Now, before I get the nickname of ‘Captain Obvious’, of course there were celebrity cameos in the Super Bowl ads this year. There always are and always will. In fact, you’ll be hard-pressed to find many of the Big Game spots that don’t feature an appearance from one of your favourite TV personalities, Hollywood stars or professional athletes.
However, where the plethora of celebrity-filled ads differentiate is the way that these celebrity cameos are utilised in the ads. Upon watching a Super Bowl spot, it becomes immediately apparent whether the famous face has become part of the ad itself, moulded it, informed its creative direction - or whether the celebrity is playing the part of merely a paid spokesperson for the brand.
Allow me to explain: Chevrolet’s ‘New Generation’ spot replicates the beloved Sopranos’ opening with the ‘Next Generation’ of the Sopranos family - Jamie-Lynn Sigler (Meadow Soprano in the show) drives through New Jersey to meet her on-screen brother Robert Iler, mimicking the camera shots and actions of Tony Soprano in the opening credits of Golden Globe-winning drama. The spot places itself within the Sopranos universe and uses this ‘Next Generation’ theme to tie into their new electric vehicle - an engaging use of the Sopranos actors, with plenty of fan service to boot following the recent release of The Many Saints of Newark movie.
The same can be said of Mike Myers' reprisal of his Dr. Evil character for GM’s Super Bowl Spot. The ad itself becomes part of the Austin Powers universe - similarly to cryptocurrency exchange FTX’s service in their Curb Your Enthusiasm-esque ad, featuring Larry David. It’s clear that audience reaction was much more engaged and enthusiastic following these spots airing, in comparison to the ads with celebrity spokespeople - regardless of how sultry their voice is…
I admit it. I love a wacky ad. There’s nothing better than a truly bonkers, outside of the box idea that actually makes it to the biggest advertising stage of them all. Super Bowl LVI certainly didn’t disappoint in this aspect - and some brands really pushed the boat out, in terms of being downright weird.
Irish Spring’s ‘Welcome to Irish Spring’ spot has the ability to genuinely make viewers uneasy. Featuring a cult of, initially, seemingly hospitable people, the ad devolves into something quite reminiscent of Ari Aster’s horror film Midsommar. Everything from the shouting rabbit to the unnervingly happy ending is undeniably strange, but certainly one to remember from the night.
Other brands that embraced the bizarre this year include Pringles, with their frighteningly funny life story of a man whose hand gets stuck in one of their notoriously narrow tubes - your worst nightmare, right? Not to mention Liquid Death’s excellent subversion of expectations, with an ad for their canned drinking water that, at first glance, starts out - due to their cans’ designs - as a flagrant display of underage drinking. Paired perfectly with a Judas Priest ‘law-breaking’ soundtrack, this surprising, strange spot made me and many others at home do a double-take, before smiling in admiration and knowing we’d been tricked.
Another trend that’s by-no-means a new phenomenon, however, there were plenty of commercials at the 2022 Super Bowl that served a purpose beyond that of promoting their brand’s products. Sustainability was one of the biggest themes across the industry in 2021, so it’s no surprise that at the beginning of 2022, we’re still seeing brands planting their flag on more sustainable, greener ground. Whether it be the multitude of electric vehicle spots or the aforementioned Liquid Death’s #DeathToPlastic campaign, this year many advertisers were still very keen to promote sustainability.
Perhaps most notably however, Google’s Big Game spot focused on the insight that technology has previously let down people of colour by not designing phone cameras to accommodate for darker skin tones. Google’s Pixel 6 spot highlighted that every person, quite literally, deserves to be seen - showcasing its new ‘Real Tone’ feature for the Pixel 6’s camera. Featuring anecdotes from people of colour that have experienced the negative biases built into lots of technology, as well as a brand-new, unreleased track from artist Lizzo, Google used its 60 seconds to not only promote their brand but to address an important issue.
You guessed it - Crypto has arrived on the big stage. And whilst Crypto.com and FTX made their Super Bowl debuts, there is one cryptocurrency exchange that has truly made waves with their Super Bowl spot.
Coinbase tapped into the same Xennial audience that the halftime show was targeting this year and created something with Accenture Interactive that has captured the minds of the 25-50-year-old consumer like nothing else. Playing off of the classic ‘bouncing DVD’ screensaver, Coinbase had a QR code float around screens around the world, tempting you to scan it and find out who was advertising in such a mysterious and unique way. It was very reminiscent of last year’s Reddit Super Bowl hack, but somehow scratched that itch in my brain with its gloriously simple and retro concept.
After more than two years of non-stop pandemic on the mind, it was something of a relief to enjoy a long sporting event, full of ads and not hear a single word about coronavirus, testing or quarantine. I’ve since been informed that one spot did make direct reference to the pandemic, but during the four-hour marathon of a football match, I must have either missed it or selectively erased any memory of it from my brain shortly after seeing it. As many of the industry experts who took part in our Super Bowl predictions feature guessed, the majority of advertisers this year took a stance of looking towards a positive, brighter future - using humour and light-heartedness as a remedy for the previous few years of difficulty and suffering for many of the people who would be gathering with family and friends, perhaps for the first time since their local restrictions and fears have been alleviated.
The Budweiser Clydesdales made their yearly appearance and told a story of ‘American Resilience’ - something of an ode to the strength of people working and living through the Coronavirus pandemic. However, the topic was kept very low-key this year, with the focus very much being on the pathway to recovery (if it was referenced at all), as well as good old fashioned escapism.
And to finally round off this list, here’s something that you might not have seen! I know, especially for those of us outside the US, that you might have switched the TV off as soon as the final whistle went - hurrying off to bed and setting a million and one alarms for work the next morning. However, for those willing to stick around for post-match analysis… who am I kidding? I mean, for more ads - you would have seen this little gem from Sketchers that has gone under the radar a little bit! Enjoy American country legend Willie Nelson campaigning for the legalisation of Sketchers!