NEW YORK (AP) – Advertisers bet big that viewers were turning to the Super Bowl for a comforting escape, and delivered a series of advertisements that relied on familiar celebrity faces, light humour, and plenty of cuddly dogs.
This wasn’t a year for edgy humour or experimentation. After the global pandemic, with economic uncertainty looming ahead and the war in Ukraine stretching on, advertisers just wanted people to feel good.
And it worked.
This year’s ads took a very light touch and focussed on being fun and making the viewer feel good, said marketing professor Charles Taylor at Villanova University. Most followed a clear formula of combining A-list celebrities with humour, with some using nostalgia and music to good effect.
Super Bowl advertisers each year try to reach the more than 100 million people tuning into the broadcast. It’s a pricey proposition ads can cost as much as USD7 million for 30 seconds.
It was a year of change for the Super Bowl since other ads were allowed to air after Anheuser-Bush gave up its exclusivity deal and the halftime show sponsor changed from Pepsi to Apple music after a decade.
Many of the ads were released early, but there were still some surprises in store for viewers. In its first Super Bowl ad, Dunkin’ Donuts enlisted superfan Ben Affleck and wife Jennifer Lopez.
In the ad, Affleck mans the drive-through booth at a Dunkin’ Donuts in Medford, Massachusetts, with a Boston accent and shocks customers. Lopez comes through the line of cars and asks him what he’s doing. You’re embarrassing me in front of my friends, he said. Grab me a glazed, she demanded. Affleck has a long association with the brand, and is often spotted carrying Dunkin’ Donuts drinks in paparazzi photos. He directed the ad, too.
GM and Netflix enlisted Will Ferrell to tout their deal to show more electric vehicles in Netflix shows. Melissa McCarthy sings a jingle for Booking.com, and Adam Driver makes multiples of himself for Squarespace. Pepsi Zero Sugar hired Ben Stiller and Steve Martin.
Avocados From Mexico enlists Anna Faris for one of the few slightly risque ads this year that envisions a present where everyone is naked – including the Statue of Liberty. Tennis star Serena Williams stars in two ads one for Michelob Ultra and one for Remy Martin.
T-Mobile enlisted Bradley Cooper and his mum to star in a blooper-filled ad.
And U2 ran an ad announcing its Las Vegas residency that showed unidentified orbs floating over cities. One of the orbs has a baby in it who says Achtung!. U2’s shows are opening up a venue called MSG Sphere, so the orbs make sense. But coming the same day the United States (US) announced it shot down a fourth unidentified flying object, the images of orbs floating over cities struck a jarring tone.
Many marketers tried to capitalise on well-loved TV and movie properties. This year, online shopping site Rakuten hired Alicia Silverstone and Elisa Donovan to recreate a scene from 90s rom-com Clueless. Popcorners, a snack brand from Frito-Lay, brought back Breaking Bad, which first aired in 2008, with stars Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul.
Other advertisers trying to capitalise on favourite content from years past T-Mobile’s ad showed John Travolta singing a T-Mobile home Internet-themed version of Summer Nights from Grease with Scrubs stars Donald Faison and Zach Braff. Michelob Ultra evoked Caddyshack by setting its ad at the Bushwood Country Club that’s in the movie.
Those not using celebrities opted for humour. Kia showed a dad on an epic quest to pick up his child’s forgotten binky. And E(asterisk)Trade brought back its famous talking babies this time, they attend a wedding. Some ads were offbeat a Tubi ad showed giant blue rabbits throwing people into holes to demonstrate the idea that Tubi helps people find rabbit holes you didn’t know you were looking for.
It’s not a Super Bowl without cute animals – particularly dogs. Jeep stuffed a bevy of animals, including meercats, a bee, a bear, a goat and many others, in its ad that shows the animals dancing to a tune emanating from a Jeep 4xe.
The dog food subscription service called The Farmer’s Dog showed a heartwarming tale of a girl growing older with her dog.
Other ads feature dogs alongside celebrities a Skechers ad shows Snoop Dogg shaving a poodle; Pringles shows Meghan Trainor cuddling with her dog and Pepsi Zero Sugar shows Steve Martin as a vet operating on a dog. Amazon’s ad shows a family getting a puppy companion for their older dog.
Advertisers sometimes try stunts to capture attention. The biggest one this year was from FanDuel, which enlisted former NFL player Rob Gronkowsi to try to kick a field goal live during the broadcast.
If he made it, customers who wagered at least USD5 on the Super Bowl were to get a share of USD10 million in free bets.
But the problem with stunts is they’re risky. FanDuel caused confusion with its ad, which appeared to show Gronkowski making the kick.
But FanDuel said he missed but announced bettors would still get a share of USD10 million in free bets.
More successfully, Peacock’s late-game ad tried a stunt by acknowledging other ads. The concept behind its show Poker Face is that Charlie, played by Natasha Lyonne, can tell when someone is lying.
The ad shows Lyonne watching the game with a companion. She tells him that the M&M’s characters never left and a kid in the Google Pixel ad is actually 19 – both references to ads that aired earlier in the game.
Peacock says it created the ad in partnership with Google and M&Ms.