NEW YORK >> The Kansas City Chiefs were crowned victorious over the San Francisco 49ers in this year’s Super Bowl — and off the field, big-name advertisers vied for viewers’ attention with slick celebrity-studded messages.
Beyonce broke the internet again in a Verizon commercial, which was quickly followed by a viral music drop. Lionel Messi showed his apparent loyalty to Michelob Ultra. And T-Mobile, Elf cosmetics, Uber Eats and more offered a slew of TV mini-show reunions, bringing together cast members from “Suits” to “Friends.”
Despite it being an election year in the US, there was little to show today, other than an ad from American Values 2024, the super PAC supporting Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s presidential run. He held a 30-second, retro-style spot that tried to build on his family’s legacy. Kennedy launched his independent bid for the White House last year.
Broadcasting a Super Bowl commercial is no easy feat. On top of the reported $7 million price tag for a 30-second spot during the game, brands get the biggest actors, invest in dazzling special effects and try to create an ad that will appeal to more than 100 million expected viewers – or at least I remember.
“Advertisers this year are doing everything they can to break through the clutter,” said Northwestern University marketing professor Tim Calkins. “They’re pulling out all the stops.”
Today, a large number of advertisers have used light humor and nostalgia to give gaming breaks a mostly “feel good”, whimsical energy. However, there were also some serious and gloomy moments.
Here’s a rundown of what ad watchers saw in Super Bowl LVIII.
Kris Jenner “twists” with Oreos. The face behind the iconic Pringles mustache has been revealed to be none other than Chris Pratt. And Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez returned for Dunkin’ movies, while Ice Spice drank Starry.
In typical Super Bowl fashion, a variety of company ads were graced by the stars — often with multiple celebrities crammed into a single spot. T-Mobile, for example, featured big names like Bradley Cooper, Common, Jennifer Hudson, Laura Dern and “Suits” stars Gabriel Macht and Patrick J. Adams all in an ad for its Magenta customer loyalty program Status”.
And the Suits homecoming didn’t stop there. In another ad filled with celebrities — including “Judge Judy” Judy Sheindlin — elf makeup brought together Gina Torres, Rick Hoffman and Sarah Rafferty in a courtroom spoof.
The NBC sitcoms had quite a few reunion moments during the game. In an Uber Eats commercial that shows people forgetting things in order to remember that Uber Eats can offer a wide variety of items, Jennifer Aniston apparently forgets that she ever worked with her Friends co-star. David Schwimmer. And in a commercial for Mtn Dew Baja Blast, Aubrey Plaza says she can have a ‘Blast’ by doing anything — including reuniting with her “Parks and Rec” boss Nick Offerman while flying on dragons.
Although star power in Super Bowl commercials is nothing new, it felt especially heightened this year.
“Before, you would have a celebrity who would be the spokesperson for the ad,” said Jessica D. Collins of Virginia Commonwealth University. “Now you’re seeing celebrity collaborations … all in the same ad, even (when) they’re not related to each other.”
Some brands can pull this off in a clever way – such as tapping into pop culture moments and inside jokes. But experts say going overboard with celebrity shows can dilute advertising’s impact. Viewers can remember what star they saw in an ad, but not the brand name, notes University of Minnesota associate professor of marketing Linli Xu.
FEBRUARY AND NOSTALGIA
It wouldn’t be the Super Bowl without some furry friends. Budweiser, for example, brought back familiar characters in its game-day slot — which features Clydesdales and a Labrador retriever teaming up to help the beer brand deliver. And Hellmann’s featured the “Mayo Cat.”
But the year’s advertising wasn’t raining cats and dogs, noted Kimberly Whitler, a marketing professor at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business.
That didn’t stop advertisers from looking for other ways to win the hearts of viewers.
“Everything old is new again,” she said, pointing to blockbuster Super Bowl ads or messages from the past, including ETrade’s talking babies.
The 1980s also made a comeback, Whitler noted, with T-Mobile and the Nerds featuring the theme song from “Flashdance,” while the barbel was the centerpiece of the Kawasaki spot.
DOWNLOADED INTO THE HEART BARS
Both Collins and Calkins said the Google site was among their favorites. The ad followed a blind man as he uses Guided Frame — Google’s AI-powered accessibility feature for the Pixel camera that uses a combination of audio cues, high-contrast animations and haptic vibrations — to take pictures of people and places in life.
The spot was a “perfect balance of emotion and showcasing a product benefit,” Collins said, adding that she appreciated how Google spotlighted an audience that doesn’t always get noticed. “No celebrities, (and it) just showed what an absolutely real family could have been. I loved it.”
Xu also pointed to the Dove ad, which focused on how low body confidence causes girls to quit sports.
“It’s a powerful message,” she said, in keeping with Dove’s past body positivity campaigns.
SOME SERIOUS MOMENTS
Some other ads took on more serious tones. For example, Robert Kraft’s Foundation to Fight Anti-Semitism ran an ad featuring Martin Luther King Jr.’s speechwriter, Dr. Clarence B. Jones.
“He Gets Us” also returned to the Super Bowl this year. The campaign, which is backed by a group of wealthy Christian donors, aired two ads tonight.