As someone who has made a number of Super Bowl ads, I’m naturally curious to see what brands do with this exorbitantly expensive and unique opportunity. After all, for just one day a year, America wants to watch commercials. No skipping. No complaining. Corporations get a captive audience of 100 million people over the course of 4 hours — all at the cost of 7 million dollars per 30 seconds.
The last few years, Super Bowl ads have been preachy and woke. You came for the party, but brands gave you a progressive sermon. This year, most corporations opted to steer clear of blatant wokery. Does that mean the ads were good? Not necessarily.
Overall, it was a lackluster crop of meh. Trends? As per the last few years, men were generally portrayed as sheepish dolts. Women as powerful Greek goddesses who like to drive trucks (Toyota). White people were the butt of most every joke. But what else did you expect? Corporate America hates you.
So, which brands scored, if any? Which snored? And which brands fumbled the opportunity? Glad you asked. Here’s our take.
SCORES (Congrats, you didn’t light a match to 7 million bucks.)
Dr Evil General Motors Super Bowl – If we must be lectured about climate change for the trillionth time, let it be by Dr Evil. Kudos to the writers, Mike Myers and the whole cast from Austin Powers. Plenty of funny jokes. It was enough to make you long for the days when comedies were uncouth and inappropriately funny. Still, I’m not sure electric cars, which run on electricity generated primarily by fossil fuels like coal, are solving the “climate emergency”. (Not to mention the batteries probably have a half-life of a gazillion years.) Anyways, GM wants you to know they’re pretty much all-electric going forward. Message received. Score.
Larry David plays a naysayer through the ages who questions every game-changing invention in history, like the wheel and lightbulb. This was among the funniest ads in the Superbowl. It was built on a solid insight: people have reservations about crypto, so why not go right at the elephant in the room? FTO did exactly that and cleverly cast Larry David who simply played Larry David, a hard-to-please uber skeptic. Very fun. Score.
Perhaps the most minimalist Superbowl ad ever made and pretty darn brilliant. 60 seconds of a bouncing QR code set to a goofy song is all it took for a healthy chunk of America to lift their phones and take the click bait. When they did, they were offered crypto at a discount if they signed up for a Coinbase account. Only quibble: a 30 second ad would have sufficed and they would have saved 7 million. Still, a definite score.
I want to dislike this ad, especially since it’s based on the reality that Alexa is not only eavesdropping on me, but also is algorithmically guessing my next move. That said, if we’re all going to become slaves to AI in the future, we can at least hope our digital overlord has Alexa’s sense of humor. Reluctantly, I admit, it’s a score.
This story follows Eugene Levy’s journey from pensive, cautious actor to Fabio-esque action hero. The vehicle that transforms him? The Nissan Z. The spot had all the stuff of big Superbowl ads — explosions, action and some smiles. Car looked beautiful, too. Score.
The E*Trade baby is back. He apparently had enough of Wall Street fame and became a mountain recluse. It was never clear why E*Trade retired him to begin with. Campaign fatigue? In any case, America likely can’t remember a single E*Trade ad without the baby. This commercial is not among the best of the campaign, however. Nevertheless, talking babies are always a winning Super Bowl play. Score.
SNORES (Neither good nor bad, therefore we spit you out.)
Arnold apparently had the courage to leave his house to make a Super Bowl commercial. He’s been very worried about the unvaccinated among us and sounding a lot like a neurotic granny these days. That said, in this spot Arnold plays Zeus, who’s recently retired from the deity game. Bored with his golden years, his wife, played by the beautiful Salma Hayek, brings him a BMW to bring the spark back into his life. This spot was one of many Superbowl ads for electric cars and it was decent. Still the BMW electric car is way late to the electric party. Elon is already there, in a far cooler ride and he makes for better dinner conversation. Sorry, Arnold. Snore.
It had so much promise. Animatronic band loses their gig at a local diner when it closes, presumably due to lockdowns (I’m joking about the lockdown part. Kinda). We then follow the down-and-out journey of one of the animatronic band members, a loveable dog. The problem is that the answer to losing his real-world life is living a fake one in the unreal metaverse. Once he slides on the Oculus goggles, our loveable dog is virtually reunited with his animatronic friends. The final shot shows the dog happily living in his imaginary world, gesticulating, all alone, in a darkened room. It was a depressing glimpse of what we all will look like if Big Tech gets their way. No thanks. Snore.
Expedia used their big game spot to remind everyone that it’s experiences that matter more than stuff. Fair point and nice execution. But the experience of traveling isn’t what it used to be. Australia and New Zealand look more like island prisons these days. It appears France likes to beat their citizens who don’t comply. Austria has covid police running around asking for people’s vaxx papers. So, are the typical Americans watching the Superbowl looking to travel overseas in the current climate? It’s questionable. Snore.
Are we going to dis a spot about a Clydesdale tripping on barbed wire, breaking his leg and making a return to glory? No. But we’re also not going to say Budweiser delivered the goods. They’ve told better stories in this campaign. Also, after half of America cowered behind masks for two years straight, is “Home of the Brave” the descriptor that really comes to Budweiser’s mind? Snore.
Who is Doja Cat? And why did she mess with Hole’s epic song? And do clowns breaking out of clown school, only to become normalish people, really equal Live Mas? These are the questions millions of hungover Americans are pondering, along with “why did I eat that suspicious-looking chili?” One more question: Why did Taco Bell go with this idea again? Check out their 2013 Super Bowl ad. (Full disclosure: I helped create the oldsters ad, so I’m obviously incredibly biased and hence, all the above comments should largely be ignored.) Snore.
Leftism makes people miserable and humorless. The once funny Jim Carrey is no exception. He’s spent the last few years drawing tortured pictures of Donald Trump that seemed to say more about Carrey’s mental state, than 45’s. So, when he showed up for a reprise of the Cable Guy in Super Bowl 22, not surprisingly, there wasn’t a single big laugh to be found. Regrettably, a snore.
I liked this ad better when Reebok did it with Terry Tate over 15 years ago. And when it was done again for Snickers with the amazing Betty White. Yes, tackling unexpecting people is funny, but it’s been funnier. Snore.
Polestar was yet another electric car entry. Their ad was all type and no story. The idea? Take a poke at Elon Musk, the guy who single-handedly (okay, with considerable government subsidies) made the electric car viable. “No Conquering Mars” the ad claims, in an obvious jab at Musk’s other company, SpaceX. You’re right, Polestar. You won’t be conquering Mars. You’ll be playing catch up on the road Musk paved for you over 10 years ago. Meanwhile, Elon will set his eyes on the 4th planet from the sun. Snore.
FUMBLES (Ad agency is on thin ice this morning)
Creepiest ad of the game by a mile. Cue is a new product for anal retentive adults to test their kids every five minutes to discover if they are covid positive. Cue is wired into the internet, which has dystopian implications for anyone with the slightest imagination of how tech like this could be misused. The commercial shows the cubical Cue talking to the other things in Covid Karen’s home. We watch conversation between a Roomba, a phone, a wi-fi camera with its all-seeing eye and a connected thermostat. If Cue exists to allay our fears, I’m not sure the ad communicated that, except for the most terrified of Covidiots. But it did deliver an Orwellian vibe that only Big Brother and neurotics could love. Fumble.
Racism, we’re told, is woven into all American systems – even the operating systems on digital cameras. That is, until now. Thankfully, Google’s cameras finally stopped being racist with the debut of its new Real Tone technology that promises to properly capture people with “darker skin tones,” not just those with White Privilege. The terrible photos shown early on in this Pixel commercial purport to show how non-inclusive typical camera technology is. But the bad pics just look like the product of terrible lighting. Turns out, if you backlight someone you turn them into a shadow – no matter who the subject is. It’s photography 101. This is peak corporate wokeness, on par with the racialization of Emojis. Enough already. Fumble.
Dolly, was that you? The intention here was a misdirect: you’re supposed to think it’s some philanthropic ad, but then Dolly tells you she has to get something “off her chest” and then pulls a new 5G phone out of her bra. That was supposed to be funny, but it didn’t land. The button with Miley didn’t land either. But that didn’t stop T-Mobile from doing a part 2 later in the game. This time, a “We are the World” parody song that was also a fail. Fumble.
Disney+’s ad gets a preemptive fumble rating just for canceling Gina Carano. But hey, their loss, our gain. In any case, their ad is a fumble because the idea is blah, especially for a company as imaginative as Disney. But then, they’ve gone woke and wokeness kills creativity. In any case, what was the idea here? Goats dressed up as Disney characters because Disney+ has the greatest movies and shows of all time. Get it? I know, it’s a stretch. Even Steven Spielberg couldn’t save this film. Double fumble.
Brett Craig is EVP, Creative at The Daily Wire. He has created multiple Superbowl ads and was featured on Adweek’s Top 50 movers and shakers list.
The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.