2022 Edition: Super Bowl LVI
Specifically, which commercial was the best, and so which BRAND won this year's Super Bowl?
First, what a great game! The NFL hit on all cylinders during this year's playoffs, and capped it off with a down-to-the-wire exciting finish in Super Bowl LVI, along with a terrific halftime show. And as always, advertisers spent big bucks to put their brand's messages in front of us, to entertain and (hopefully) make some sales.
So how did they do? Who were this year's winners and losers in the Super Bowl's #BrandBowl?
If you enjoyed watching an ad, that's great. But it doesn't mean the ad was a "good" one, at least not in business / marketing terms. That's because the spot's ability to engage and entertain us memorably is only one of four factors that determine the business success of a Super Bowl ad.
You can read up on the details of these four success criteria, but to summarize they are as follows. Does the spot enable the advertiser to:
Achieve its marketing objectives?
Typically, for the Super Bowl this would be to either A) Reinforce your brand's image; B) Power a social / viral campaign; C) Introduce a new product or brand; or D) Alter perceptions about your brand (reposition it).
Engage viewers and remain memorable?
Success in the Super Bowl depends on immediately grabbing the viewers' attention -- striking visuals, celebrities and catchy tunes all help with this. And then telling a story full of humor and emotion to make the spot memorable.
Prompt social sharing?
The best ads earn lots of social media sharing, word of mouth passalongs, and are backed up by social tie-ins like contests, giveaways, TikTok challenges, SnapChat filters, and Twitter / Instagram hashtags.
Communicate the brand's differentiated positioning?
Why should someone buy this? There is usually plenty of competition, so good ads show why a customer should buy their product or service (and not somebody else's).
If your brand scores highly on all four of the above dimensions, you have a winner, like this classic Snickers big game ad from 2010 featuring Betty White and Abe Vigoda:
High Stakes Game
A 30-second ad slot went for an average of around $6.5 million to run during this year's big game (no doubt making some NBC executives quite happy). And with celebrity endorsement fees, production costs, and social media campaign support, an ad can easily top $10 million in total investment. Even more for a longer spot!
“I’ve done a number of Super Bowl ads. And that is the best advertising of the year. That is when people realize they’re going to be compared directly against other ads.” -- Jerry Seinfeld
So the stakes are high, and you only get one shot per year. Brands must get it right.
And the Winners Are....
Several brands performed quite well. Possibly the best ad of the night was the Rocket Mortgage commercial featuring Anna Kendrick in her own eccentric toy land with Barbie, He-Man and Skeletor, among others.
Measured against the four criteria for Super Bowl advertising success, most importantly this spot succeeded in showing us the benefits of using the Rocket Mortgage / Rocket Home product, and in doing so reinforced the brand's positioning as the most useful home buying and financing toolkit.
The spot was immediately engaging, featuring a well-known live celebrity and world-famous fictional ones. It was funny -- so much so that it landed the #1 slot on USA Today's Super Bowl ad meter score. And it is very sharable on social media, augmented by Kendrick's own Twitter promotions.
if you want to find a fault with this winning effort, it didn't produce much in the way of strong emotions, and as such probably won't be particularly memorable. So not one for the ages, but still a huge win for Rocket Mortgage.
Google also scored big with its commercial for the Pixel 6 smartphone. The ad clearly communicated a key point of product differentiation, focusing on is proprietary AI capabilities in capturing and rendering color photos, especially for darker skin tones: "SeenOnPixel"
This spot was beautifully shot, with utterly compelling visuals. It's immediately engaging and lovely to watch. And it packs an emotional wallop, ensuring both social sharing and memorability. Overall, just superb creative. The diversity & inclusion message is on trend for Google's target market for their phone, and it supports Google's overall brand positioning as a technology enabler for everyone to live a fulfilled, meaningful life.
There were other strong, if not quite MVP-level performances from Uber Eats, Hologic, T-Mobile Internet, and Telemundo for the FIFA World Cup. Gooooaaaaaaal!! Plus, brands that you'd typically expect to do well in the Super Bowl didn't disappoint, such as Bud Light Seltzer Hard Soda's "Mayor of Flavortown," featuring a perfectly cast Guy Fieri.
As always, there were quality spots from Frito Lay: One for Flamin' Hot Doritos & Cheetos, supported by a new Megan Thee Stallion song release. Also a hilarious Lays ad featuring Paul Rudd and Seth Rogen, who marries a.... Well, it's hard to describe it, you'll just have to watch!
Amazon Alexa also scored with what was perhaps the overall funniest ad of the night and starred Scarlett Johansson and Colin Jost. The only yellow flag keeping this otherwise terrific ad from being an MVP contender was that for some viewers, it reminded them that they find Alexa to be kind of creepy.
Coinbase got on the scoreboard with its unconventional spot featuring nothing but a floating low-res QR Code. This crypto-mysterious, almost conspiratorial-seeming tactic clearly resonated with the brand's target audience (think, the psychographic profile of those who loved the video game franchise Watch Dogs). The ad generated so much traffic from the QR code it crashed their site! (Perhaps a little more pre-game work on the IT infrastructure would be in order?)
But even with this successful user activation effort, per Sprinklr's mentions & retweets tracker, Coinbase still only managed to came in second on social media, behind Avocados from Mexico. That's right, the green oblong fruit (or is it a vegetable?) put the ball through the the social media uprights far more than any other brand.
They didn't do so because of their TV spot, which was tasty enough but nothing all that special. Instead, AvosFromMexico won the virtual Brand Bowl with a combination of sweepstakes, game day recipe-sharing, and their brilliant live-tweeting social team, who tweeted out parodies of other brands' TV commercials as they ran.
Plus, one additional factor -- social media chatter regarding the unfortunately timed announcement that the US government was temporarily suspending avocado imports from Mexico. Talk about being offsides!
Some of the commercials that ran during the game should never have gotten in off the bench. Several ads tried to be clever, but failed even to explain what their product is or does. Clickup, Criteo, and Monday .com fell into this trap. If you didn't know what those products do before the big game, you wouldn't have any better idea after the final whistle.
Others threw incomplete passes because their commercials, even if entertaining, didn't say much of anything about why you should use their products. eTrade fumbled the ball in this regard on the return of its adorable and amusing talking babies.
It's fun to watch the diaper-talk, but should you invest with eTrade because ... talking babies are a good reason to choose a brokerage firm? Though popular, these ads never made sense in the past, and the conceit still works today as good entertainment, but not good marketing.
Also guilty of similar transgressions: Ceasar's Sportsbook, Chevrolet, Crypto .com, and Toyota, the latter twice in one game!
And the night's biggest loser? Meta, formerly known as Facebook. Their commercial (see below) did employ some very effective emotional manipulation. But to what end?
The core message of this ad is a major downer: Life is awful and human beings are pretty terrible creatures. The brand's proposed solution? Join them in the metaverse, where everything is perfect and you'll never have to interact in the real world again!
It's a sad and creepy-disturbing spot. Personal foul, unsportsmanlike conduct, advertiser demonstration that actually, they despise their own customers.
But it's a technology ad, you may object -- isn't that inherently dehumanizing? Nope! Consider Ridley Scott's 1984 classic for Apple that introduced Macintosh. It's definitely a technology commercial, but the core message is about breaking free from controlling, impersonal, Orwellian big tech. The promise is that Apple Macs will instead democratize and humanize technology. Optimism vs. cynicism.
The ad engages with compelling visuals, inspires us emotionally, and actually generated fantastic word of mouth even in that bygone age before social media. It's a crystal clear brand message that differentiated Apple from the then-dominant IBM PC and its clones. The commercial is so memorable that nearly 40 years later it is still regularly cited as one of the best Super Bowl ads ever.
That's big game advertising that nails all four key criteria for Super Bowl success:
Achieves its marketing objectives
Engages viewers and remains memorable
Prompts social sharing
Communicates the brand's differentiated positioning
The final whistle for 2022's Super Bowl has been blown. But pre-season work begins again soon enough. See you next year!