Why Are This Year’s Super Bowl Ads So Lighthearted? B&T Asked Aussie Adlanders

Why Are This Year’s Super Bowl Ads So Lighthearted? B&T Asked Aussie Adlanders

Since a hammer-welding athlete obliterated a dystopic hellhole in Apple’s 1984 Macintosh Computers commercial, the Super Bowl has become something of an ad industry mecca.

It’s a chance for the world’s biggest brands to flex their creativity, leverage the prevailing cultural zeitgeist, make a statement, and do something a little different.

For some, the ad breaks between play have become more essential than the game itself; a societal phenomenon in which the hoi polloi are excited for commercials.

Sometimes this could be a visually exhilarating spot – think Budweiser’s famous clydesdale ads – a thought-provoking spot – think Coke’s post-Trump spot in 2017 – or just a lighthearted spot packed with self-deprecating celebrity cameos – think most of them.

So far, this year’s offering has featured a generous serving of the latter.

For BMW, Arnold Schwarzenegger portrays a befuddled Zeus grappling with the LA lifestyle; For Bud Light, Guy Fieri rules over a parallel world of Fieri-lookalikes known as ‘Flavourtown’; For Amazon, Scarlett Johansson and Colin Jost have their minds read by Alexa; For Lays Chips, Paul Rudd and Seth Rogen marry a zombie; for Uber Eats, Gwyneth Paltrow eats a vagina-flavoured candle. That’s just to name several.

But there’s one thing noticeably lacking from this year’s output.

Whether it was Coca-Cola’s pro-diversity spot in 2017, or Jeep’s and Bruce Springsteen’s “Reunited America” spot last year, Super Bowl commercials have occasionally eschewed the lighthearted, in favour of political or societal commentary.

This year, politics seem to be the last thing on the minds of CMOs and advertisers.

“The world has felt heavy lately, and advertisers want to make people laugh with joyful commercials,” wrote Blake Morgan for Forbes.

“That doesn’t mean every commercial needs to be a comedy special, but we’ll see commercials take a lighter tone.”

Besides the Budweiser clydesdale spot – which has been a Big Game staple since 1986 – the 2022 commercial yield has so far been largely tongue-in-cheek, if not absurdist and escapist.

As far as CMOs and creatives are concerned, viewers want beer and Odell Beckham Jr, not Biden and booster shots.

“I do hope we see more escapism,” M&C Saatchi’s creative director, Russel Fox, told B&T. “Just the intensity of life over the last few years… People wanna laugh. We all need a laugh.”

While the pandemic has affected the making of theses commercials – particularly for stalwarts, Avocados From Mexico, who originally planned to shoot in South Africa prior to Omicron – the disease has not impacted this years’ overarching ethos; which seems to be ‘move on and just enjoy life again’.

Where Airbnb made a timely statement in post-election-2017 by promoting diversity and the hashtag #weaccept, this year Zac Efron fishes a swamp monster with his portly counterpart for AT&T, and a giant Kenny G plays soprano sax for Busch Light.

There’s plenty to be said about the necessity of escapism, particularly during such a widely celebrated event, and particularly during such a politically and socially fickle era.

Is it necessary to address ongoing social issues during one of the world’s most watched sporting events when most viewers just want a laugh or two?

Executive creative director and partner at The Hallway, Simon Lee, told B&T brands should forgo their gag-heavy and celebrity-laden tropes to make a more meaningful impact on the issues the world still faces.

“It feels like people have just thrown money at celebrities and a celebrity is not an idea,” says Lee.

“In these times when the world is facing so many problems, you’d think the Super Bowl would be a fantastic opportunity to cement yourself as a brand in which you are an ally to your intended audience and the causes that matter to them.

“A gag that’s inside of an insight-driven idea is great! But just the gag and the celebrity leaves me a little bit cold… Where’s the truth?”

Meanwhile, others can see why marketers and creatives have adopted a more lighthearted tone.

“People want to move forward, to put the last couple of years behind them,” says MediaCom Australia CEO, Yaron Farizon, who praises the “Uber ‘Don’t’ Eats” campaign and the self-deprecating Lindsay Lohan/Planet Fitness spots as being his favourite among the 2022 output.


Farizon says the previous years’ commercials focused on “survival” and commented on contemporary issues, something he agrees is missing so far from this years’ spots.

“After two years of very somber tones, you see a lot of commercials go [the other] way,” he says. “People want to move forward… I’m not surprised to see a lot of happy-go-lucky stuff. This is where people want to be.”

Special Group CCOs and partners, Tom Martin and Julian Schreiber share a similar view.

“It’s great to see that there’s lots of lighthearted ads in the mix, we need a laugh more than ever,” they say.

“Brands know that, after year[s] of pretty serious health messaging, political upheaval and more.”

That said, we still don’t know if these overarching themes of humour, escapism, and moving on with life will fully encapsulate the entire ad yield until the Big Game actually airs this Monday.

Perhaps a brand – or brands – will embrace the opportunity to make their social or political statement; leveraging an enormous global platform to spread awareness on any number of issues from the intravenous to the ecological.

Whether its escapism or activism, Lee says brands have a “responsibility” to do more than just sell products, but to also promote effective change.

“Whenever I see ads not doing that, I see it as a missed opportunity,” he says.

At the same time, Farizon believes brands must do “what feels authentic for them and their customers”.

“There’s no recipe [for a great Super Bowl commercial],” he adds. “As long as it is authentic, and reflects the moment, [brands] should do what is right for them.”

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