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Brands Go with Star Power in the Big Game – Did It Work?

2/14/2022
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By Colleen Masters, Creative Director, Aloysius Butler & Clark

In 2022, the big game was, well, big again. The price tags? Big. Some ad spots sold for as high as $7 million. That’s $2 million more than last year. The star power? Also big. From Larry David not bothering to understand cryptocurrency to Arnold Schwarzenegger strolling down Electric Avenue with Salma Hayek and BMW, brands spared no expense. And the big laughs? Well, I guess we had to skimp somewhere.  

As predicted, the sentiment this year was different. Last year, brands pulled out. And the ones who stayed went emotional, powerful and sentimental, reflecting the mindset of a weary nation. This year, a nation wanted to be entertained, and brands responded with glitz and glamour.

Most notable was the sheer number of newbies. This year, there were 30 new advertisers, almost 40% of the entire ad buy. Compare that with the five new advertisers in a more traditional year like 2019. So let’s talk winners and losers—and who made the most of the epic price tag.

 

The Wins

Planet Fitness Went High with Lohan

Who doesn’t love a comeback story? But there are so many ways that story can be told (see the Losses section.) Planet Fitness leaned into their No Judgement brand by bringing back Lindsay and letting her in on the joke. This was a comeback story we could all get behind. It was funny and feel-good, and that’s exactly the note this year’s spots were meant to hit. 

Coinbase Bet and Won

No words in the spot, with probably the lowest production cost of any commercial of the night. And yet it got everyone talking. They didn’t waste their time trying to explain cryptocurrency to the masses. They drove them to their site. So much so, that the site crashed. Not sure how many people actually invested in bitcoin, but it made us look. Just wish I wasn’t so annoyed when I did. 

Expedia Came to Play

Somehow they spent millions on advertising and succeeded in making us question what we spend our money on. While taking not-so-subtle digs at all the other spots, from astronauts floating in space to Clydesdales, Ewan McGregor asked us if we’ll really look back and regret the things we didn’t buy or the places we didn’t visit. Great idea, even better execution.   

 

Google Pixel 6

To highlight the new True Tone technology, which more accurately captures darker skin tone, they featured an original song by Lizzo over beautiful imagery. This was a perfect use of celebrity, with Lizzo’s outspokenness on true beauty. Made for a showstopper.

 

The Losses 

Doritos Should Have Put Their Stars on Display

The spot was fun enough. CGI animals, whose taste buds are pushed to the limit, break out into Salt-n-Pepa’s “Push It.” Fit well with all the 90s nostalgia of the evening. But what people probably didn’t notice was that the beatboxing fox was voiced by Charlie Puth, and the bird was Megan Thee Stallion. Those names couldn’t have come with a small price tag—and unless you knew the backstory, you would never have known they were there. 

Budweiser’s Clydesdales Were Behind the Times

They sat out last year, so a lot was expected in their big return. Unfortunately, the direction Budweiser took, a comeback story that seemed to be referencing America itself, was tonally in line with last year’s spots. Its message seemed out of place with the general “we’re moving on” feeling of the rest of the spots. Maybe next year will be their comeback from their comeback.

WeatherTech … Cloudy with a 70% Chance of Yawny 

With ad buys this expensive, you’re going to want a commercial that leaves people talking. This forgettable spot featured some type of SEALs unit installing their product in a car. Sure, it seemed expensive, with good production value, but the viewer didn’t get a whole lot out of it. I’m not quite sure what it was getting at—is this product so complicated to install that I’m going to need a special-ops team? I think I’d rather try to figure out what cryptocurrency is.