Every year after the Super Bowl, the Imagine team gets together to discuss the Super Bowl commercials. We pick out ones we think were the most effective, ones that missed the mark and our overall personal favorites. For some of us, it’s the best meeting of the year!
There are a few things to consider because not all Super Bowl commercials are created equally. Just because we like it doesn’t mean it’s the best ad. The question should be, “Is the ad effectively speaking to the target market in a way that will make it memorable?” Super Bowl ads are unusual in that there is a guaranteed market where interruptions are much easier, giving them a chance to tell a story.
Other considerations include new brands, established brands and those who want to re-invent themselves and whether or not there is a connection between the product and the message. Creativity alone can’t carry an ad — although it could win points — but it should be woven into the brand awareness. A good question to ask is, “do you remember the brand in the ad?”
I think the top two ads were Amazon Alexa and Lay’s Potato Chips for their excellent storytelling and consistency of brand connection to the story. But there’s one I’d like to call out specifically — Liquid Death Mountain Water. This was a new product to me, but the ad interrupted me and caused me to watch every second. It features children guzzling down what looks like large cans of beer and partying like lunatics to the tune “Breaking the Law.” The end shows a pregnant mom taking a big swig. The reveal at the end is that it’s “just water.” I think this ad does a great job of creating enough discomfort to make us curious and cause us to pay attention.
As far as my least favorite, my gut leads me to the Salesforce ad featuring Matthew McConaughey. Last year, I think we were lectured quite a bit by celebrities. This year, I was glad to see fewer political ads and much less lecturing.
As resident sports fan in the Imagine Communications office, most people would be surprised to hear that I don’t like football and don’t really watch the Super Bowl. So, the commercials are always the best part! Some of my favorites were the funny ones like Planters creating a debate for “all or one.” But for the best commercial, I lean toward Expedia’s “Stuff.” Not only did they take a dig at almost every other commercial, but they made me consciously think about my purchases, and the fact that I do want to travel more and buy less stuff.
As for my least favorite ad, I’m going against the popular vote and will say the Amazon Alexa commercial with Scarlett Johansson and Colin Jost. I’m already skeptical about owning an Alexa and having it listen to everything I say. This commercial did nothing to help with those feelings. In fact, they made them worse, and I have no desire to purchase a newer version of the device. It was funny, though. I’ll give them that.
For me, this year’s Super Bowl was more about seeing former Detroit Lions’ quarterback Matthew Stafford finally get a long-overdue championship ring. Commercials played second fiddle to the game (and the halftime show, if we’re being honest), but the one that stood out to me was another Detroit mainstay: Chevrolet’s Sopranos’ commercial. The commercial pays homage to the show’s opening credits with updates for a new generation, much like the electric vehicle it promoted.
The top ad that resonated with me — that actually made my eyes open at night and think, “Damn, that’s so right” — was Expedia’s ad with Ewan McGregor. Not only did we get to hear McGregor’s natural Scottish accent (he’s so frequently playing some other nationality!), but we get a mini-tour of other famous ad campaign tropes as he walked through an unending, dimly lit studio, past set after set. Then, what a reveal — opening the door to that beach, and the line “Do you think any of us will look back and regret things we didn’t buy… or the places we didn’t go?” What a perfectly timed wash of wanderlust hit viewers at that moment. Many of us have been to an exotic beach (or least can imagine it), and most everyone has been starved for travel these past two years. It elevates Expedia from offering a mere product to offering up life itself.
On the bottom of my list was Meta’s ad featuring the Chuck E. Cheese stand-in. We see ourselves reflected in those soulful plastic eyes as the character plays for kids in a pizza joint, then in a pawn shop and finally a dump’s crushing machine, only to be rescued and put to work in a science center where virtual reality goggles are put onto the lucky critter’s head. And maybe it’s just me, but when the scene cut to a scene of legless Meta doppelgangers loping around, I groaned. I felt like the setup could have led to a much more satisfying reward, like the character could have explored Mars, or climbed mountains, or had some amazing inner life revealed that went far beyond his humble start as a pizza joint puppet. But, no, he “met up” with his old buddies and they got the band back together, so to speak. I felt like I was being given the message, “Have small dreams, stay in your box, and here, have some technology to do the same old thing all over again.”
There’s something inherently funny — and charming — about the improbable friendship between Snoop Dogg and Martha Stewart. From baking brownies on Martha’s old cooking show to roasting Justin Bieber on Comedy Central, the two go back a long way. Rumor has it Snoop even gave Martha some helpful tips on making the most of her prison stretch.
Who better, then, to introduce the new BIC EZ lighter in a good-natured ad campaign on Super Bowl Sunday? Whether smoking a turkey on the grill or toasting marshmallows around the campfire, the commercial goes right up to the line without crossing it. And therein lies the subtext and the gentle humor, all delivered in the relaxed banter that has become their trademark. They’re obviously comfortable with one another. And why not? Let’s credit chemistry and their fondness for a certain herb.
My favorite of the Super Bowl 2022 commercial offerings was the “Lay’s: Golden Memories” with Paul Rudd and Seth Rogan. It was very funny and because of that, it stayed in my mind more than any of the others. The shear silliness of the storyline made it memorable. I noticed that it had two references to films that are significant for people old enough to have been around when “Thelma and Louise” (the road trip scene) and “Beetlejuice” (the wedding scene) were released. Lastly, the Lays potato chips were in almost every scene making a very strong connection between the fun happening in each segment with the product. Altogether, it was a well done and delightful production.
I’m not usually a fan of spoilers, even in regard to Super Bowl commercials, but I saw the Amazon Alexa commercial a few days early, and in this instance, I’m glad I did. The longer it sat with me, the more I liked it. Not only was Amazon Alexa in every scene, but even if you didn’t know Scarlett Johansson (“Black Widow”) or Colin Jost (“Saturday Night Live”), you knew they were a couple and everyone in a relationship has experienced at least one of the scenarios (my husband has wanted to fake his own death many times instead of attending one of my events, I’m sure). Although I agree with Bobby about the all-knowing device, I’m glad Scarlett and Colin decided Alexa with Jedi powers was not a good idea.
Out of principle, my least favorite commercial was the ‘80s video game-inspired bouncing QR code. It was a booby trap when you know it’s a booby trap. A trick when you know you’re being tricked. Marketing when you are fully aware you are not only being marketed to, but being driven to participate for fear of missing out. I wasn’t going to play their game. However, it did make me think twice about it.
Interested in more talk about Super Bowl commercials? Creative Director Alex Raffi will participate in an American Marketing Association of Las Vegas panel discussing other opinions about this year’s commercials Thursday, March 3, 2022. Click here to find more information.