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Super Bowl Ad Hits and Misses

The Super Bowl is also, of course, the Super Bowl of advertising. Well, in the United States. Here in the Maritimes, we get a smattering of big brand ads mixed with station produced ads for local Dodge dealerships.

Sigh.

At least the old Permacrete ad that once filled our Super Bowl feeds didn’t make an appearance this year, in all its user manual graphics glory. (Or maybe I just got lucky and missed it?)

So Canadian advertising aficionados need to cobble together a sense of what really happened through Twitter and YouTube. It also helps to not think about how much it cost to run an ad, over $5 million for 30 seconds of airtime. The whole thing feels like the last gasp of the Mad Men era of marketing which began its slow, painful death with the dawn of Web 2.0.

Here are a few ads that stood out, not always for good reason.

Meta continues its almost unbroken streak of tone-deaf communications, with an elaborate but weirdly sad video about its attempt to both define and own the metaverse (and also change the subject from the harm it is doing to society). After two years of a pandemic, with the accompanying lock downs and social isolation, Meta is telling us life will be better inside a screen. Dude, read the room.

“Wait…if it was delivered with Uber Eats, does that mean I can eats (sic) it?” That was the premise for Uber Eats’ ad, one of the best of the night. It conveyed a clear message to the audience – they deliver more than food – in a fun, celebrity filled way, with people eating things like diapers and kitty litter, topped off by Gwyneth Paltrow digging in to Goop’s vagina scented candle (ahem, and also, yes, really). The audio was smart too, using the “Oh No” song popular on TikTok, likely in an attempt to seed a viral trend. A clever and fun ad that delivers its message well.

Coinbase was one of several crypto ads that ran during the night. This was a big risk, with a QR code bouncing around the screen like an old DVD bouncing logo, accompanied by 80s-ish synth music. A screen at the end indicated it was for Coinbase. People who used their phones to scan the QR code were taken to the Coinbase site where they could sign up and get 0.00036 Bitcoin (or about $15), and be entered into a draw for one of three $1-million prizes. This ad was polarizing (my colleague Jonathan hated it) but good ads are often polarizing. I thought it worked well, with the stunt blowing up on Twitter and driving so much traffic to the site it actually crashed. Coinbase’s effort stood in stark contrast with the safe and boring ads that dominated so much of the evening, including from other crypto companies.

Irish Spring had a Super Bowl ad. Yep, Irish Spring, the soap your weird uncle probably uses. In fact, your weird uncle may have starred in this spot as the middle-aged guy who stumbles upon the mystical land of Irish Spring, where a cult of cheap soap fans forces this poor man to “cast thy smell away” and bathe with this drugstore soap. More like the horror film Midsommar than the classic Old Spice Bodywash ad (which they were clearly going for), this ad was widely panned.

Yawn.

I mean, who doesn’t love dogs and horses? But this ad is wallpaper.

Sure, this Hellman’s spot is pretty much a rip-off of the much-loved Terry Tate, Office Linebacker ads from Reebok, but it kind of works with former NFL linebacker Jerod Mayo (get it?) tackling people who are wasting food (“Make a frittata”), including laying out professional annoying person Pete Davidson, who says “I get it. I’m very hittable” – the truest thing said in the ads all night.

Will we remember these ads in a year from now? Probably not. In fact, most of these ads won’t be remembered in a week. Buy hey, the half-time show was good.

Allan Gates

Allan Gates is the president of Bonfire.