This Is NOT A Super Bowl Commercials Review, At Least Not Intentionally

It's days like these that I miss Barbara Lippert's and Bob Garfield's Monday morning quarterbacking about the best/worst -- and even more insightfully, the most meaningful -- spots running in the Big Game each year.

I think I was actually working with Garfield at Ad Age when after weeks of incessant coverage leading up to one of the annual advertising -- er, I mean sporting -- events, I coined it "The Super Bowl of Advertising."

Okay, that wasn't the cleverest turning of a line, but as already noted, I'm not Bob Garfield or Barbara Lippert.

But I did have a Big Idea to go along with that quip, which was that maybe it was time that advertisers had to qualify for the right to appear in the Big Game, much the same way that football teams did: competing in a series of match-ups and finals to earn the right to distribute their spots to America's -- one of the world's -- greatest live television events.



Needless to say, that didn't fly, and anyone with $6 million or $7 million and some change can simply buy their way into it. For better or worse.

And if you ask me, it's mostly been worse -- usually mundane, prosaic and trite, and sometimes godawful.

I think if they had to earn their right to be in the Big Game, it would truly make it a Big Advertising Game.

My thinking was in the year's following Apple's "1984" spot, all Super Bowl commercials should at least strive to open our imaginations, tickle our fancy, delight the mind and titillate the tube. Or they should be in it.

Now I know every Chief Creative Officer worth their portfolio or CMO worth their (fill in the blanks of tenure) probably believes that's exactly what they're doing each year, but sadly, most of them fail. And I believe they're not just letting down viewers, the NFL, the TV industry, or advertising critics. They're letting down the world of advertising.

The good news is that despite predictions to the contrary, it doesn't appear that many, if any, of the spots were conceived by artificial intelligence (AI). Or if they were, it only goes to prove that the artificial kind isn't any better than humankind when it comes to generating big ideas.

As has usually been the case, most of the spots were no better than mundane, which after weeks of hype, previews and over-the-top press coverage, made them look even smaller by comparison when they finally aired.

Some of them were actually terrible ads that sent the wrong messages about their brands to the audience.

I mean some of them were bound to get viewers' attention -- and stick in their minds -- which is clearly one of the goals of most advertising.

But ideally, it's supposed to be a positive message association that would actually get people to buy and keep using your product, right?

So I'm not sure why Hellmann's mayonnaise decided to make a joke out of cannibalism by having Pete Davidson using it to make Brie Larson and John Hamm taste better on a sandwich.

Or why Pop Corners used the "Breaking Bad" actors ensemble to equate its brand with crystal meth. But the spot definitely was "tight, tight, tight!"

Or why Blue Moon Brewing would spend 28 seconds of its 30-second spot repeatedly promoting rivals Miller Lite and Coors Light (including names, signage, ad slogans and tag lines) before delivering its kicker: "Actually, it's a Blue Moon commercial." On second thought, maybe some artificial intelligence was used to create some of these spots?

Other commercial missteps included T-Mobile's not-exactly-funny outtakes of actor Bradley Cooper attempting to make a Super Bowl commercial with his mom.

But perhaps the worst in-game ad units -- though ones that will clearly be talked about and memed incessantly -- were two promoting Tubi, which likely paid nothing or very little to place them, seeing as they're owned by Fox Corp., which aired the Super Bowl and sold its spots this year.

The two Tubi spots also were very attention-getting, but in my opinion, sent the wrong messages to potential subscribers.

One featured creepy, giant Donnie Darko-ish rabbits grabbing people and hurling them down rabbit holes, which was a gratuitous metaphor for the "rabbit hole" -- or over-abundance -- of content available on streaming platforms. As the humans float down the rabbit holes in Alice Through the Looking Glass style, they appear elated by all the content on the screens, when the spot's tagline is superimposed: "Find Rabbit Holes You Didn't Know You Were Looking For."

Is that supposed to be a good thing?

Another 15-second spot mocked the Big Game (see above), by "taking it over" with the Tubi streaming rabbit hole, er, I mean interface. Again, is that supposed to be a good thing for people watching the game?

As a sidebar, it's worth noting that the Super Bowl spots were also one of the greatest examples of cross-platform promotion. In addition to the Fox-owned Tubi ones, there was a pretty straightforward one for NBCUniversal's Peacock service featuring its new original series "Poker Face," as well as an updated commercials promoting Paramount+'s "mountain" (this one featured a Sylvester Stalloneface?).

Other platforms promoted during the commercial breaks included Apple Music, Google Pixel, FanDuel, and given the fact that they are more streaming content than theatrical ones, a bevy of movie spots.

Many of the spots were harmlessly entertaining and/or informative, but nonetheless didn't earn the right to be in the Big Game. They simply bought their way in.

In fact, the only spot that was explicitly on-message for its brand was one that definitely spoke to its target audience.

It was the Servant Christian Foundation's "He Gets Us" spot promoting Jesus' "Love Your Enemies" ethos.

It ends with the tagline: "Jesus loved the people we hate. He gets us. All of us."

4 comments about "This Is NOT A Super Bowl Commercials Review, At Least Not Intentionally".
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  1. Michael Giuseffi from American Media Inc, February 13, 2023 at 2:22 p.m.

    About that Verizon ad. Sure Bradley Cooper is a really good looking guy no matter what he's wearing, but did he have to look like he just woke up from a coma and a fever dream?  Sorry to say that even his Mom couldn't save this turkey. 

  2. Laura Velazquez from Impulse Media Sales replied, February 13, 2023 at 3:08 p.m.

    I think the ad with Bradley Cooper was for T-Mobile.  Shows you how effective it was... 

  3. Joe Mandese from MediaPost, February 13, 2023 at 3:12 p.m.

    @Laura Velazquez: Doh! (Thanks for catching, updating now).

  4. Michael Giuseffi from American Media Inc replied, February 13, 2023 at 3:15 p.m.

    I thoght I was going crazy- I read the article and saw Verizon so I went with that.  Thanks for catching it and the update,.

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