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February 14, 2022

From your Monday Morning Quarterbacks: Spots we're sharing 'round the digital water cooler

We laughed; we cried (on behalf of our friends and clients in Cincinnati); we texted incessantly…one of us may have asked a question or two about how the game is actually played (thank you, James).

But mainly, James, Executive Creative Director, and Laura, Digital Innovation Leader, put together this fun recap of our favorite Big Game ads. (Stay tuned to @mmcgram for our TikTok rendition of the halftime show.)

Of course, among the many things that the past two years have reinforced: the world is divided, the truth is subjective, and different audiences respond to different messages. So if we’ve missed one of your faves, send us a message on LinkedIn (@Marina Maher Communications) or Instagram (@mmcgram) and we’ll host a healthy debate.

One thing is abundantly clear: brands that get the world talking are those that – beyond splashy advertising effects or big name talent – tap into the cultural conversation to create compelling and meaningful connections. 

And, now, drumroll plllllease…

May the Human Spirit Prevail

  • Google Pixel’s spot showcasing a new camera feature called Real Tone, designed to accurately capture diverse skin tones, helped further one of most important and enduring conversations of our time: the drive to ensure all people can be seen and celebrated for who they are. Featuring beautiful images of real people captured in life’s moments big and small, and introducing a never-before-heard song by Lizzo, the spot feels very real, extremely heartfelt, and of-the-moment…subtly demonstrating how a product feature can help advance an important mission.

Turning Lemons into Lemonade

Even if we can’t agree on our favorite commercials, we can agree the world’s seen a lot of hardship lately, with people more open than ever to revealing vulnerabilities. Some advertisers took this to heart, in choosing to spotlight what some might consider product flaws as means to unexpectedly tout their greatness.

  • First up: Amazon Alexa with Colin Jost and Scarlet Johansson. With big tech companies beleaguered by data privacy fears, Amazon chose to address the concern in a humorous way, reassuring its audience that – while of course Alexa can’t actually read your mind – the device will do a damn good job serving up what you need, when you need it, with you barely asking.

  • And Pringles, which has long played up their chips’ addictive nature via the can’s lid’s well known “pop,” this year decided to emphasize the fact that getting that last chip from its cylindrical container can be – well, difficult. But also well worth it, from death do us part. This felt bold, a relatable insight for their biggest brand fans.

90s Babies are Now Homebuyers

  • Rocket Mortgage’s “pitch perfect” spot featuring Anna Kendrick truly checked all the boxes — shared cultural memories via Barbie and HeMan set ups; an expertly executed bait and switch narrative that entertained and engaged (NO, this is not an ad for a new toy); and an overarching concept that authentically captured the reality of today’s real estate market. It even featured a hidden ad inside the ad (for StockX). Check, check, check and check.

Because there had to be a Car and a Beer Commercial on this List:

Always. It wouldn’t be Super Bowl without some wheels and some cheers.

  • We’re going with BMW in the car department, featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Salma Hayek as Zeus and Hera, respectively: now retired to Palm Springs and looking for some fun and excitement in their everyday lives. We applaud BMW for forgoing the typical over-the-top, action-movie vibes of most Super Bowl automotive ads, instead gently sending up domestic life and spotlighting environmental benefits. With even the gods and goddesses amongst us having spent two years at home, and with sustainability a more pressing concern than ever, it felt much more “now” than ancient Greece.

  • Beer, it’s gotta be Michelob Ultra’s cinematic “The Big Lebowski” vibes, with major male sports stars like Peyton Manning, Alex Morgan and Jimmy Butler ultimately upstaged by Serena Williams, with a quirky Steve Buscemi behind the bar; and all set to “Showdown” by Electric Light Orchestra.

Who Dresses like that in High School?

  • Is what everyone’s been asking after every episode of “Euphoria.” But star Zendaya’s fashion prowess is unparalleled, and Squarespace casting her as a savvy seashell entrepreneur in a parade of breezy, beachy looks was not only fun to watch, but reinforced the easy yet inspiring nature of their technological solutions, turning shills into shells.

Wonderfully Wackadoodle

  • A humble soap brand goes horror. Irish Spring’s attempt to follow in Old Spice’s campy footsteps was strange to say the least…but it worked? They trolled their own brand equity, creating a horror-inspired spot that was a pure delight; and sure to make their core audience – men who need bodywash but don’t want to overthink it – feel seen.

Can I Pay for this Ad in Bitcoin?

  • Coinbase’s QR-based play was disruptive, and in fact the cryptocurrency company achieved “break the Internet” status when its Website was flooded and many received error messages. Personally, we’d go mash-up: Put FTX’s Larry David spot on the other side of that QR code, and THAT would have been more powerful than either campaign individually.

Mary J.’s Halftime Performance Wasn’t the Only Thing Percolatin’ 

  • Did you catch her in Hologic’s “Her Health is Her Wealth?” Not only is this the first national advertising campaign for the diagnostic and medical imaging provider, they had THE woman of the hour as a partner in emphasizing the importance of prioritizing your health. Because Healthcare doesn’t often get top billing during the Big Game, we loved both the message and its bold, powerful, talented messenger.

James’s Pick: Liquid Death

  • Their “Breaking the Law” spot took pleasure in breaking the rules during the game, but it’s the stuff they did off the field that really got my attention. Sending a real life witch to the Super Bowl? Magical. And replacing their actual Super Bowl commercial on YouTube with an integration with Amazon’s “The Boys?” Downright diabolical.

Laura’s Pick: T-Mobile

  • Not only do I love anything that sparkles, I love that Dolly Parton, in all her folksy wisdom, has also come increasingly into the spotlight as a social justice warrior and philanthropist. With her real-life goddaughter Miley Cyrus, “Do it for the Phones” is a competitive takedown that didn’t feel mean. And for those of you who haven’t seen Clueless, those dudes from T-Mobile’s Internet spot are perfectly on-point for this 90s nostalgia moment. 

Honorable Mentions

  • Meta’s push for, well, the metaverse, featured an Iconic tune, cutesy creatures, an epic journey and a virtual reunion. Oculus, take me away.

  • Headspace gives everyone the chance to sleep with John Legend. That voice! We’re calmer already.

  • GoPuff went all-in on their speed of delivery with their deliciously clever QuarterTime Show featuring Lil Dicky.

And that’s all folks! What was your favorite Super Bowl moment?

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