At Super Bowl LVII, the
Kansas City Chiefs referees emerged victorious over the Philadelphia Eagles. But maybe the real winner was us, the viewers, who did not have to sit through a bunch of crypto ads this year. (Also, Rihanna. She won.)
These ads offer an insight into the way that the companies we write about everyday market themselves to the average consumer — and sometimes they can be intensely prescient time capsules. See: last year’s FTX ad starring America’s favorite curmudgeon, Larry David, who underestimates the potential of innovations like the lightbulb and the dishwasher — and he makes the same “mistake” by choosing not to invest with FTX. In retrospect, the “Curb Your Enthusiasm” star’s intuition was pretty, pretty, pretty good.
This year, with crypto ads (mostly) out of the way, we got back to the basics with advertisements from tech companies that actually sell real things.
Google gave us a classic Super Bowl commercial, starring celebrities who offer a clear illustration of what the technology does. The premise of the commercial is that these stars — Amy Schumer, Doja Cat and Giannis Antetokounmpo — are delighted by the Magic Eraser feature on the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 pro, which lets users easily edit out unwanted people or objects from their favorite photos.
Throughout the commercial, we watch how the Magic Eraser can edit photos. But some of these photos are made worse! In one snowy scene of a mother and child, we see how you can edit out the family dog, who is pooping in the background. In another, Magic Eraser can edit out the graphic on someone’s t-shirt, which says “this guy loves to fart.” We get how the feature works, but why not embrace the serendipity? Family photos are precious, but a family photo with the dog taking a dump in the corner of the frame? Priceless.
Netflix + GM
Netflix just announced a partnership with General Motors, which will enable the streaming giant to use more electric vehicles (EVs) in their original content. In front of the Super Bowl audience, the two companies made their alliance known. Throughout the commercial, we see Will Ferrell making cameos — often alongside an EV — in Netflix originals like “Squid Game,” “Stranger Things,” “Queer Eye” and “Bridgerton.” The joke is that EVs are not always a good fit. In “Bridgerton,” which takes place in the 1800s, Ferrell assures us that we “shall’nt” see an EV (there is an EV behind him as he says this.) But the partnership might make more sense in a show like “Queer Eye,” where we see the Fab 5 drive around in their van to change the lives of some unsuspecting “heroes.” Netflix argues, why shouldn’t that van be electric?
The streaming service Tubi, a division of Fox Entertainment, made an impression on Super Bowl Sunday. In a 15-second ad spot, the commercial makes it look like the game is back on, featuring two sports announcers making some brief, generic comments. Then, suddenly, it appears as though someone has pulled up the Tubi menu and is changing the channel. Surely, this spawned a few shouting matches at some Super Bowl parties. Or, if you’re like us, maybe you were worried that you sat on your remote. Disruptive as it was, the ad worked — it was one of the most memorable commercials of the game.
“Diddy don’t do jingles.” In a meeting, some Uber executives dare ask P. Diddy (Sean Combs) to write a jingle for the company’s Super Bowl ad. In an expert act of corporate trickery, the executives assure the musician that this is not a jingle: it’s a hit song. It’s just… a hit song about Uber. Or, one hit for Uber One, if you will.
Then, we see a series of guests hit the recording booth, with an enthusiastic Diddy nodding along by the soundboard. Playing on the name Uber One, Diddy is giving another chance to some one-hit wonders, like Welsh singer Donna Lewis and the team behind “What Does The Fox Say.”
Since the last Super Bowl, Uber shut down its free rewards program in exchange for the paid Uber One membership — so it makes sense that they’d promote the service now.
DoorDash took out an advertisement to remind consumers that they don’t just deliver take out — they can also deliver your groceries (even though they ended a four-year partnership with Walmart last summer). Whoever conceptualized this ad is really trying to reach as many demographics as possible. We see celebrity appearances from three different “chefs:” Raekwon The Chef of the Wu-Tang Clan, celebrity chef Matty Matheson and the Nickelodeon animated Tiny Chef.
If you ask anyone to guess who the enterprise SaaS company Workday would hire to perform in their Super Bowl commercial, it’s unlikely they’d come up with Paul Stanley from Kiss. This partnership comes so far out of left field that it’s into the parking lot, but that’s what makes the ad work.
“Hey, corporate types, would you stop calling each other rock stars?” Stanley demands in full Kiss makeup, a roaring crowd behind him.
“Oh, Ted in finance — you’re a rockstar!” Ozzy Osbourne mocks. Workday also snagged appearances from rock icons like Billy Idol, Joan Jett and Gary Clark Jr.
Workday knows that there is nothing less punk than an enterprise SasS company, and you know what? Self-awareness is a rare thing in tech. Thank you, Workday.
“Squarespace is a website that makes websites?” asks Adam Driver. At my Super Bowl party, that opening line of the commercial is where our attention ended. Instead, we initiated a spirited debate about whether or not we think Adam Driver is hot. Alas, this is the risk of a particularly compelling celebrity appearance.
Watching the commercial back now, I declare this the best ad of the night. It’s weird. The concept of a website that makes websites is so meta (no, not that Meta) that something breaks in the fabric of the universe — Squarespace is the singularity, and now there are an infinite number of Adam Drivers.
For the record, Adam Driver is, in fact, hot.
Speaking of meta, the company formerly known as Facebook made an appearance in this year’s commercials, but it wasn’t as striking as last year’s very depressing and cringe-worthy ad about out-of-work animatronics hanging out in Horizon Worlds. Instead, Keke Palmer takes a drive through the metaverse to explain what that word even means. The ad was not memorable, but for Meta, that’s maybe a victory in itself.
Amazon’s 90-second spot featuring a lonely dog who gets a new companion performed well, according to USA Today’s panel, which ranked the sentimental “Saving Sawyer” ad at No. 3. The ad didn’t feature Amazon’s brand much, beyond a quick moment where the family picked out a new dog kennel for Sawyer via Amazon’s retail website which later arrived in an oversized box.