Review: Super Bowl LVII Commercials

On Sunday the Kansas City Chiefs walked away with a victory in a very entertaining Super Bowl LVII, but who won in the advertising arena?

Front Office Sports reported that FOX charged $7 million for a 30-second spot, up from the $6.5 million NBC charged in 2022.

For the second year in a row, I wanted to look at my favorites through a strategic lens, specifically Mark Pollard’s Four Points Framework.

Key Themes

Celebrities were everywhere. Often a shortcut to relevance, culture, or to break through clutter, I felt most names were misused. And to quote Pollard, “celebrities mean you don’t have an idea.” One exception may have been Ben Affleck, a lifelong loyalist to Dunkin’.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Dunkin’ originally pitched an ad where Affleck stopped in at their corporate boardroom. Apparently, it was Affleck’s idea for a scripted, and unscripted, appearance in the drive-through. Perhaps it was that collaboration that made it feel so authentic.

Cashing in on nostalgia. It’s nothing new, but it sure felt more squarely aimed at Gen X this year. It could be I’m biased. Ben Stiller reprised his Zoolander role for Pepsi, Alicia Silverstone returned as Cher for Rakuten, and even Serena Williams joined Caddyshack for Michelob Ultra.

And it didn’t stop there as the movie studios teased the return of Michael Keaton as Batman and Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones.

Diversity, but not really. It’s easy to celebrate Rihanna’s moment during the halftime show or Serena’s dominance in not one but two separate ads. I couldn’t put my finger on what I was feeling in the sea of sameness, but Derek Walker nailed it for me, “casting Black talent is not the advertising industry being more diverse.”

We need better representation, full stop. According to Ad Age’s early analysis, a majority of cast, crews, and directors behind the Super Bowl commercials were white men. We talk about telling authentic stories, but they are often crafted through the same shallow lens.

The Farmer’s Dog & Forever

Outside of the marketing industry, the only ad I felt anyone spoke about was this one from The Farmer’s Dog. And according to the USA Today Ad Meter, it was the most popular ad of the Super Bowl. Can you say emotional damage?

The spot stood apart from many of the ads I saw in the first half of the game and in stark contrast to Amazon’s spot, which also featured a pup. Unfortunately, in Amazon’s ad it felt like they were horrible pet owners. Having not spent enough time with their dog it becomes destructive, and instead of changing their behavior they – GASP – buy another dog. WTH?

Problem: Healthy pet food comes at an increased cost.

Advantage: A fresh, natural food alternative to traditional pet food.

Insight: We’d pay anything for another day with a loved one – human or pet.

Strategy: I’ll always take care of you, because you always take care of me.

NFL & Run With It

I absolutely loved this spot. It gives you all the feels and for a moment, you believe the NFL also believes in diversity and change. But when will we see a commitment to less violence and more inclusion?

That said, it’s still an incredibly powerful spot featuring flag-football star Diana Flores, a world champion quarterback with the Mexican national flag football team and Pro Bowl coach for the AFC this year.

If you told the story backward, it would be even more interesting. Here we have a successful athlete in her mother’s kitchen and you wonder how she got there. And was it because she was so elusive that we didn’t know about her – or that we haven’t been looking.

Update: A bit more about the spot from 72andSunny.

Problem: Fans may not recognize or celebrate women in sport – especially football.

Advantage: The NFL is an ally for women in the sport.

Insight: Women in the sport of football are elusive.

Strategy: Unmask athletes, highlighting their pure passion and performance.

Tubi & Game Progression

Tubi’s set of ads impressed me with the approach Mischief @ No Fixed Address and the brand took. But I want to address “Game Progression” for a consideration I didn’t have when it was broadcast.

For anyone watching with friends, family, or significant other, you may have paused and wondered if someone else was in control of the remote. I really liked that at the moment, reminding me of the Coinbase bouncing QR code from 2022. But it took a woman’s perspective for me to consider that it may lead to domestic violence – further reinforcing the need to have a diverse set of people involved in making ads.

It may not have changed the final ad creative because it was successfully disruptive. But it may have been executed a bit differently or with domestic violence in mind.

Tubi & Rabbit Hole

In the moment, I wasn’t sure where the storytelling was going. Were the rabbits playing into furry fandom? Did rabbits have some revenge in mind? Nope, it was a comical take on using Tubi’s recommendation system for better content and curation.

It was certainly unexpected, catching and keeping my attention throughout the spot. And if you dig deeper you start to learn just how transparent Tubi has been about their system in combating bias or using machine learning.

Problem: Too much content, too little time.

Advantage: Powerful recommendation system.

Insight: More time is spent surfing and searching for content we enjoy watching.

Strategy: We’ll power your content and curation, sending you down rabbit holes you haven’t yet explored.

Bud Light & Hold

Bud Light is back. Initially, I loved that this was an intimate moment between Keleigh Sperry and her husband Miles Teller. But it was while live-tweeting that Jennifer Bonhomme pointed out easy drinking.

It was a sweet moment and demonstrates how drinking doesn’t have to mean excess.

Problem: The beer industry generally celebrates big moments vs. little, with men instead of women.

Advantage: (Still) less calories, less filling, and less risk.

Insight: You can celebrate the little moments when less is more.

Strategy: Easy times and easy drinking for all.

Honorable Mentions

Aviation Gin: Ryan Reynolds continues to demonstrate his mastery of marketing with this year’s seemingly, last-minute Super Bowl spot. At the end of the days it’s a simple sweeps for tickets to next year’s game, but it leans into some simple, effective copywriting and the personality Reynolds always brings with him.

Planters: I think Mr. Peanut’s death was executed poorly, but VaynerMedia came back to poke a little fun at itself and lean into roasted peanuts. Love the play on words, that it’s a social-first idea, and easily amplified or extended with UGC. Because let’s face it, everyone wants to be part of this roast.

Pringles: It’s a great, simple insight that is begging for a better execution. The ad is strong and certainly plays up the laughs, but this feels like such fertile territory to explore with the product design on down to true, unexpected stories.

Squarespace: The Matrix vibes were strong here, and Adam Driver definitely delivered. What I like most is that it seems like “a website that makes websites” gives Squarespace a tag and platform they can build upon, all developed by their in-house agency.

Google: I won’t say it’s as strong as past Super Bowl spots but it gets to the product benefit of Google Pixel quickly and anytime I can celebrate Giannis Antetokounmpo and his humor, well I’m here for it. “What dunk?”

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