Every year, we’re presented with a fresh crop of blockbuster Super Bowl ads, each speaking to a broad-reaching global audience. In 2022, the space was dominated by crypto, health and wellness, and electric vehicles, alongside the unsurprising commercials for snacks and beer; after all, this is advertising at its most mainstream.
Super Bowl ads represent some of the highest-budget commercial spots in the world, and frequently reflect larger happenings in the mainstream advertising sphere.
So, what do this year’s Super Bowl ads tell us? In a nutshell: there’s been a shift towards more fun and bizarre ads, rollouts continue to diversify, and celebrities are still a mainstay for older audiences.
Let’s dive a bit deeper, shall we?
With more competition for attention than ever before, brands are leaning heavily into both comedy and the bizarre just to get cut through.
The global pandemic extending through its second year has created a market crying out for fun. Subsequently, brands took themselves less seriously this year and joined the party. Take Bud Light, for example; last year, their ad used a downpour of lemons to reference life alongside the pandemic. This year, Guy Fieri is the mayor of Flavourtown in a colourful and whimsical piece centred around celebration.
That said, the financial impacts of COVID-19 have also resulted in more brands taking a retail-driven approach this year. Products are front and centre, features and benefits are not-so-subtly worked into the script, and some of the nuance of years gone by has been lost.
One advertiser that used an unusual sleight-of-hand tactic to cut through was the mountain water brand Liquid Death. Their ad features a crew of kids (and one pregnant woman) having a raging party and guzzling from tall cans, before revealing at the last moment that those cans simply hold water in beer-like packaging. It’s an unexpected, somewhat subversive strategy, and it certainly caught its viewers’ attention.
Notably, fewer brands chose to tap into truly clever behavioural insights that felt both surprising and inevitable at the same time, compared to ads from previous years such as Alexa’s Body by Amazon.
This year continued the frantic evolution of the Super Bowl ad rollout. For brands trying to compete in this space, it’s no longer about running a singular commercial during the big game. In 2022, it’s a multi-channel campaign.
Some brands got in early by teasing their spots, while others released their full spots weeks before the game. However, the biggest spectacle ads and Super Bowl mainstays like Budweiser and this year’s Crypto.com spot still waited to debut during the game. Interestingly, the ads that were teased before the big game came from brands with a little more social clout, like Amazon, Frito-Lay, and Pringles. They’d already earned the benefit of the doubt that viewers would anticipate the entertainment value of their spot.
A Super Bowl media buy cost over $6million USD this year, despite expected viewership being lower than in years past. Media plans for the big game are extending onto social platforms more than ever before, and advertisers are adapting their commercials to suit platforms like Instagram and Tiktok.
Celebrities featured heavily across many campaigns, with brands eager to capitalise on the halo effect celebrity endorsements have on ongoing social media conversations. We saw Zendaya star for Squarespace, Steve Buscemi and Serena Williams for Michelob Ultra, and a slew of big-name celebrities in the Uber Eats ad, amongst many others.
However, we typically saw overexposed celebrity personalities that we’ve already seen selling just about anything over the years. It’s always more satisfying to see a surprising face. Presenting an unexpected perspective or personality is far more likely to connect with viewers and create a stronger talking point; both critical factors in an exceedingly competitive space.
The reliance on celebrities points to the older market the Super Bowl now attracts. It’s also indicative of the ongoing struggle sport continues to have in captivating and attracting a younger audience. Those young viewers tend to identify with influencers, creators and gamers more than movie stars, which we’re yet to see reflected in Super Bowl material. How soon might it be before the media buy for a gaming world championship final is more expensive than the Super Bowl? In the years to come, we may see that shift as advertisers seek to connect with younger generations.
Looking ahead to 2023, we can expect a slew of new ads that highlight behavioural shifts and reflect the ever-changing marketing landscape.
We might see another change in tone again as audience lifestyles and worldviews continue to be influenced by the pandemic. Influencers will likely step into the ring amongst the expected celebrity-driven spots; and as audiences continue to evolve, will gaming overtake sport as the leading form of live streamed entertainment?
Check out this article to get caught up on this year’s clutch of Super Bowl commercials.
Our Creative Director Mike Drysdale was recently featured on 92.9 Tamworth. In the interview, he explores the power of cultural conversations in the context of the latest Australian Lamb ad.
You can listen to the full discussion below.
The Lost Country of the Pacific, a short film by Australian Lamb, is as close as Australia gets to a blockbuster ad.
Equal parts spectacle and narrative, the three minute epic arrests the audience’s attention with a melodramatic set up and story. It seeks to entertain with almost every cultural reference that could be made about the current state of the world.
An ad like this takes significant time and energy to craft. The campaign video doesn’t look or feel like an ad; it comes across more like a movie. Importantly, lamb is not the focus. Instead, it’s presented simply as a delicious-looking part of the larger story.
It doesn’t matter that the premise is absurd, and the execution feels familiar to Australian Lamb ads of the past. In a way, that further cements their existing brand.
Ad campaigns that live within the current cultural landscape and allude to current events feel magnetic; it’s hard to look away.
Once you start to see references to topics you’ve thought about recently, you look out for more. You’re transfixed by the next Easter egg and feel compelled to discover if it will mirror your experience.
So, what did get mentioned?
Interstate border closures, overseas travel, Westralia, the rise of State Premiers, billionaires Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos in space, conspiracy theorists believing in Australia being a “fake country”, sport bubbles, Victorian lockdowns, French submarines, fruit picking backpackers, and more.
Jam-packed with references to current cultural dialogue, the campaign builds connection with its audience. Each of the cues used draws out an emotional response from viewers across a wide variety of world views.
Fascinatingly, the ad made no mention of COVID-19 and no mention of Australia Day. Considering the breadth of references tied into this campaign, these gaps are hard to ignore.
Australian Lamb’s ads have come out around this time every year for over a decade. Notably, it wouldn’t be surprising if every previous year’s version had mentioned January 26th.
This suggests that change is afoot. Brands that were previously loud supporters of Australia Day are now reading the change in public opinion around it and adjusting their messaging.
Notably, Australian Lamb’s Youtube channel has videos dating back five years, but their previous campaigns are unavailable.
This could signal a larger movement away from messaging tied to Australia Day. January 26th was a promotional opportunity for many years, but times have changed. Instead, iconic brands like Cricket Australia, Triple J, and Australian Lamb are now aligning with a general sense of Australiana. In effect, working to make lamb synonymous with Australia rather than Australia Day.
Specific mention of COVID-19 was also notably not present. As a result, we can likely assume this is due to the pandemic fatigue felt by audiences across the nation. Many brands are refraining from tying heavy messaging on the COVID-19 pandemic to their business.
Instead, advertisers show flow-on effects such as lockdowns, State Premiers, and empty airports, as seen in the campaign.
This cheeky, topical piece quickly hit the #1 trending spot on YouTube. It had its audience laughing, crying, and most importantly, talking.
It’s a marketing sweet spot. In re-watching the video and sharing it with their own networks, viewers engage with the campaign time and time again. This builds free awareness for the product and adds to the wider dialogue.
Here’s a snapshot of the public response:
You might have seen the latest green hydrogen ad campaign released by Andrew Forrest in the media recently. It’s an interesting one! So interesting in fact, that ABC’s ‘WA Country Hour’ called Dear Storyteller GM Mike Drysdale to talk about it.
It’s not often that a well known billionaire deliberately releases an ad campaign that positions themselves as the villain. It was a bold, subversive strategy by Mr. Forrest and his team, but also one we have to say, he kind of pulled off.
Mike’s interview starts at the 20 minute mark, here’s what he had to say:
“I think Andrew is playing this in a really interesting way. There seems to be a bit of reverse psychology going on here. “
“He’s made some really deliberate choices in this video to not come across as a Greeny. I think that he wants the target audience to believe that this is a cold hearted financially motivated decision.”
“When you look at the way they’ve made this particular ad too, with the music, with Andrew’s delivery, his slow calculated movements, even the lavish setting and things surrounding him. He’s not humbling himself in this video. He’s chosen to position himself as the antagonist, the villain almost.”
“And he’s challenging the viewer. He’s speaking to a very specific worldview which is this very achievement oriented, financially motivated, capitalist minded person, someone with a hyper competitive outlook.”
“And because of that I think this might make a lot of people scratch their heads. But maybe, it will speak to a small percentage of very important people in this debate. This could be the bull fighter waving the red flag. And maybe they’ll play the part of the bull and charge it.”
“What I think is really interesting about the strategy here is that Andrew’s not asking individuals to turn their appliances off. He’s putting this squarely at the feet of his competitors and fellow high net worth individuals.”
“There are multiple possible outcomes with a campaign like this. Perhaps his competitors do step up to the plate, follow him into this space and create a better future. On the other-hand, perhaps there’s just a halo effect from the general public thinking, wow Andrew’s really going for this.”
Want to see for yourself? Take a look at the spot here: