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?
We’re witnessing a tonal shift away from earnestness, moving towards fun and bizarre
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.
It’s no longer just a standalone Super Bowl ad; the rollout rules have changed
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.
An over-reliance on celebrity
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.