There were electric cars and superstars, cryptocurrency, robotic dogs, laughter and tears.
In short, it was this year’s lineup of Super Bowl commercials, whose placement alone cost advertisers about $7 million for 30 seconds. That’s an all-time record.
And since everybody’s got an opinion, there were as many takes on those expensive ads as there were spectators on screens around the world: up to an estimated 117 million people, according to Jay Cranford of Cranford Co., the advertising agency on Main Street in Little Rock.
“Eighty percent of Super Bowl Commercials will have celebrities this year,” Cranford said as he and Denver Peacock of The Peacock Group shifted their annual commercial preview party into remote mode on Friday, adding that they bring an audience, familiarity and humor. “But they need to be woven into the brand being advertised. It’s not enough to remember that a star was in the ad; you have to remember the celebrity and the product.”
One commercial that did the trick, according to local advertising professionals and audience reaction specialists, was the “Thrill Ride” commercial for Nissan’s crossover electric SUV Ariya, featuring Eugene Levy, Dave Bautista, Brie Larson and Catherine O’Hara. The minute-long spot scored fifth among all Super Bowl ads for viewer engagement, according to the ad data measurement and analytics company EDO Inc. of New York. EDO has measured response to Super Bowl commercials for seven years, judging engagement by measuring online search requests for featured brands in the minutes after their commercials aired.
Kia’s spot featuring a lonely robotic dog chasing a charged-up Kia drew one of the best engagement ratings of all ads on Sunday, EDO said, and Polestar’s stark commercial for its new EV was the top ad for engagement overall.
“Electric vehicle ads just came out swinging this year,” said Jay Stanley, creative director at Stone Ward in Little Rock. “They’re pulling out all the stops in some of these.”
His favorite, which also impressed Lamor Williams of the Sells Agency in Little Rock, was BMW’s electric vehicle pitch by Arnold Schwarzenegger and Salma Hayak playing Zeus and Hera in retirement in Palm Springs. “He’s a grumpy old retiree, and Salma Hayak buys him an electric BMW, and it changes the course of his retirement.”
Williams also loved Rakuten’s ad featuring a villainous Hannah Waddingham as a villainous heiress who loses to a Rakuten user in a high-stakes poker game. “I’m torn between two favorites: Zeus and Hera BMW and Rakuten,” Williams said. “I think Rakuten takes the lead for me. When the Rakuten woman just casually plops her items on the table, it makes me laugh and feels like a victory for the underdog. And when Hera tells Zeus ‘Don’t forget to take Peggy for a walk’ and they pan down to the little Pegasus, that tickled me.”
Polestar’s ad, silently featuring words on the screen, calls out EV competitors for greenwashing and lack of transparency in sustainability. A Swedish automotive brand, Polestar was among the 40% of Super Bowl advertisers who were new to the lineup this year. The ad, EDO said, drove 23 times the search response as the evening’s median ads.
Stanley and Chip Paris of Paris Marketing & Public Relations LLC in Fort Smith praised a GM electric vehicle spot where Mike Myers, Seth Green, Rob Lowe and others reprised their roles as Dr. Evil and his henchmen from the “Austin Powers” films. “I liked this one personally because although it relied on previous popular movie references and characters, it was done well,” Paris said. “Plus the characters are hilarious, and there was at least an attempt to tie everything to the product.”
GM’s all-electric Silverado pickup traced Tony Soprano’s route home from New York in one ad. At the wheel was Jamie-Lynn Siglar, who played Meadow Soprano on the HBO hit series; she later meets up with Robert Iler, who played her brother A.J. The spot was directed by David Chase himself, creator of “The Sopranos.”
Another local favorite, drawing praise from Jay Cranford and others, was a funny Scarlett Johansson-Colin Jost ad for Alexa, the home assistant.
The commercial shows the TV comic and film star in their home, where Jost and Johansson are impressed when he mentions it’s game day, prompting Alexa to turn on the TV, close the blinds and chill wine. Later, things get awkward when Alexa orders mouthwash after Johansson turns to him in bed in the morning, then starts the blender to drown out Jost as he’s babbling about getting a spray tan. Maybe, they decide, it’s best Alexa can’t read their minds.
Of course a celebrity ad can cut both ways. “My least favorite commercial was the Jim Carrey Cable Guy Verizon commercial.” Williams said. “However, to be fair, I just don’t like him or his style of comedy.”
Paris didn’t love Anna Kendrick’s collaboration with Barbie for Rocket Mortgage, or “Scrubs” stars Zack Braff and Donald Faison making a musical for T-Mobile. “It was such a stretch to tie [Rocket Mortgage] to anything kid-related, particularly the Barbie franchise,” Paris said, “and way too much effort to attempt a musical to tie back into [T-Mobile].” He did like Larry David’s crypto ad for FTX, but that one drew criticism from Cranford and others for lacking a solid-enough brand tie.
FTX was one of four cryptocurrency companies, along with Crypto.com, eToro, and Coinbase, to air their first Super Bowl spots this year. Coinbase simply employed a multicolored QR code bouncing from corner to corner of the screen. According to EDO, it was the most engaging crypto ad, earning Coinbase eight times the engagement of the average Super Bowl commercial.
A sentimental favorite mentioned by several ad pros was Toyota’s “Paralympians,” featuring Brian and Robin McKeever. “Great storytelling,” Paris said. “First tears for a commercial at this year’s game,” tweeted Jason Brown, formerly of The Communications Group in Little Rock.
Others related to ads with longtime country stars Dolly Parton and Willie Nelson.
“Two opposing themes drove the most engagement for Super Bowl LVI: newness and nostalgia,” said Kevin Krim, president and CEO of EDO. “Combined with ample star power and humor, these themes proved to be a winning strategy for brands in 2022.” EDO’s data over the past seven big games, he said, “shows that a single 30-second Super Bowl ad can drive millions of people to search and engage with the brand online.”
By the way, the Los Angeles Rams defeated the Cincinnati Bengals in a football game, 23-20.