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Super Bowl Marketing Recap: The Best, Worst and Almost Ok Ads From The Big Game

This year’s Super Bowl Ads cost $7 million – and most are being rated today based on their entertainment value. Not exactly the metric I would pick. Instead, I always look at the year’s ads based on the marketing strategy and whether the creative the team used actually delivered on what they might have hoped to get from the big spend. Based on that, some ads were winners, some were total losers and many were “almosts.” They could have been good, but were executed in a way that didn’t work. Here’s my roundup – let me know if you agree or disagree!

The Best Super Bowl Ads that Worked

WINNER – State Farm – Like A Good Neighbaaa

Ok, making fun of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s accent has always been funny. Unlike other brands that seem to abandon their strategy or try some new short-lived message when buying a Super Bowl spot (like Turbo Tax or Dunkin Donuts or Popeyes), this one stuck to the script. Jake from State Farm even had a cameo. This was a rare spot with breakthrough creative AND an on brand message. Nice work.

WINNER – VW USA | Big Game Commercial 2024

You have to love a brand that will spend $7 million to offer a love letter to its customers. That’s basically what this beautiful ad showcasing the 75 year anniversary and history of VW does. It’s a perfect reminder of exactly why the brand deserves to be iconic, and it ends with a dream-like shot of the highly anticipated new ID.Buzz coming later this year.

WINNER – Pringles | Mr. P

Chris Pratt looks like the Pringles guy. Apparently, that was enough to inspire this spot but the joke worked and the tie-in made sense. Endorsements always work better when you can imagine a celebrity actually liking the product in real life. Pratt seems like a Pringles kind of guy, and his delivery made this spot stand out.

Despicable Me | Minion Intelligence

Just when the world is panicking about who exactly is going to win in an AI-generated future, this trailer offers a timely and hilarious promise that the future is in good hands. The best jokes are inspired by some reality. Minions may not actually be in charge, but it’s hard to deny a lot of technology we use may be created by similarly care-free (but not as well liked) idiots.

T-Mobile | Auditions | 2024 Big Game Day Commercial

Any customer of T-Mobile probably already knows that part of their unique focus on customers involves actually rewarding them with benefits. This ad took it to another level with celebrity cameos and the introduction of the “Magenta Status” with the promise that it’s for everyone. Unlike other status programs, this was a perfect demonstration of the brands values and it promoted the thing T-Mobile customers already enjoy–being rewarded for their loyalty.

The Super Bowl Ads That Almost Worked (But Didn’t)

ALMOST WORKED – BMW USA | Christopher Walken in “Talkin Like Walken” (ft. Usher)

The joke for this one, of people who were “talkin like Walken” was fun and the ad was beautifully done. The tie-in to the brand, though, was a bit forced. Promoting them both as “one of a kind” wasn’t really a memorable message and was certainly something that a lot of other brands could have said. It also was most likely not part of a larger campaign so the brand won’t be able to build on it much. The cameo from Usher was also fun, but again that seemed like a on-off that was unlikely to benefit in anything further.

ALMOST WORKED – Mayo Cat | Hellmann’s

This one lost me, and probably a lot of people, right when Kate McKinnon started eating mayo directly out of the jar. Considering the number of people in the world who are already grossed out by the condiment, why subject everyone to that? Gross scenes aside, the insight behind this ad was actually great: that mayo can help turn leftovers into something you’d actually want to eat. The execution was just a big miss.

ALMOST WORKED – Superior Beach | Michelob ULTRA

Of all the brands that you thought might feature Messi in a Super Bowl spot, Michelob was probably not high on the list. That’s part of what this ad struggles with. Sure, you have Messi and a great cameo from Ted Lasso himself … but the tie-in to the brand just seems a bit extra. And the message at the end that it’s a light beer under 100 calories is totally lost.

ALMOST WORKED – Pluto TV Couch Potato Farms

An ad celebrating the thing many people hate about themselves? Not exactly the best opening for a streaming platform that supposedly offers lots of content for free. The whole ad here represented a big missed opportunity. In a time when people are generally overwhelmed with the range and cost of all the various options out there, having a simpler option would be welcome. Unfortunately, nothing about this spot tell you if or why Pluto might be better. After watching it, I know less about the brand than I did before. And I feel worse about myself for having just spent four hours in front of the TV.

The Super Bowl Ads That Failed

FAIL – “Michael CeraVe” I CeraVe Super Bowl (Long Form)

The “product name that sounds like a celebrity’s name” genre has some well worn examples. Michael Bublé trying to convince the world of the correct pronunciation for Bubly Sparkling Water was a classic example. Sadly this spot didn’t approach that level of effectiveness. To start, Michael Cera just isn’t well known enough to pull it off. Second, the product is more complicated to sell than sparkling water and needs more explanation … none of which came through in the spot.

FAIL – Big Game Spot

After years spending millions to build the brand via Super Bowl ads, the shift to promote through three ads in this year’s big game was baffling. On top of that, the creative was confusing and they clearly didn’t have any money left over to bring more celebrities into the spot to try and salvage it. The end result is lots of brand building for a second brand at a time when most people aren’t really looking for new homes. Lots to dislike about this one.

FAIL – Budweiser | Super Bowl LVIII Old School Delivery

Sometimes you’re a victim of your own success. Budweiser’s ads featuring their famous horses and sometimes dogs have become iconic over the years, invoking tears and lots of nostalgia. This year’s spot offers none of the above unfortunately and falls flat. Maybe because it’s more about the product (heroic beer delivery guys going the extra mile to get beer to a pub) instead of something more human or relatable. Either way, this was not up to their usual standards.

FAIL – The Wait Is Over | Popeyes

It takes a special kind of talent to bring Ken Jeong into an ad and make him not funny, but this spot manages to do the impossible. The cryogenically frozen man who wakes to find out Popeyes finally has wings is a pretty desperate premise and the entire ad is still confusing after I’ve watched it several times. During the game, it was too much and too little at the same time. Big miss.

FAIL – TEMU | Shop Like A Billionaire

Imagine you could take all the worst impulses of humanity that are on display during Black Friday and channel them into a website. That’s basically Temu and it’s summed up in their tagline: Shop Like A Billionaire. The ads were forgettable (there were three of them), the brand clearly has a ton of money but they’re promoting a site that sells knockoff stuff and encourages everyone to buy stuff we probably don’t need. One of the worst brands and the worst ads of the night.

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In addition to Non-Obvious Thinking, Rohit is the author of 10 books on trends, the future of business, building a more human brand with storytelling and how to create a more diverse and inclusive world.

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