EDITOR'S NOTE: Multimedia journalist Loureen Ayyoub spoke to the executive producer of “Super Bowl Greatest Commercials” and an actor from a famous Budweiser ad. Click the arrow above to watch the video.
LOS ANGELES — Whether it’s Jennifer Coolidge noshing on a tube of lipstick for an Uber Eats commercial or Eugene Levy playing an action hero “thrill driver” for Nissan, this Sunday’s Super Bowl advertising extravaganza is bringing the funny.
Many of the nearly 100 commercials that will be broadcast during the Super Bowl feature A-list comedians, actors and musicians shilling the usual mix of apps, snacks, cars and beer — and doing it with a nudge and a wink.
“We are looking for laughs as we near the two-year anniversary of the start of COVID lockdowns,” Ad Age Managing Editor Jeanine Poggi said Tuesday during the magazine’s Game Day preview. “Following the recent surge in the omicron variant, more than ever Super Bowl advertisers are looking to entertain and uplift Super Bowl fans. Of the ads we’ve seen pre-released so far, the majority are light-hearted, celebrity-filled spots that are really meant to distract from real-world fatigue.”
About 100 million people are expected to tune into this year’s Super Bowl, which pits the Los Angeles Rams against the Cincinnati Bengals. Of those viewers, 43% will be watching just for the commercials, according to Ad Age. Last week, NBC announced it had sold out of commercial time, despite a record-high price of $6.5 million for each 30-second spot.
What can viewers expect this year? A return of Game Day advertising mainstays that sat out 2021, including Budweiser and Hyundai, as well as Oscar-winning director Chloe Zhao’s debut behind the camera for a 60-minute spot. Diversity is also front and center, along with the superstar musicians that represent inclusion, such as Megan Thee Stallion, who will appear in an ad for Dorito’s Flamin’ Hot Cool Ranch.
One of the biggest trends with the top ten ads from last year was diversity, according to Jon Evans, chief marketing officer for System 1, an LA-based company that has been ranking the effectiveness and emotional impact of Super Bowl commercials for 15 years.
“All ten of last year’s top ten featured a diverse cast, and eight of the top ten had Black actors in the lead roles,” Evans said, citing the DoorDash ad from last year with Daveed Diggs and Sesame Street’s Big Bird.
This year’s ads continue that trend, with spots featuring the musician Zendaya (for Squarespace), the rumored James Bond replacement Idris Elba (for Booking.com), comedian Ken Jeong arguing with Joel McMale over Planters Mixed Nuts and Oscar-winner Zhao making her commercial debut for Budweiser.
“It’s much easier to do a feature. It is so much harder to boil down a story, an impactful story within a minute. Every day I was tearing my hair out: How do you do this in one minute?” said Zhao, who won the 2021 Academy Award for directing “Nomadland” and who shot A Clydesdale’s Journey at Tejon Ranch in Southern California in just four days.
While Zhao’s ad is in the “big storytelling” vein of Ridley Scott’s classic 1984 ad for Apple, many of this year’s ads have a lighter touch.
Comedians have long been a mainstay of Super Bowl ads, but this year there are more than ever. Saturday Night Live star Pete Davidson is tackled in a Hellmann’s mayonnaise commercial, while his co-star Colin Jost pokes fun at Amazon Alexa for reading his mind with an assist from his wife Scarlett Johansson.
There’s also Kevin Hart playing VIP in an ad for Sam’s Club, Seth Rogan and Paul Rudd reminiscing about all the good times they’ve shared with Lay’s potato chips and Eugene Levy playing the action foil to his nerdy "Schitt’s Creek" character in a pyrotechnic-enhanced Nissan spot.
“If we track successful Super Bowl ads over time, a very common theme is the use of humor,” said System1’s Evans. “You want to be funny. You want to be entertaining. Football is about enjoyment of course, but it’s also about having a good time with your friends, so entertainment is very key.”
The Super Bowl, he added, “is where the best advertisers in the world are doing their very best work, and they’ve got their very biggest audience as well.”
To reach that audience, 80% of Super Bowl advertisers use celebrities, he said. That holds for big-name brands as well as the 50% of companies who are brand-new Super Bowl advertisers each year.
One of those new advertisers for 2022 is the cryptocurrency exchange, FTX. Its 60-second Super Bowl debut is an opportunity for viewers “to get to know us,” said FTX’s head of partnerships, Sina Nader. “Crypto is having its mainstream moment, and the Super Bowl is mainstream.”
During the spot, viewers will have the chance to win Bitcoin by retweeting a post on the FTX Twitter account shortly after the ad runs. The FTX ad is one of three crypto brands making their Super Bowl advertising debuts this year, including eToro and Crypto.com.
Bud Light will also join the crypto party during the Super Bowl commercial break, with a spot for its Next brand zero-carb beer. Called “Zero in the Way of Possibility,” the ad is a series of vignettes that includes a cameo of its NFT Collection, as well as a Metaverse experience.
“Crypto, NFTs and the Metaverse are where consumers are headed,” said Spencer Gordon, who leads digital strategy for Anheuser-Busch, which makes Bud Light Next and Budweiser beers. “There will definitely be Super Bowl NFTs and Super Bowl brands that you can watch a Super Bowl commercial in the Metaverse. There will be a few that happen this year, and in coming years, more and more brands will pursue that as well. It’s coming fast, and I think it will be here for the long term.”