrarian humor was a good one for the SB rookie.”
Groenewald assessed, “On the whole it was a decent, but maybe not epic year. Overall, there were lots of very watchable commercials, with some fun work from a couple of newcomers. I would give 2022 a solid 7/10.
Carolyn Hadlock, principal, executive creative director, Young & Laramore, listed among her Big Game favorites as:
- “Google: Pixel 6 This ad was the clearest, most human ad of the night. They stayed on brand by connecting human emotion to a product feature and understanding the significance of doing it in that order. It provided nice relief from the over the top special effects of the rest of the commercials.
- “Hellmann’s Mayo: Not sure why ‘food waste’ was the angle, but the creative team hit it out of the park with the execution. The acting, writing and scenes were tightly crafted. It hit all the right notes of being a Super Bowl ad. Clearly, Pete Davidson had the best line of the night.
- “Verizon: While I was not a fan of grafting entertainment films and celebs onto brands tonight, this one was an exception. The recreation of the scene was perfect in every way and it had a relevant connection to what they were promoting. If only they could’ve gotten Matthew Broderick...
Missing the mark for Hadlock were:
- “Rocket Mortgage: At first I thought this was a Barbie ad, but then it took a weird twist and turned into a Rocket Mortgage ad. And why were they trying to use kids to sell homes? None of it made sense. I’m all for collaborations, but this one left me a little dazed and confused.
- Budweiser: I wanted to like this spot. The Clydesdales are iconic. And the director did Nomadland! A marriage made in heaven. And while it was beautifully shot, and it had heart, the point they were making was oddly abstract but also heavy handed. The brand overreached and trespassed into political territory leaving a bad taste.
- Chevrolet: While I was completely sucked into the nostalgia of the opening sequence of The Sopranos, there wasn’t a clear connection to the brand. Even though Tony drove a Chevrolet (which created brand relevance) it was a Suburban, one of the worst vehicles for the environment. Swapping in a pickup truck undid the idea. When, and if, they create an all-electric Suburban, this would be a great spot.
On the thematic front, Hadlock observed, “It was an L.A. affair in every way. From the stadium to the celebs in the spots to the myriad entertainment properties that were leveraged, it was hard to connect with brands and their products and services. They were so heavily overshadowed by the glitter of Hollywood that many of the ‘star-studded’ spots felt superficial and irrelevant. While using celebs is a long time trope of a good Super Bowl spot, this year it went too far.”
Hadlock also cited as a theme the emergence of “over-produced executions. There was so much money on the screen that it felt excessive. While some of the special effects were well done, ok the Kia dog was adorable, many of the ads created a disconnect to the cultural moment we’re in. While you could argue that people look to the Super Bowl for escape, it can go too far if it becomes a space that we don’t want to go.”
And then there was the “Crypto Bowl” aspect. “How many crypto brands advertised this year? At least three or four. Some of the spots were interesting and well done, but consumers largely still don’t understand cryptocurrency so even the best conceived spots didn’t land. And yeah, the :60 seconds of ‘90s screensaver QR codes got our attention, and possibly even engagement, but it felt like the stunt that it was.
David T. Jones
David T. Jones, founder and CCO at Third Street, shared his favorites on the Big Game. “For writing and performance, the Amazon spots with ScarJo and Colin were very strong. But I am still opposed to a device listening to me in my home, let alone reading my mind. I liked Larry David as the historic naysayer--but conceptually, I sure wish it wasn’t for a Crypto brand. Speaking of which, I must begrudgingly say that the Coinbase QR spot stood out. As the classic axiom goes, when everyone is whispering, you yell. When everyone is yelling, you whisper. This spot stood out for not doing what every other ad was doing. The Rocket Mortgage Barbie Dream Home spot was a fantastic idea--and just when you thought it’d be a bit much, Anna Kendrick kept it funny.
Jones continued, “Is the Chevy Silverado ‘Cat’ a Super Bowl spot? I saw it during the Olympics, so not sure if it counts. But it has the best line delivery of the year: ‘It’s like nobody has ever seen a cat before.’ And just in terms of building an idea on a real human insight, I liked the McDonald’s ad with people in line at the drive through saying ‘Ummmmmmmmm.’”
Missing the mark for Jones were “The Meta spot with the reborn ‘Chuck E Cheez’ animatronic animals felt a bit like it was celebrating the very fake, hollow, all-digital future dystopia that every book and movie has ever warned us about.” He also cited Salesforce as “making a great case for being rooted on the ground, not looking to the skies--but then ended with their brand logo which is...a cloud.
Jones added, “Overall, too many brands again this year relied on the go-to devices of celebrity star power, endless car joy rides, explosions, classic songs and CGI animals. Only a few ads had a real idea behind it other than “look at these famous people we got to do and say these crazy things!”
Jones’ bottom line, though, was giving and generous. “Always easy to critique the teams and the ads from the couch. I have mad respect for every brand team, creative team and media team that put the ads together, So I am going with the approach of my six-year-old daughter’s tee-ball team. Everyone gets a trophy. Even the Bengal
Katie Keating, founding partner/co-CCO of Fancy, identified her favorites, starting with “the Google Pixel 6 ad highlighting Real Tone. Google’s recognition that imaging technology has made it difficult to capture darker skin tones, and then create better technology to fix it, truly positions the product benefit front and center while the beautiful images and Lizzo’s stirring song held my attention for the full 60 seconds.”
Then there was “Expedia’s stroll through a giant soundstage full of sets reminiscent of past Super Bowl spots reminded us of the excesses not just in Super Bowl production and media, but in consumerism in general. An idea 100% rooted in truth. No one can disagree with the final line of the spot, ‘Do you think any of us will look back on our lives and regret the things we didn’t buy or the places we didn’t go?’”
Keating continued, “And of course, what would the evening be without some plain old absurdity? Uber Eats was really fun. I love Jennifer Coolidge and Nicholas Braun so much and could watch them for hours, but Gwenyth sampling her candle really made me laugh. I now know Uber Eats delivers more than food, and I also know to be sure it’s only food that I’m eating.”
On the flip side, Keating wasn’t a fan of several efforts. “WeatherTech. Every year I wonder if I’m just missing something. Is it one of those ‘so bad it’s good’ things? I don’t think so. I think it’s a good time to get up and refill the chip bowl. While I’m all for encouraging women to have health screenings, and there’s always something urgent and important that gets in the way of making those appointments--especially over the past couple years, I’m not really sure what I’m supposed to do after seeing Hologic. Should I ask for it by name when I schedule my next mammo? Is it even for mammography? Maybe it’s something to look at my brain? Or my lungs? Is it going to see the things other medical equipment can’t?
In terms of themes, Keating cited, “Celebrities, as usual. And a lot of crypto. I did think the Coinbase ad was a hypnotic break in the frenzy of the evening, and I loved that there was essentially no production value, just a captured audience that definitely didn’t miss it. And that’s the one I remember. (I also remember the Larry David one, but not the brand, so....).”
Keating concluded by noting that overall the commercials “were fine but I’m glad I didn’t live in a later time zone. There were a handful of really fun and thought-provoking spots, and a couple of duds, but the vast majority were somewhere in the middle. I didn’t mind when the game was over, and it was time to go to bed.”
Desmond LaVelle, CCO, PETERMAYER, liked a number of spots. “I think I’ve seen the mechanical band at Chuck-E-Cheese more than any other ‘live’ act. So the Meta Quest spot hit a nostalgic note with me. FTX platforms kept the whole country waiting for a gag they knew was coming. And because of Larry David, getting there was half the fun. BMW Xi delivered a feature film concept with Zeus and Hera. But for me, Uber ‘Don’t’ Eats edged them all. Maybe it’s because I’m an ad person, but when I see something that hysterical and also nails the brief at all four corners, it truly is a thing of beauty.”
Regarding work that missed, LaVelle prefaced, “I’m hesitant to be too critical because I know how much hard work by talented people goes into these. But the Guy Fieri Bud Light Seltzer Hard Soda thing almost seemed like the agency brought a third option to the meeting that was so absurd and cost-prohibitive the clients would never, ever buy it. Not in a million years. But they did. Now you have to think about how to bring the ‘Land of Loud Flavors’ to life in earnest. At least the budget didn’t seem to be an issue.”
Thematically, LaVelle saw the Super Bowl crop of commercials as hearkening back to “The Ghosts of Advertising Past. E-Trade, Irish Spring, Hellman’s, and Cutwater all reached into the archives to bring back ad gags of yesteryear. I have nothing against this, by the way. Things like E-Trade Baby and the Irish Spring Celtic Soap Cult are proof positive that advertising can have lasting cultural resonance.”
LaVelle observed, “There wasn’t a jaw-dropping idea like ‘It’s a Tide Ad,’ but top to bottom, it was strong. There were fewer groan-worthy moments relative to years past. Hats off to everybody involved. And special props go out to Coinbase for forcing me out of my chair to chase that QR code with my phone. I was like a cat chasing a laser pointer.
Will McGinness, partner/CCO at Venables Bell + Partners, shared, “While they seemed to take a page from the Reddit playbook, the Coinbase QR code ad definitely seemed to be the most disruptive. I’m sure there will be a lot of debate on the merits of this ad, especially since the site it drove you to went down, but I love that they said fuck it and did something completely different. It seems to fit conceptually for what the Crypto world is doing to the banking industry. I also loved the ad ‘Seen on Pixel.’ It’s an important message that sits at the heart of what their technology brings to the world. ‘Everyone deserves to be seen as they truly are’— a fantastic message and beautifully executed.
At the same time, continued McGinness, “A ton of ads missed the mark, like every year but knowing first-hand what the labyrinth is like in getting these commercials produced and on-air, I’ll hold off on pointing fingers. Celebrity can be used well or thrown in at the expense of a decent thought or idea, so I guess I just yearned for a little more concept.”
In terms of a theme this year, McGinness related, “Aside from the Crypto market blasting onto the scene, most markers calculated that we’re all ready to laugh a little after the last two years. I don’t think that’s a bad impulse; I just wished I was laughing a bit more.”
As for the grade he’d give the latest Super Sunday crop of commercials, McGinness concluded, “Well, I guess we’re all playing Monday morning quarterback right now with these comments, but I think the industry is getting its sea legs after the whirlwind ride we’ve been on so, let’s give it a B and saddle up for a resurgence next year.”
Jason Rappaport, group creative director, 180LA, cited as among his Big Game favorites:
- “Pringles--Funny product insight paired with Lionel Richie? What’s not to love? This spot felt like classic Super Bowl advertising. Memorable, humorous and centered around the product.
- “Coinbase--No logo, no context. Just 60 seconds of QR code bouncing around your screen and everyone in your living room pulling out their phones. Judging by the twitter chatter and website crashing briefly, Coinbase def got the most bang for their buck by leveraging the power of curiosity.
- “Uber Eats--Gwyneth Paltrow eating her own vagina scented candle. That and a very clear message that Uber Eats does more than “eats” made this spot worth talking about.
- Verizon--If you were born between 1985 and 1995 this year’s Super Bowl was a real treat. From the halftime show lineup to re-booting the cable guy with a fun bit of nostalgia, perfectly suited to sell their 5g offering.
As for the misses, Rappaport went with:
- Quickbooks--I found myself having to explain the concept of this commercial to my Superbowl guests. Never a good sign.
- Wallbox--The opening super of this spot had me thinking it was going to be about someone recovering from a terrible injury. In the end it was just an attempt to be funny but fell flat for me.
- Weathertech--Didn’t feel like a good use of Superbowl media. Felt like an average spot that didn’t take advantage of the stage it was performing on.
Relative to themes, Rappaport simply observed, “EV’s and Crypto! Also noticed that more brands chose to go for humor which is always welcome in my book.”
He concludeed, “This year wasn’t my favorite. I found the halftime show and the game to be much more entertaining than this year’s crop of commercials. Overall grade B-
Jonathan Schoenberg, executive creative director/partner, TDA Boulder, said, “I think the most interesting commercial was QR code from Coinbase. The most entertaining was the Larry David FTX commercial and I don’t care if you don’t remember FTX, or that the Washington Post said it was one of the worst. It is Larry, it is funny, and it is the Super Bowl. So few commercials did not use celebrities and that made Death Water’s spot my favorite commercial without a celebrity. The execution was not all that good, but the idea was.”
Schoenberg continued, “Salesforce missed the mark because the idea is so damn good. I loved the insight that while plenty of companies are trying to get us to the Moon or to live in the Metaverse, Salesforce is all about Earth and actual human beings. Billionaire founders beware we don’t all share in your adolescent science fiction fantasy of life in outer space. I wish it did not feel like Matthew McConaughey in a Lincoln commercial in a hot air balloon. Nobody was thinking this is a movie trailer for Interstellar, but they let Matthew help write it and I am sure he thinks I remember that movie. I don’t. But he got the idea across, and it would be so much fun to work on the campaign moving forward.”
In terms of themes, Schoenberg observed, “Corporations are not as fake woke as last year which is good and bad. Fake woke is better than not woke at all, but I think companies are trying to do better and don’t have to do Superbowl commercials that let us know that.”
Overall, Schoenberg said he would give this year’s crop of Super Bowl commercials a B+.
Bill Starkey, executive creative director at Pavone Marketing Group, commented, “I thought there was some good storytelling in this year’s work. Uber Eats and Don’t Eats, Pringles, Superior Bowl (I’m a sucker for Dude references). All of these caught me with the details in the storytelling. A few ads with simple truths also hit me as something I will remember--McDonald’s “can I get Uhhhhhhh:’’ Yeah that’s stuck in my brain. Amazon’s spot confirmed what we all know, the company wants to read our minds. And then Liquid Death capping it off afterwards--that one might have been my favorite spot of the night--with such a simple story told wonderfully, set to a killer track, no complicated influencers or any other concern than just letting me enjoy the moment and smile at the film.”
At the other end of the continuum, Starkey shared, “The ones that missed for me were either trying to explain or do too much, or seemed to go on forever. Carvana started fun, but made me wish this was a Monday night game so I could flip over to see what the Mannings were doing. Hellman’s knock off of Reebok’s Office Linebacker was flat. Lays had the potential, particularly with the comedic duo which starred in it but fell a bit flat given the expectations placed on it by the cast. DraftKings the cool mil they were offering as well as the bouncing QR seemed like a little too much work when I just wanted to be entertained.
Overall, Starkey “loved the nods to nostalgia. Gen-X was represented, or so it seemed to this card carrying member of the tribe. Storylines like the E Trade Baby, the Sopranos, the aforementioned Lebowski references from Michelob, the guys from Scrubs, the Cable Guy and Dr Evil, a reference to a Chuck-E-Cheese-like-place for Meta, some old school Judas Priest, as well as a homage to ad greatness of the past with the Cutwater spot all were in there. Even Irish Spring. IRISH SPRING! Who knew they were even still around. I thought all of the music (including the halftime show), props, and details all brought back the comfort of younger days, and definitely got the memories going. Hell, even the original Law and Order is coming back. I’ll watch that right after I go see Jurassic Park with the complete original cast.”
Starkey assessed, “This year’s crop was definitely a step up from the past. Storytelling seemed to return. I didn’t have to go elsewhere to see the rest of a story, or need to know obscure influencers. I could just relax and enjoy the moment as a moment.
Jason Wolske, executive creative director at DAVID Miami, observed, “I had a few favorite SB ads this year. The simplicity and effectiveness of the Coinbase ad was proves that you really don’t have to overthink it. The Bring Down the House NFL spot was highly entertaining and very well executed. It was solid storytelling that kept the viewer engaged. While I wasn’t blown away by the spot, the copywriting in the Squarespace Sally’s Seashells spot was surprisingly slick.”
At the same time, noted Wolske, “There were a lot of ads that tried too hard in my opinion. It felt to me like Nissan, Rakuten, and BMW all went over the top just to stand out. You don’t have to go for a massive production just because you’re running a Super Bowl ad.
In terms of themes or trends, Wolske continued, “I saw a lot of brands trying to be weird or odd or unexpected in order to catch the viewers’ attention. While that has worked in the past, I feel like viewers are becoming a bit numb to the bizarre. In reality, strange and unexpected doesn’t always make for a good spot.”
Wolske’s bottom line: “I would grade this years Super Bowl ad collection somewhere in the B- to C+ range. Lots of brands are following a ‘Super Bowl Ad Formula’ that has become sorta stale. When people who don’t work in the ad industry boo at the spots (which I witnessed), it’s time to add some new ingredients.