Super Bowl 56 Grins and Groans

Super Bowl 56, the second super bowl to feature a team winning in their home stadium (total coincidence) is in the books, and so are the 70 or so ads. There was a lot of pre-game hype, with the game being in Los Angeles, at a brand new stadium, with the “mega” halftime show (that wasn’t that mega,) and of course, all the leaked ads.

Ultimately, it turned out to be about a six – and this has been a trend over the last several years…there are no ads that are flat out terrible, and no ads that are tear-your-hair-out great. Super Bowl has become an expensive arena for fairly vanilla ad executions. Maybe it’s our ticklish cancel culture that lurks around every corner. They could have been better. But there were some highlights.

Crypto had its coming out party this year, with five spots for various coins, platforms and exchanges making themselves known to a broader audience. So did electric vehicles. Snack foods and sodas were noticeably absent. And while celebrities are always a staple of Super Bowl ads, this year went extra heavy on the celebs, with a side of celebs, and then had celebs for dessert. (Perhaps big ideas are delayed due to supply chain issues?)

SOME HONORABLE MENTIONS:

Hologic – Mary J. Blige gets major props for a.) embracing her age as an asset and b.) for encouraging others to get regular mammogram screenings. This is an issue that many celebrities might politely duck out on, but Ms. Blige got to shine in an important public service announcement-meets-healthcare-ad.

Expedia.com tapped Ewan McGregor for a solid spot that poked fun at previous Super Bowl ads (including a couple nice little jabs at Budweiser and Bud Light,) while choosing “experiences” over “stuff.”  This was a solid idea, elegantly executed in the meta style, for a brand that is about to get super busy when people start traveling again. Well done!

BMW’s all-electric iX got a nice, um, jolt from Zeus and Hera (Arnold Schwarzenegger and Selma Hayak) in a cute spot, where Zeus retires to Palm Springs, only to find it leaves him flat. BMW reinvigorates his godliness, with some nice turns, including a pet Pegasus and a closing frame with Eddy Grant’s “Electric Avenue” to keep this one fresh. Overall, a well-made, well-executed ad from a brand that has learned to take itself less seriously over the last couple of years.

Chevrolet hawked its new, all-electric Silverado with a perfectly executed nod to the legend of the Sopranos television show. Actors  Jamie-Lynn Sigler and Robert Iler reprise their roles as Meadow and AJ, in what looks like a rebooted back story to the final Sopranos episode. Fans of the show will notice she had no problem parking this time!

FTX recruited Larry David to do his “Larry David” thing, saying “no” to epic discoveries and inventions throughout history like the wheel, the fork, the toilet, and the light bulb.  So when he says no to FTX, “a safe and easy way to get into Crypto,” the joke works great. As far as Crypto ads went this Super Bowl, this was the second best execution.

GRINS

Coinbase took 60 seconds of airtime to flash a QR code across the screen.  (For those of you scoring at home, that’s an open rate of about $14 million.)  Tens of millions of people snapped it to reveal one of two things: an opportunity to learn more about Coinbase, or for most of them, a crashed app. Big idea, big gamble, and big props for doing something really different.  Unfortunately, also a big fail since the tech couldn’t keep up, and Coinbase ends up making a poor first impression.

Uber Eats poked fun at themselves and their own name when people try to eat the various deliveries they receive using the service. People end up eating diapers, (with a disclaimer that reads “Prop food. Do not eat diapers” that adds to the joke,) cat litter, dish detergent, and my favorite, Gwyneth Paltrow taking a bite of her own “anatomy” candle (nice easter egg there.) Great ending super: “Now delivering eats.  And don’t eats.” Great example of how to take a simple idea, stretch it out with humor, and deliver your core brand message in a memorable way.  Very nice.

Planters makes a big splash in a really interesting and special way to promote their mixed nuts. Ken Jeong and Joel McHale ask the Internet about whether or not you should eat mixed nuts all together, or one at a time. Chaos (and hilarity) ensues, neatly wrapped with the line “who knew America would tear itself apart over a relatively minor difference of opinion?” Enough said. And very well done.

WINNER:

Rocket Mortgage taps Barbie, Skeletor and a cast of characters to sell mortgage-related financial services and technology in the easiest way possible:  so kids can understand. Great use of house-hunting archetypes, like “better offer Betty,” and “cash offer Carl,” to underscore today’s market challenges. And Anna Kendrick has the perfect off-beat delivery to hold the entire thing together. This was a big win, and considering they owned the Super Bowl last year with the Tracy Morgan “pretty sure isn’t sure enough” spot, I’d say they’re on a roll.

GROANS

Listen, when you have 70+ ads in a four-hour window, there are bound to be some clunkers. Even Morgan Freeman and his delicious voiceover couldn’t make an ad for Turkish Airlines work. E-Trade tries to bring the talking baby out of retirement to no avail. And Cheetos (in one of the few “animal” spots of the night,) kind of fell flat, and apparently got the ire of animal activists up over human processed snacks finding their way into natural habitats. Oooof. Speaking of animals, Disney+ tapped Awkwafina to do a “goats” spot. And Gillette, who have been on a roll embracing social issues, went bland this year. But here are the ones I thought really missed:

Salesforce – Matthew McConaughey in a big-budget sprawl of a commercial, floating around in a hot air balloon, waxing poetic in that McConaughey you’re-cute-but-I-don’t-get-it kind of way about space, trees, trust and the new frontier. A 60-second miss, and for a brand that could have gotten way more mileage by NOT being in the Super Bowl.

Avocados from Mexico took a cheap shot at Bills Mafia, and therefore they’re dead to me. In separate news, they were banned from imports just this morning after an inspector was threatened.  Not kidding.  Karma, kids. Karma.

Hellmann’s wins the it’s-a-bad-spot-because-that-was-done-already award with Jerod Mayo tackling anyone who is not thinking about food waste. Now, I get “reprising” an idea if it’s timely and makes sense.  But then Terry Tate should have been in this commercial. Maybe they thought no one would notice? Or perhaps they banked on the idea that most people watching wouldn’t have even seen those old Reebok spots? Either way, it’s a bad look for Hellmann’s with anyone who follows advertising.

LOSER:

It pains me to say this, but Dolly Parton shares the worst-of-the-night award along with Miley Cyrus in these loosely-linked and poorly-thinked commercials for T-Mobile. First, Ms. Parton, who is basically a national treasure, has to stoop to a bad boob joke to “get something off her chest.” Ugh.  Then Miley Cyrus comes in during a follow-up spot and does a “We Are the World”-style number to “do it for the phones.”  I know it’s a joke.  I know it’s tongue in cheek. But it’s in poor taste nonetheless. Had they tagged this spot to say they were ACTUALLY doing something good, (like recycling phones and donating to those in need, or using the lithium ion batteries to power a high school football field’s lights, I’m just spitballing here,) this spot might have won the evening. But they didn’t, and the joke didn’t land.

Many thanks to all of you who were live tweeting with me last night.  Would love to know your thoughts on the Super Bowl ads from this year – please leave your comments here!

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