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Post-Match Analysis: Agencies React to Super Bowl LVI Ads

Trends and Insight 658 Add to collection

Representatives from Deutsch New York, VaynerMedia, VMLY&R, dentsu Creative and more share their reactions to the ads from Super Bowl LVI, writes LBB’s Ben Conway

Post-Match Analysis: Agencies React to Super Bowl LVI Ads


Super Bowl season for most is coming to a close, and it won't be long until agencies are busy pitching and creating again for next year's spectacle. So as a farewell and reflection on Super Bowl LVI's ad offering, we've decided to see what creatives from agencies around the world thought of the 'big game' spots this year. We asked the participants for their favourite 'Bowl' spot of 2022, what trends and themes they saw emerge by the end and whether there was anything unexpected that came as a surprise to them. Just for fun, some of the creatives also gave a little detail about how they enjoyed the event this year - where they were, who they were with and even what snacks they were feasting on.

Building up to the big day on Sunday, we previously asked creative agency team members for their predictions on the Super Bowl's ads - which you can view here and compare with the actual findings and reactions from this article - as well as from my own trends recap article from the event. Some trends that were highlighted in the initial predictions feature included: more humour, crypto, electric vehicles, health and wellbeing, links to brand experiences and, of course, celebrity cameos. 

To see how close - or how far-off - those predictions were, or just to see how some of these industry experts reacted to the ads at Super Bowl LVI, you'll have to read on to find out!



Ethan Rechtschaffen

Associate strategy director, Deutsch New York 


You hear those first few notes of “Woke Up This Morning,” you look up from your plate of gabagool. You see Satriale’s Pork Store and you start getting wistful for the drama that’s defined the last 25 years of TV. You see Meadow Soprano behind the wheel of a Chevy (she finally learned to park!) and a tear rolls down your cheek. You see AJ show up…well…I’m glad he got paid to show up. All I’m saying is this is now officially Sopranos’ canon and more effective nostalgia than The Many Saints of Newark.

[A trend I noticed was] the promise of utilitarian tech: while Meta struggles to define why you should give up corporeal form and forget about their flagging stock price, a number of brands actually demonstrated the value of innovation with real benefits. Camera phones that work for nonwhite skin tones (vital), EV trucks that are fun to drive (world-saving), home devices that anticipate your thoughts (creepy yet useful!). It felt like, for the most part, advertisers went beyond the sizzle and flash of fancy tech to show how innovations could improve our world, not just replace it with a digital one.

And Larry David selling crypto?? An anti-endorser tactic helps meet doubting audiences where they are, and Larry David is the universal voice of critics, judgement, and naysaying. It feels right to have him stand-in for all the sideline-crypto cynics and poke the crypto-bear in a way other brands in the space haven’t been able to do with their more self-serious approach. Kind of the perfect use of our generation’s sceptic-king.



Dubose Cole

Head of strategy, VaynerMedia London


My personal favourite ad, outside of the three VaynerMedia made, which always get preferential attention, was the Irish Spring ad. Taking a brand that has so much nostalgia and heritage in the US, but doesn't have modern relevance, and being brave enough to get weird with it on a national stage is admirable - and the Wickerman / Midsommar style approach seems to update its brand essence in an engaging way. 

More widely, this year's Super Bowl ads seemingly featured a more relatable tone over more hyperbolic years. Innovative technology (from new electric cars to Crypto exchanges) and major celebrities, more often than not, seemed to pass through a filter of practicality. Amazon's Alexa ad featuring Scarlett Johansson was effective, taking one of the world's most recognisable stars and showed humour in her home life. Coinbase, arguably the best positioned Crypto exchange to take innovation to the masses, used the now-ubiquitous QR code and 1990's screensaver aesthetic to drive engagement with its site. While each was big in their own way, many standout ads this year delivered practical spectacle over non-stop action.


Bonus Q> How did you watch the game and what was your snack of choice?

Dubose> Staying up all night for the 2022 Super Bowl is always a challenge in the UK, but a combination of a lot of nachos and queso, as well as some interesting ads helped.



Alli Pierce

Global chief creative officer, Intel, VMLY&R


Does the Pepsi halftime show count [as an ad]? That won the night for me. As far as real ads, Coinbase stood out the most to me. They took a page from Reddit last year and went with a smart, disruptive idea. And buying the 60 was genius. The only knock – wish they would have thought out the landing page experience more. Trends I noticed were… Celebrities + nostalgia + humour. 87% of the spots this year featured celebrities, and many of them multiple celebs. A lot of ads also tapped into older movies or shows (Cableguy, Sopranos, Big Lebowski, Austin Powers). Most were pretty straightforward spots and didn’t surprise me much. Coinbase was the only one I saw that tried to “hack” the night. (Lots of talk around Liquid Death sending a witch but didn’t see anything about it during the game). Knowing how programmed we’ve become to switch to our phones during commercial breaks, Super Bowl or not, I expected to see more unconventional ideas.  


Bonus Q> How did you watch the game and what was your snack of choice?

Alli> I watched it at home while decorating cookies! 



Naomi Duckworth

Associate creative director, Muhtayzik Hoffer


With so many brands trying to out-Super-Bowl each other, I love an ad with a clear, memorable, brand-relevant message. Uber Eats and FTX were both hits for me—FTX for its sharp strategy and perfect casting, and Uber Eats for being so dang simple. A big theme this year was Past vs. Future. Lots of nostalgic callbacks, and a future where apparently we’re all driving electric cars to offset the carbon emissions from our crypto investments. GM Silverado and Crypto.com bridged the past to the future nicely. Meta, on the other hand, aimed for optimism and accidentally landed in depressing. We all expected a QR code or two, but the way Coinbase did it was a delightful coup. It stood out, had just enough fun, and…well, I scanned it! The only miss was the website—even when it loaded, it failed to keep the fun going.


Bonus Q> How did you watch the game and what was your snack of choice?

Naomi> I watched at home with the fam, popcorn, and a pizza.



Mike Molnar

Managing partner, GLOW


Coinbase instantly generated 20m+ engagements (read: not impressions) with its spot. Who else saw their app jump 166 spots in the App Store to #2 after the commercial break? Who else had their servers crash due to massive engagement in real-time? No wonder they took home the Super Clio. What surprises me is that Coinbase didn’t offer a deeper experience to pay off that interaction. For all its merit in the bold approach, the ad ultimately used a common linear tactic: a QR code driving to a landing page. Given the mass adoption of AR over the past couple of years, especially the ease of social integrations, it’s a miss not to extend to a more immersive, sharable experience. The approach spotlights the trend indicating that audiences will and want to engage with richer experiences - an excellent indicator as brands and tech companies grapple with how to orient their strategies for the web3.0, metaverse-happy world. Those who deliver experiences - not ads - to their audiences in interesting ways are paving the way for next-gen advertising. 

 

Bonus Q> How did you watch the game and what was your snack of choice?

Mike> Oh, and I made chicken chilli for the big game. 



Jessea Hankins

Creative director, Duncan Channon 


My love for the cultish Irish Spring spot has only grown since game day. It’s giving weirdness. It’s giving retro. It’s giving Midsommar. It’s funny, it’s memorable, and it stood out amidst a sea of famous faces. As for the endless train of celebrities. My theory? It reflects the uncertainty of our current moment. In lieu of saying something definitive or taking creative risks, brands hoped to distract viewers with shiny famous folks, and borrow their vibes. I predict fewer celebs next year. And I wasn’t expecting the crypto hoopla. I should have - smart people told me it was coming. But, like, who advertises money? 


Bonus Q> How did you watch the game and what was your snack of choice?

Jessea> Behold my glamorous life: I watched the commercials, and muted the game, on a regular old television with an antenna whilst ‘snacking’ on a bottle of crisp rosé.



David Leitner

SVP, head of media, Klick Health


My favourite Super Bowl ad was from Coinbase. We have been discussing QR codes internally and with clients, as they have potential benefits for the healthcare industry's heavy investment in linear TV/CTV. Immediate, direct attribution? Yes. Reduce the need for 60-seconds-plus commercials? Possibly. I don’t know if we could call these trends yet, but the two things I noticed were: the use of QR codes, which I expect more of, and a heavy reliance on celebrities to make a connection (which they failed to do). I was actually surprised by how few commercials connected with me and my family.


Bonus Q> How did you watch the game and what was your snack of choice?

David> My wife and kids aren’t that big into the Super Bowl, but they are into the food. We have our annual “must-have” tortilla chips and guacamole, pigs in a blanket, wings (mild to hot), and, of course, a veggie platter - with the hope that someone eats something healthy!



Kai Deveraux Lawson

SVP of diversity, equity and inclusion, dentsu Creative


Super Bowl Sunday was basically National Millennial Nostalgia Day. Between the Halftime show and the commercials, I was pretty much experiencing a time warp back to the ‘90s and the 2000s! So naturally, my favourite ads were E-trade, Quicken Loans, Hologic and OBVIOUSLY FTX (because I always put on for the home team. Shoutout to dentsuMB). The intentional targeting of Millennials was intense. It was clear to me the brands wanted MY 30-something-year-old money. So, they went back to using old tactics like Barbies, Mean Girls and 50Cent to capture my attention. Also, crypto! I feel like I know all the platforms available to me, and I know I have a chance to win $300m but I’m still not 100% clear on the finer points of crypto. Also, who knew the QR Code would make a comeback like this? It’s basically the Rocky story of the 2020s! 

I was also pleasantly surprised to see more women and POC in featured roles, in ads. It was clear there was intention in many cases, be it performative or not.  


Bonus Q> How did you watch the game and what was your snack of choice?

Kai> I was happy to celebrate this great American Holiday in my favourite comfy pants, in a New Orleans Airbnb with a Delicious Fried Oyster PoBoy and several homemade cocktails. It was amazing! 



Romeo Cervas

VP, creative director at RPA


Hands down, my favourite ad was the Coinbase QR code created by Accenture Interactive. You either loved it or hated it, and I know many people in the ad industry leaned heavily toward the latter — it’s a pretty good indicator of how our TV viewing experience has dramatically changed. When the Coinbase ad came on, you couldn’t miss it if you tried, and it got people to finally lean forward for a change. And it took TV and turned it into a medium that went beyond a purely viewing experience. You knew what was going on, whether you got the DVD or The Office reference, knew it was for crypto or not, or cared to click or not. And for those who didn’t know any of those things, it was entertaining to watch this silly thing bounce around for 60 seconds like a Pong game, hoping it would satisfyingly land squarely in the corner. It wasn’t about hiring a celebrity or blowing the budget on Hollywood-like VFX in lieu of an actual big idea. It was probably the only ad that you could really measure in terms of site traffic and actual ROI, so much so that it broke their app (temporarily). And sure, there are a ton of ads with QR codes on them, but I can guarantee the click-through rate on this particular one has blown every other QR code-based spot out of the water. For me, this was a big winner in terms of its simplicity and cleverness, and it was a huge reminder that sometimes ad people just need to get over themselves.

Two clear trends that really stood out is that we’re entering the race for EVs and that Crypto is becoming a part of our daily lives, not just as an idea for a decentralised currency but as a new form of commerce. Crypto isn’t just for the investors anymore, but it’s quickly becoming the norm on our purchasing decisions and how businesses will reshape themselves for the new age of the Web. For EVs, I think it shows that we’re just in the infancy of where technology, autonomy, and intelligence, as they relate to the automotive industry, will go. One other trend that was probably not surprisingly lacking this year was the absence of anthemic heart-tugging ads. And the ones that did, like the Budweiser Clydesdale spot, didn’t quite hit the same spot. After years of being in perpetual Groundhog Day, I’m sure people are just ready for some levity. And Irish Spring doing a Super Bowl ad??? Who in the hell still actually uses Irish Spring?


Bonus Q> How did you watch the game and what was your snack of choice?

Romeo> My party just consisted of my wife, daughter, dog and me, but somehow we ended up managing to cook up way too many Korean fried chicken wings and loaded nachos.

 


Daniel Correa

Creative director, alma 


Usually, the Super Bowl is all about babies, animals and celebrities. But this year’s trends were based on the current state of the market: Crypto and EVs. So, among all Crypto ads, I think Coinbase did a great job and probably was more effective short term, but I think FTX did the best job for the overall crypto category. The ad managed to make cryptocurrency feel like it’s the natural evolution of money and aimed to create a shift in perception among those who might be missing out on the next big thing. I think an approach like this could definitely be utilised for something like the plant-based category as well as a way to convince people to adopt the diet. I’m sure that in 100 years from now, next generations won’t believe that one day humans used to eat animals. So FTX also did a great job with its execution. Although you can see the payoff coming right from the beginning, you could still engage with the story and enjoy Larry David doing his best Larry David impression yet.


Bonus Q> How did you watch the game and what was your snack of choice?

Daniel> As it was snowing in NYC, I had the pleasure of enjoying the big game from the comfort of my hotel room while drinking mini-bar alcohol bottles and sneaking a can of Pringles. Luckily, I was able to remove the can from my hand right in time to write this.



Simon Poett

Executive creative director, The Brooklyn Brothers


A Super-Bowl ad is an advertising chalice, costly and precious. An irresistible combination of talent, storytelling and zeitgeist combustion. I witnessed a roll-call of talent on all ends of the spectrum, combined with advertising craft on a similar scale!? The irrepressible Lizzo, Arnie & Selma, Shatner & Lohan, Miley & Dolly and the biggest band in the world I’d never heard of in between. The power of talent and its subversion has driven some of the ‘Bowls’ best work, maybe this year the righteous cultural questions we have faced have pushed creativity to safer space. Only the peerless Zendeya accompanied by the deftness of Andre 3000 rose above the noise for me - followed closely by an exercise in pure fandom by David Chase & Chevrolet, reimagining the Sopranos opening sequence.



Rik Moore

Managing partner of strategy, The Kite Factory


What struck me about this year’s Super Bowl ads was the overwhelming use of celebrity stunt casting. Nothing against that as a tactic, but with so many advertisers using it, it just starts to become wallpaper – far from ideal when it is $7 million a spot. A key phrase to think about is ‘trampled properties’ – is the celebrity well known for an association with another brand? If so, how do you make the new association distinct and intertwined with your own brand?

Lucky Generals’ spot with Scarlett Johansson and her husband Colin Jost stood out, as it’s a pairing you know exists in the real world but have rarely seen represented on screen (other than jokes on SNL). Crucially, it doesn’t waste the casting either, giving the pair a genuine reason to be there, but without overwhelming the spot, giving space for the humour and the product.



Josh Waitt

Associate creative director, 160over90


Maybe because we were all excited to be in person with friends. Or maybe because there was so much going on with Super Bowl Twitter - from the halftime show to Kanye’s mask. Or maybe just because my pulled pork wasn’t ready before kickoff as expected. But I felt like this year’s commercials had to work harder than usual to grab our attention away from our phones and side chats. As always, loveable celebrities (shoutout to Michelob ULTRA’s “Superior Bowl”) and startling visual gags (less of a shoutout to “Uber Don’t Eats”) were the most effective in getting my group to stop and watch in those crucial first few seconds. But the biggest winner for me - and I assume I won’t be alone in this - was the Coinbase QR Code spot. It stood out by being simple on a night that’s famously overdone. It tapped into a sense of nostalgia for those of us who grew up watching bouncing screensavers in hopeful anticipation. It let us play a “game” we could all win. And it drove people - too many people, apparently - directly to the brand. My only worry is that the copy-less ad may also drive some of us copywriters out of a job…



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LBB Editorial, Mon, 21 Feb 2022 12:00:00 GMT