[Header image credit: Canva]
By Lori Heckman Golden
Super Bowl 2023 advertising highlighted some trends we expected, but also included a lot of surprises —some delightful, some that annoyed viewers. There have been stronger years for sure, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t a ton of creativity, thinking outside the box, and new products and ideas to applaud. Consumers are looking to be entertained, and brands want to deliver while also getting more brand recognition that will drive sales. Without the beer-category exclusivity in place, we saw our share of beer commercials (and alcohol in general) but also saw our first non-alcoholic beverage commercial debuted at the Super Bowl. The eclectic commercials certainly kept us on our toes. It felt different than past years with multiple partnerships, brands not usually shown, and more.
The halftime show sponsored by Apple (replacing Pepsi) presented Rihanna, a female superstar who not only put on a grand spectacle without any additional surprise celebrity talent (she didn’t need ‘em) but also while pregnant, and at dazzling heights. This is the first pregnant halftime headliner and that is a huge milestone for women – for that I say, well done Apple and brava Rihanna. A lot of female power was on display in this Super Bowl, including the NFL spot with flag football star Diana Flores. Serena Williams was featured in two spots, one for Michelob Ultra and one for Remy Martin cognac. She dominated on the courts and dominated in Super Bowl endorsements as well. Astellas Pharma gave us the first menopause-focused Super Bowl commercial, raising awareness about symptoms associated. And the U.S. Navy’s flyover team was all female for the first time – history in the making.
Use of Celebrity
Celebrities often help break through the clutter and drive the attention advertisers are hoping for. Our client P&G/Downy reaped interest through the digital plays and teasers about who their mystery celebrity would be (Danny McBride,) further supported by celebrity gossip Instagram handle Deux Moi. Celebrities don’t provide a guarantee that a spot will go over well with consumers, so it needs to be done right. Dunkin nailed it with Ben Affleck, who is extremely relevant and also known for being incredibly loyal to the brand. Using him as a drive-thru employee and adding the surprise-and-delight factor of Jennifer Lopez appearing as well, made this a winner. The brand was still front-and-center and the use of celebrity just made sense. I thought one of the other best uses of celebrity to target different audiences was Doritos (a TMA gaming client.) Jack Harlow was featured to capture Gen Z’s attention and Elton John has a wide awareness and appeal, not to mention the humor of playing a triangle virtuoso. Miles Teller and his wife dancing to on-hold music in the Bud Light spot was light and refreshing—a great use of celebrity in a non-flashy way.
Animals always take the stage in some capacity, especially when it comes to heartwarming ads. The Farmer’s Dog won the USA Today Ad Meter, having captured the hearts of animal lovers across the country. The Amazon spot had a similar theme and takeaway with a post-Covid twist, reflecting the way families and pandemic pets who had been together 24/7 now have to be separated at times. That made the spot incredibly relatable, which in turn makes it memorable to consumers. Sarah McLachlan’s Busch Light spot that spoofed her infamous ASPCA ads showcased a deer, an owl, a fox and a wolf in a humorous way, but again highlighting our animal friends. Well played, given the high awareness of the joke.
Disruptive Technology & Wellness
We saw GM’s Netflix spot highlighting electric vehicles with Will Ferrell. Ludacris, Kevin Hart and an array of athletes supported DraftKings. Blockchain gaming company Limit Break gave away NFTs via a QR code. As expected, there were very limited (zero) references to cryptocurrency this year. Were you one of the people looking for your remote, thinking you sat on it when the Tubi spot was airing? It might have annoyed a lot of consumers briefly, but certainly went viral and caught people’s attention. I expected more from health and wellness this year than what came to be, but it was historic seeing Heineken’s non-alcoholic beer showcased in a very high profile way, with Paul Rudd as Ant-Man— part of a well thought out Marvel partnership. Another spot in the wellness category was Dexcom’s G7 glucose monitoring system featuring Nick Jonas, who often talks about life with Type 1 Diabetes. Maybe 2024 will showcase wellness in a way that reflects consumers’ current interest and focus areas.
Pop Culture Throwbacks
It wouldn’t be a Super Bowl without any nostalgia, and this year the pop culture throwbacks were in the plenty. We saw John Travolta recreate his “Grease” character alongside Zach Braff and Donald Faison for T-Mobile. “Clueless” returned with Alicia Silverstone and Elisa Donavan (plus a cameo by designer Christian Siriano) for Rakuten. Perhaps the most interesting use of nostalgia/pop culture history was the “Breaking Bad” Popcorners spot. This was a big “get” given this show has not been off the air for very long. Aaron Paul and Bryan Cranston seem to delight in reprising the lead roles as much as we love seeing them—which surely helped sell this in to all.
Lori Heckman Golden is SVP, Celebrity & Influencer, Acquisition & Operations at TMA and its Platinum Rye Entertainment division.