(CNN) — Great celebrities, but often not so great advertising.
The Super Bowl poses a formidable challenge for advertisers trying to justify the huge price tag of 30-second ads (up to $7 million each for commercials between the start and end of the game) by creating campaigns to do so feel as big as the game.
This year, the scales tipped heavily toward celebrity talent, in several cases incongruously grouped in commercials that were loud but often didn’t make much sense.
For starters, it helps if the talent has some sort of logical connection to the product, or at least flows into the creative in a way that conveys that message. Being intrinsically cute can be okay, but it’s rarely particularly memorable.
With that logic, kudos to Rakuten, a shopping site that recruited Alicia Silverstone to reprise her role on “Clueless” as shopaholic Cher, a role she donned as an old private school uniform; and bad for a celebrity-studded ad for Michelob Ultra starring Serena Williams, Brian Cox and many others in a bizarre “Caddyshack” tribute.
On the downside, this year’s crop of beer ads has been mostly flat, especially given the high bar Budweiser has routinely set for past Super Bowls. The main exception would be the Miller-Coors-Blue Moon display, which was fun if a bit confusing.
As noted before the game, the crypto ads that wanted to make a splash at Super Bowl LVI have been removed from this year’s presentation as a reminder that newer product categories are daring to enter the Super Bowl derby at their own risk .
Where were the other highlights that were (as usual) topped out by the mids or lows? Here’s a breakdown of who hit and who fumbled on TV’s biggest stage. While this doesn’t include every ad that aired, if an ad featured four or more celebrities, we assume it leaned toward the “Losers” column.
movies: The movie business hasn’t recovered to pre-pandemic levels, but the number of announcements of upcoming blockbusters (and others that are expected) felt like a collective vote of confidence in cinema. Hollywood may never fully recover in the age of streaming platforms, but studios seemed to warn they won’t go down without a fight.
From this list of titles, give “The Flash” a thumbs up, which should generate tremendous interest in this Warner Bros. title (which, like CNN, is a unit of Warner Bros. Discovery) and spotlight the movie rather than the star Ezra Miller’s off-screen trouble. Let’s give credit to Indiana Jones and Creed among the sequels that also featured pregame spots for Transformers and Guardians of the Galaxy. Also included: “Air”, based on Michael Jordan’s deal with Nike.
R.A.M.: There were several commercials for electric cars again, but Ram gets the gold medal for its cheeky double entender on the subject of “premature electrification”.
Rakuten: Would Silverstone pass up this opportunity to enjoy a bit of that Clueless nostalgia? How…
T-Mobile: Bradley Cooper and his mom were so adorable, especially when she told him that although he was nominated for stuff, he didn’t win anything. Much better, unfortunately, than his homage to “Grease” with John Travolta.
Pepsi without sugar: Steve Martin and Ben Stiller gave acting mini-courses. So are they really drinking that? Probably not, but it was fun watching them do it.
popcorners: Only the idea of a “Breaking Bad” reunion gets high marks (plus the line “We don’t eat our own stash”), even though the product might not have been the ideal vehicle for it.
Farm Dog and Amazon: Two winners via our canine companions: Watching a dog’s life unfold and thinking about losing one was one of the few true tearjerker moments of the day; and on a lighter note, Friendship with a Destructive Dog, via Amazon.
CrowdStrike: If only the cyber security company existed during the Trojan War. A great visual idea.
Google: Another ad that brought unlikely celebrities together: Amy Schumer, Doja Cat and NBA star Giannis Antetokounmpo, but in a clever demonstration of how your product can “fix” old photos.
kia. If you forgot your baby’s pacifier, this is definitely the car for you.
Disney: To mark its centenary, the studio released an announcement to showcase the great depth of its content and its intricate control over childhood memories.
Kevin Burkhardt and Greg Olsen: After the theatrics of Fox’s pregame show (sound issues notwithstanding), the announcers at their first Super Bowl jumped at the opportunity and didn’t get in the way of the action, eventually reminding them all it was a football game.
NOT BAD BUT…
General Motors and Netflix: GM has partnered with Netflix shows to power its electric cars, with Will Ferrell leading the way on shows like Bridgerton and Stranger Things. Not great, but at least it felt big and inventive.
immersion: Ben Affleck (mostly) and Jennifer Lopez gave a celebrity twist to the idea of a star working at a donut shop.
Outstanding+: The bonus of having Sylvester Stallone on a streaming show is apparently another star helping promote “Paramount Mountain.”
HeGetsUs.com. The ads for this evangelical campaign certainly drew attention, for example by reminding people that Jesus was a fugitive and that he loved everyone. But despite being one of the few commercials to air about anything real that Sunday, the target of their message seemed unclear, a perception reinforced by details about the group behind it.
working day: Rockstars make a distinction between calling someone a rockstar and actually being one. A funny idea, nonchalantly implemented.
act: No one has ever screwed up when talking about babies, but other than that, talking about babies is a pretty boring trick.
weather tech: A solid argument for “Made in America”.
beer advert: Miles and Keleigh Sperry Teller seem like a cute couple for a beer. What the ad failed to do was justify that it was a Bud Light. Ditto for Budweiser, which pairs a six-pack of bud with “Six Degrees of Separation” (or Kevin Bacon) that had the right vibe but felt a little over the top.
booking.com: hey, who couldn’t use a vacation? But why do we see Melissa McCarthy singing about it?
Doritos: Jack Harlow, Missy Elliott and Elton John Pushing Triangles? Another case of trying to be too trendy and just look boxy.
Fluffy Unstoppables: Danny McBride likes it so much he would change his name. But it was all pretty McBobo.
DraftKings: Kevin Hart and a host of other celebrities showed up, but will he be remembered as a big Super Bowl commercial? Don’t bet on it.
Hellmanns: Jon Hamm and Brie Larson in a fridge? Yes, the mayonnaise goes well with the ham and brie, but as Hamm said at the end, “That’s weird.”
Remy Martin: Serena Williams’ speech was moving, but the product was completely beside the point.
planter: A Mr. Peanut’s Friars Club-style celebrity roast felt like a feeble attempt at consumer satisfaction.
jeep: The slogan “Freedom is electric” worked. The digital dancing animals, not so much.
pringles: Another version of the hand caught in a can campaign? It feels like your creativity is stuck in the 90’s.
Place:Adam Driver is already pretty overexposed, but this commercial with dozens of him really overexposed him.
Pipe: Someone should have stopped the ad agency and marketing team from going down that weird rabbit hole.
M&M’s: The only real comment in this Mayan Rudolph spot was “???”
limitation/interruption: Yes, I saw the barcode. No, I didn’t scan it.