Sunday’s pro football championship game saw the match-up of the Philadelphia Eagles and the Kansas City Chiefs – or as we like to think about it, Bradley Cooper vs. Paul Rudd. (Coincidentally, both actors appeared in commercials during the game.)
But while football fans had back-to-back touchdowns to keep them occupied and pop culture fans got an incredible solo show from Rihanna, our marketing team had one word for this year’s ad show: “meh.”
Was it because brands spent so much to secure their spots – and celebrity endorsements – that they didn’t have much left over for the writing and creative?
Was it because brands are still moving too slow to keep up with millions of online creators and continuously evolving consumer habits?
Is traditional TV advertising actually dead?
According to the NFL, this year’s game brought a six-year high in viewership, with 113 million people tuning in. So the opportunity is there for brands willing to take the risk and shell out between six and seven million dollars for their 30 seconds in the spotlight.
That ridiculously high price tag is no doubt why we saw so many brands partnering up to maximize their spend – a smart tactic that every business should consider in a shaky economic environment like the one we’re facing now. Others chose to forego expensive big-screen advertising entirely and focus on more affordable, and just as far-reaching, smaller-screens.
But despite these newer trends, the ads that ultimately won our team’s hearts (and minds) this year were the ones that stuck to tried-and-true marketing strategies: emotion, humor, creativity, and surprise.
Without further ado, here are the ads we loved watching during Sunday’s game:
Forever – Farmer’s Dog
Having pets in a Big Game spot is a tried and true tactic, but Farmers Dog did it in a natural way (unlike the Amazon spot). You can argue that it pulled too much in the heartstrings of the viewer, but that’s what great advertising does. It makes the viewer feel something which leads to a connection to the brand. I guarantee every dog owner who saw this is now really thinking about getting Farmers Dog food for their pet. I know I am.” – Vicente Casellas, Creative Director, Teamwork
This ad was a crowd pleaser and shows what can happen when brands put emotion and authenticity at the center of their marketing. It’s the surest way to get everyone who’s watching in agreement: from the visual-minded Creative Directors down to the most skeptical or uninterested viewers. The minute the music kicks in and the little girl whispers into her puppy’s ear, you’re hooked.
Premature Electrification – Ram Trucks
I thought the premature electrification commercial was brilliant. It took a concept we all know and have frankly seen one too many times and gave us the spoof of it. So not only did that make it easy to remember, but it was just hilarious. And ending it on the ‘stop start stop start’ was so funny.” –Dee Dee de Kenessey, Head of Product Marketing & GTM Strategy, Teamwork
The Ram Truck ad hit the real world concerns people have about getting an EV: Will it be charged when I need it? Perfect spoof ad for their target demo, men who buy pickups.” –Brian Merritt, Chief Customer Officer, Teamwork
Humor can be tough to nail, especially on a stage as big as Sunday’s, but when it works – it works. This year’s clear winner in the “funny” department was Ram’s take on electric vehicles. There was no comedian or movie star to carry the dialogue, but that made the writing even more impressive. Kudos to this creative team for hitting the perfect note and creating an ad that is as relatable as it is shareable.
High Stakes Ad – Miller Lite/Coors Lite/Blue Moon
The appeal to me was the ‘got ya’ factor. Totally caught me off guard and was a clever way of getting multiple brand names in a small window. Definitely a commercial I won't forget.” -Darryl Villacorta, Social Media Manager, Teamwork
This beer ad had it all: action, competition, and intrigue. While the element of surprise is tough to pull off in a commercial this short and this high-profile, for every viewer that was left scratching their head asking “What does it mean?” (cue TikTok audio), there was somebody like Darryl who appreciated the clever twist at the end.
The effect might have been stronger for people who’d seen the teaser ads in the weeks leading up to the big game. According to Variety, “Weeks before the game, the company took out a full-page ad in The New York Times implying it was mulling over whether to devote more time to one of its two biggest brands, Coors Light or Miller Lite. Then, it struck a partnership with DraftKings to let consumers wager on the outcome.”
After all of that build-up, the “surprise ending” prominently featuring a glowing pint of Blue Moon was exactly the payoff some viewers wanted – that is, until they found out all three brands are owned by the same company.
Clueless – Rakuten
Rakuten's ad bringing back Alicia Silverstone as Cher Horowitz from Clueless was the ultimate dose of 90s nostalgia that I didn't even know I needed! There are countless hilarious nods to the original movie, from Cher debating in class with her nemesis Amber, to her horrible driving, and of course, a few iconic ‘whatevers’ and the iconic ‘as if,’ catchphrase sprinkled – this commercial is a can't miss. Rakuten really couldn't have picked a better brand ambassador than the original shopaholic herself." –Laura D’Angelo, PR & Communications Manager, Teamwork
The celebrity appearance dominated this year’s ads. There were so many stars smattered across so many commercials it made it hard to pick just one favorite. Still, a few stood out to our team. At the top of the list, the Clueless remake from Rakuten. Not only did the creative team commit completely to recreating Cher Horowitz’s outfits and the original movie settings, but there were plenty of Easter eggs hidden throughout for the super fans. Who spotted clothing designer Christian Siriano in the classroom scene? Those who know know he has been chronicling his involvement in the shoot on his Instagram account (we can thank him for the recreation of Alicia Silverstone’s iconic yellow suit).
The Clueless ad was also a great representation of another big trend from this year’s game: nostalgia. Whether it was Scrubs (with a bizarre Grease tie-in), Breaking Bad, or Caddy Shack, the throwbacks kept coming.
Jack’s New Angle – Doritos
Loved the Doritos ad with Jack Harlow as it was the only ad to use a celebrity from this decade.” –Brian Merritt, Chief Customer Officer, Teamwork
One other celebrity cameo that stood out to us was the Jack Harlow appearance in Dorito’s triangle concept ad. In this clever narrative-driven commercial, Jack is inspired by a chip and ends up bringing “triangle fever” to the world. This ad also had a twist at the end when Elton John appears to claim his award for being “Triangle Player of the Year.”
Interface interruption – Tubi
I didn't pay attention to the ads except when my kids freaked out that I was changing the channel during the Tubi commercial.” –Brandon Hansen, Principle Engineer (Teamwork Desk), Teamwork
Like it, love it, hate it, or weren’t paying attention, Tubi’s disruptive ad caused a mass freakout and had everyone searching to find who in their household was sitting on the remote. Rob Schwartz, Chair at TBWA New York Group, made the bold statement on LinkedIn that in the “last three [games], stunts and pranks won the show” and pointed to this Tubi ad, along with Coinbase and Reddit spots from the previous two years, as stand-out examples.
For what it’s worth, Tubi’s other commercial of the night showed a bit more range, encouraging viewers to “go deep on the kind of content they’re passionate about.” It’s a clever take on the phrase many of us (especially in marketing) relate to when we “go down the rabbit hole.”
While there were a few others that struck a chord – this Massachusetts resident can’t help but fall for a Ben-plus-Dunkin combo – we’ll be watching carefully next year to see how brands continue to shake things up.
Already starting your brainstorm for next year’s ad campaign? Learn how Teamwork can help you take your most compelling commercial ideas from post-it notes to digital project boards.