Super Bowl Sunday is as much about the ads as it is about the on-field action, with companies clamoring to create a commercial that scores a different kind of touchdown.
This year, Fox charged up to $7 million for a 30-second slot and big brands splashed the cash in the hopes of creating TV gold.
But while a captivating commercial can be an invaluable investment, it’s hard to pull off given that around 100 million Americans are watching critically and closely.
“Super Bowl Sunday means we get to watch great ads with football breaks in between,” Lucas Bongioanni, executive creative director at the community (yes, it’s lowercase on purpose) agency, told The Post of the fervor for the commercials.
The ad exec said companies have often relied on big names and nostalgia in order to make a memorable ad — and 2023 was no different.
But with the COVID-19 pandemic finally in the rearview mirror, Bongioanni also noticed that many of this year’s best commercials came from software and streaming companies and appeared optimistic about the days ahead.
“This year felt like half was nostalgia and half was more future-facing,” he declared. “Newcomers and veteran brands both went big.”
Below, Bongioanni and other high-powered creatives give their picks for the best ads of 2023 — and call out the commercials that failed to fire.
GM X Netflix
While the Kansas City Chiefs were victorious over the Philadelphia Eagles 38 – 35, Netflix and General Motors may have been the real winners.
A 60-second joint venture ad featured funnyman Will Ferrell explaining how the streaming service is set to include more electric vehicles in their upcoming movies and shows.
The “Elf” actor is seen driving an array of EVs on the set of some of Netflix’s biggest series, including “Bridgerton” and “Squid Game.” The ad also features a cameo from “Queer Eye” stars Antoni Porowski and Jonathan Van Ness.
Ad experts said the crossover commercial was just as electric as one of the vehicles Ferrell was driving.
Chris Graves, chief creative officer at Team One, told The Post that the commercial worked because it managed to pull off a partnership between two big brands in a way that was both entertaining and easy to understand.
“Brand crossovers can be complicated and messy — especially in the Super Bowl environment where entertainment is king,” Graves explained. “One brand always seems to get the short end of the stick — but I think this one works pretty seamlessly.”
He added that “both brands will get a lift from this relationship” and claimed that Netflix fans were likely to “enjoy and appreciate the nuance and humor” that was included.
Meanwhile, Bongioanni also declared the commercial a clear winner — although he admitted that his agency had come up with the concept and executed the advertisement.
“I mean, we did it so I’m a little biased here but hear me out,” he told The Post. “This spot’s biggest accomplishment is to look simple while delivering a complex message and still be entertaining from top to bottom.”
Recruiting rebellious rockers Billy Idol, Ozzy Osborne, Joan Jett and Paul Stanley for an ad about American office culture may seem a bizarre bet — but that’s precisely why it worked, according to the experts.
This commercial for Workday — a software company that provides cloud applications for finance, HR, and planning — shows the musicians scolding buttoned-up officer workers for calling each other “rockstars.”
“We know that using Workday for your finance and HR makes you great at your job… but it doesn’t make you a ‘rockstar,’” they chide.
The concept tickled Bongioanni’s funny bone, with the creative director declaring: “Being called out for abusing the term “rockstar” in the office is a funny notion. It’s not the first jab at corporate culture we’ve seen, but it’s a fresh take and entertaining to watch.”
Graves was also equally impressed, telling The Post: “I started with no idea what Workday does. In the end, it was fun enough for me to search ‘What is Workday?’ Little victories.”
This hilarious commercial sees young rapper Jack Harlow, 24, take up triangle-playing after becoming mesmerized by the shape of Doritos corn chips.
While some older Super Bowl viewers may not recognize Harlow — who has become a Gen-Z superstar — the ad also features a number of other celebrity cameos that resonate with older demographics.
“You’re going to quit rap to play a triangle?” Missy Elliot, 51, asks Harlow as she pops up in the commercial.
Meanwhile, Elton John, 75, also shows up at the end of the ad in an appearance that thrilled viewers of all ages.
Freelance creative director Pieter Konickx, who has worked with big brands such as Nike, Gucci and Google, gave the ad his tick of approval.
“The final cameo in the Doritos commercial takes the crown,” Konickx told The Post. “Elton John playing a giant triangle has to be the winner for me.”
For this PopCorners commercial, “Breaking Bad” stars Brian Cranston and Aaron Paul reunited for the first time in years — and it was just the right amount of nostalgia for our experts.
“Among the many reunions in this year’s ads, this one felt good to me,” Graves declared. “I’ve missed Brian Cranston and Aaron Paul in these roles. I was pleasantly surprised to see them, and the brand match seems like a smart one.”
Bongioanni concurred, stating: “Extra points for getting the two main characters in and Vince Gilligan [of “Breaking Bad” fame] to direct. Brian and Aaron cooking baked snacks is something we all like to see.”
While some celebrity reunions were welcome, others were considered somewhat of a miss.
Martha Stewart and Snoop Dogg are famed for their unusual friendship, and they previously appeared in a BIC commercial together.
This year, the duo reunited for a Sketchers ad that generated headlines — but not everyone was convinced that the lifestyle queen and the rapper were a perfect fit for the sneaker brand.
“I love that Skechers is aiming for the stars with a clear point of view,” Bongioanni said of the commercial. “I don’t fully agree with the celeb selection here, but they’re on the right path.”
Meanwhile, Graves wasn’t sold on a condiment commercial from Hellman’s which featured Jon Hamm and Brie Larson stuck inside a refrigerator.
During the ad, the duo claimed that they could be made into leftovers given their names — a play on ham and brie cheese.
“Some celebrity ads leave you with a new respect for those celebs, and some leave you with less. This is one is the latter for me,” Graves sniped.
“Ham and Brie? Turns them into easy gags and feels a bit too simplistic… Plus, I hate seeing Don Draper [Jon Hamm’s most famous character] do something he probably would never have approved.”
This futuristic ad with Adam Driver explores the possibilities of the internet with website builder, Squarespace — but the ad experts were divided on whether the commercial was one of this year’s most memorable.
While Bongioanni,said the ad was “shot beautifully,” Konickx claimed that the behind-the-scenes footage released on YouTube was far more compelling.
“That’s real gold,” he declared. “That is comedic genius and in my opinion turned out much better than the main commercial.”
And when you’re paying $7 million for a 30-second slot, you want to make sure your best footage is on-screen for all to see, meaning this could be one very costly mistake.
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