Marketing Brew and Harris Poll recently conducted a survey of 1,050 US adults to track how many people planned to watch the 2023 Super Bowl — game, ads, and the halftime show. Of the 82% of people who said they were looking forward to the Super Bowl, a sizable 76% said they were somewhat excited about the ads. And while 84% said advertising during the game is smart for brands, 65% agreed that there are more effective ways to reach consumers than the Super Bowl.
On the other hand, Zeta Global did another survey, which found that only a shocking 18% of people were excited about the ads compared to the past years’ 40%-50%. Why might this be the case? It could be that companies nowadays release their commercials online before the game, almost like movie trailers, and that may soften the surprise. Or, it could be that a lot of the ads just aren’t that good anymore.
What’s happening in movie land (nostalgia and reboots) seems to be seeping into the ad space as well.
For the millions of dollars brands spend on Big Game advertising, more and more commercials are following the same formula: hiring a handful of A-list actors to say some corny lines without really telling a compelling story. Here are some examples.
Planters made a “Mr. Peanut: The roast” ad where familiar Comedy Central Roast stars “roast” Mr. Peanut with some “corny” jokes. They even released the full-length roast online, and we're curious as to why. How many people were interested in watching a fake peanut laugh politely?
Uber One tried to introduce itself in a hip and relevant way by asking P-Diddy to make them a hit song. We saw appearances from Donna Lewis and Ylvis, who we almost forgot, and after the entire commercial we were all left with one question: What the heck is Uber One?
Hellmann’s mayonnaise squeezed their way in with stars Jon Hamm, Brie Larson, and Pete Davidson (who really is everywhere) by using their names, Hamm and Brie, as puns for what goes in a sandwich along with mayo. Unless this ad really showed why people should try Hellmann’s (it didn’t for us), doesn’t everyone already have their go-to mayonnaise brand?
Doritos tried to show America that they know young people by having Jack Harlow start a triangle frenzy. The satire was great in that if someone like Jack Harlow did get obsessed with a simple instrument like the triangle, so would the rest of the country. But it makes us forget that it’s a Doritos ad about the new BBQ flavor.
Turbo Tax has been pumping ads since the tax deadline is coming up and they’ve been making some great ads with their tagline “Come to TurboTax and don’t do your taxes.” Yet, for the Super Bowl, they chose to show a man dancing in front of a water fountain, as if that is what taxes are keeping us from doing.
Here are some brands that utilized celebrities well.
The new Google Pixel 7 touts its image-altering features by showing a number of situations we’ve all been in. We see Amy Schumer and Giannis Antetokounmpo use the feature to save themselves from embarrassment. Doja Cat swoops in to show how the phone can fix blurry photos too! The ad even shows a non-Doja cat removing dogs in its selfie to add to the humor. It’s an ad that goes beyond cameos to show us what the product does and how it can make our lives better.
Skechers did a colorful commercial with Snoop Dogg’s help by introducing their new line of sneakers that Snoop allegedly wears for different occasions. Slip ons for traveling, air pumped cushions when you’re performing on the big stage, and new colorways and designs. For a shoe brand that’s not really seen as “cool,” perhaps Snoop Dogg helps change that image while portraying how comfortable they really are.
Bush’s Beans goes bigger with Peyton Manning by not focusing on the celebrity or the talking dog, but how customers can use Bush’s beans in multiple ways. You can use it in a salad, a burrito, chili, and probably more! Actually talking about the product and how it can elevate your life are what makes this impactful.
PopCorners was the highlight of Super Bowl ads when they brought out the Breaking Bad trio to show the country how “tight” the chips are. Not only was this ad nostalgic, it also piqued our interests with these not-fried but air-popped chips.
Good storytelling is, nevertheless, always a winner. And you don’t need to pay extra for a celebrity endorsement when you do it well. Here are our favorite stories (and, thus, ads) of the Big Game:
In Amazon’s “Saving Sawyer”, a family and their lonely, destructive dog show the country how Amazon can make their and their dog’s lives better. It’s a cute story with a happy ending that almost anyone can relate to.
The Farmer’s Dog’s “Forever” made anyone with a pet cry. We watched a girl grow up as her childhood dog ages. We all want the best for our companions and to spend as much time with them as possible. What better way than food from the Farmer’s Dog?
Voted the best of the night, Tubi’s “Rabbit Holes” has rabbits literally throwing and kicking people down a hole against their will. But once they’re in, they like what they see. It’s change reframed as discovery and it hits on a key insight we can all relate to: we all have our TV routine and it’s hard to break out. Tubi tells us the temporary discomfort is worth it.
Tubi was on a roll, and “Fake Out,” their 15 second ad, did indeed fake everyone out when someone seemed to be clicking us out of the Super Bowl and onto some other movie. I know we weren’t the only ones looking around to get mad at whoever was changing the channel.
Kia did a great job with Binky Dad. When his child is missing their pacifier, what does a dad do? Anything and everything to get it back. This hero of a dad drives through multiple terrains jumping through construction sites, maneuvering through football games, and even gets a police escort all in a Kia Telluride X-Pro to get his baby’s pacifier, only to find out it’s the wrong one and goes back again. It’s a 71-second hero’s arc with a silly plot.
It’s no question that, for agencies and brands alike, captivating an audience is getting harder every year. The endless production of TikToks, Reels, and Shorts is decreasing the population’s attention span immensely, so a great hook is imperative. But don’t underestimate consumers. They deserve more than just a lazy string of celeb cameos or story-less, gimmicky commercials. You did interrupt the main event, after all.
What remains true is that good storytelling, whether it’s one sentence or a three-hour movie, has the power to captivate human beings and form strong emotional connections, regardless of the context. That’s what we’re hoping to see more of next year.
Article by Hojip Jeon, Strategy Intern