With the country’s biggest celebration kicking off on the most-watched TV platform, this year’s Super Bowl had to contend with plenty of bitter truths to focus on entertaining America.
There are recent allegations that the NFL has shortlisted black candidates for major coaching jobs. Concerns persist about the long-term effects of head trauma on football players. And the turbulent year of the pandemic situation amid inflation fears.
What’s clear when looking at the commercials that were shown during the Big Game: Most advertisers decided to do just about all of this, using celebrity, humor, special effects, and nostalgia to get past the issues as if they didn’t exist.
This might be a little disappointing – but not surprising – given that NBC grossed over $6.5 million 30 seconds from the time of the announcement. Sports betting, cryptocurrency exchanges, new electric car models, and travel websites have come up with big new looks; With companies spending hundreds of thousands of dollars a second, it’s surprising that there are no ads with such meager items as face masks or talk of the pandemic.
The result was a bunch of mostly mediocre commercials that didn’t really feel very relatable. They didn’t give wild parties or celebrations, but they were often not serious or impressive enough to speak to the modern moment either.
Ad launch strategies also differed. Sam’s Club posted his ad online with Kevin Hart in January; E-commerce saved the reveal of a special guest star for its Super Bowl Sunday ad — yes, it was the little e-commerce tip scattering financial advisory — and Miller Lite threw a virtual Super Bowl commercial “adjacent” within an area of the online consumer metaverse.
Not enough room to break up all the notable Super Bowl ads – Jim Carrey was reprising The Cable Guy for Verizon and Mike Myers playing Dr. Evil in GM’s electric car were great places that weren’t on my list.
But here’s a sampling of some of the most interesting, entertaining, and exciting big game ads.
Celebrity Couple Best Use: Amazon Alexa’s Mind Reader
Jost and Johansson might sound like a Swedish law firm. But it’s also baffling to some fans who can’t help but wonder about star actress Scarlett Johansson and Saturday Night Live Superstar Colin Jost’s marriage has to be behind closed doors. So props for the couple to score a Super Bowl-sized podium to joke about what it would be like if their Alexa digital assistant could read their minds (e.g. Alexa, always a tattletale, reminds Jost of faking his own death in the beginning history of a terrible theater project that Johansson trains for) around their house). This hilarious, fan-service-filled spot does well, even if it annoys one of my pets about some Super Bowl ads; Making the product they are advertising not look great to buy.
C’mon Guys Award for Resisting Guilt: Sam’s Club VIP with Kevin Hart
Sure, it’s funny to see Hart confirm unknowingly that Sam’s Club’s new Scan & Go app was developed for VIPs like him. But it’s hard to imagine an important person like Hart spending any time shopping inside Sam’s Club—even if he thought the courtyard view in the middle of the store was his lounge.
Best Celebrity Photo Reproduction: Planet Fitness “What Gotten Into Lindsay?”
For someone who watched Lindsay Lohan struggle for fame over so many years, it was great to see the starring role in an ad—narrated by William Shatner—no less than that—showing Lohan living a healthy life. She makes the paparazzi cry by sleeping instead of partying late, bettering Dennis Rodman Risk Questions about his private life and the studded ankle bracelet of Danny Trejo as Captain Kirk recounts her life. Great message for the benefits of exercise and personal change.
Most terrifying ad that wasn’t meant to be: “Stuck in” Pringles
We’ve all had that moment where you got your hand stuck in a Pringles can and wondering if you could get rid of it. But this ad, which features a man leaving the can in his right hand through dating, marriage, childbirth, and death, feels like a snack centered around Twilight Zone episode. Especially when another guy ends up hanging another on his hand at the first guy’s funeral. I expected an audio half from Crypt Keeper. Ugh.
Celebrity Best Use, Part 1: BMW USA “Zeus & Hera”
The only thing better than Arnold Schwarzenegger as a retired Zeus in a midlife crisis — cause for concern that everyone is asking him to charge for portable hedge shears and golf carts — is Salma Hayek. Make them sing with Eddie Grant Electric Avenue As they geared up on the road in their all-new BMW electric car, it was a bit too much. But it was also a neat way to showcase a great new electric car to the demographic you’re most likely to buy.
Best Nod to Black People: “Lizzo in Real Tone” by Google
The announcement aired shortly after the most focused Super Bowl show in first-half history—a masterful move that made its message of inclusion even more powerful. As trade notes note, black people often struggled with compatible cameras and photographic technology to work better with white faces, making dark skin more difficult to capture. Google’s Real Tone software, which is included with the Pixel 6 phones, promises to better capture black skin tones. As Lizzo sings a touching new song (“If you love me, you love me all/or none at all”) the last line of the ad text says, “Everyone deserves to be seen for what they are.” A truly touching ad that stands out in a sea of performance, less than nods related to variety.
Best Low Shade Without Talking Details: Salesforce’s “The New Frontier” and Planters’ “Feed the Debate”
I’m here all for commercials that offer a low-key shade to others without explicitly calling them out. Which is why I liked the Salesforce ad, featuring Matthew McConaughey in a hot air balloon affixing him to Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk by telling viewers, “While others look at the metaverse and Mars, let’s stay here and take back our own…new frontiers? Not rocket science. It’s here.” It’s also a commentary that highlights public support for the ambitions of wealthy space technocrats — which also warms my heart from a company that could save millions to air a Super Bowl ad.
Planters ads focus on an argument between Ken Jeong and Joel McHale, former co-stars of the NBC sitcom social communicationConflict about the best way to eat nuts. When they take their argument to social media, it sparks riots around the world. “Who knew that America would tear itself apart over a relatively small difference of opinion?” McHale cracks, evokes pictures of crazy school board meetings and bans pandemic protests without directly referring to anything. Well played, sir.
The best reference to classic TV quality that might not work: Chevrolet’s ‘new generation’
I just finished rewatching the HBO mob drama song soprano, so it was a kick to see co-star Jamie-Lynn Siegler, who played daughter Meadow Soprano, drive around in one of Chevrolet’s all-electric Silverado trucks until she met the man who played her brother Robert Eller. (I guess they didn’t get beaten up in the end after all?) But this seems like a strange play for generations; Consumers who are old enough to know who they are – and buy trucks – are not part of the “new generation.” Consumers young enough to be part of the new generation may not know who these representatives are. Unless they read a piece like this, I think.
Worst commercial insulting her own product: Cutwater Spirit’s “Here to the Lazy Ones”
As I noted earlier, my biggest annoyance is commercials insulting the product – or its customers – for the sake of a smart idea. This ad makes a splash for people who cut corners like using lawn sprinklers to wash their car or plucking snowflakes from their home to cool a drink instead of using ice from a cooler. The visuals are funny, but I’m not sure it makes sense to compare joint heads like these to customers for the product, which promises bar-quality cocktails in the can.
Celebrity Best Use, Part 2: “Nissan’s Hot Driver”
Yes, it’s kind of an idiot that Nissan thinks we should find cool that driving a Nissan Z sports car would turn Eugene Levy from a supermodel into an action star with hair like Fabio the graying. But it was fun to see it blown by Katherine O’Hara, driving off a rooftop fast and angry-Design and open the passenger door for Dave Bautista hanging in midair. Nissan definitely made more commercial coolant than the car it sells, which may be the greatest Super Bowl TV victory of all time.