Big Names, Big Laughs, Big Game

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Brian Bennett

STIR | President
Feb 12
Walter and Jesse in popcorners ad

Super Bowl LVII showed a resurgence of playful ads and a particularly astute use of comedic celebrity.

Many automakers dropped out of participation while there were plenty more snacks and alcoholic beverages present. Analysts say this has to do with economic hardships brought on by inflation and looming recession. Cryptocurrency was also notably absent this year. (Let’s just say that enjoyed its moment in the sun in 2022.)

While last year’s spots featured many seasoned celebrities with marginal performances, it seems that this year’s scriptwriters worked harder to come up with even more original ideas.

In several cases, advertisers did a better job of using the comedic talents of the celebrity rather than counting on a gratuitous appearance and a stereotype to gain attention and engagement — as we have often seen in the past. Combining distinguished talent, creative ideas, and quality performances seemed to do the trick in 2023. In years past, viewers couldn’t always count on all three in any given spot.

Here’s my take on which Super Bowl 2023 commercials scored and which dropped the ball.

The Touchdowns

The “Breaking Bad” remake featuring Bryan Cranston (Walter White) and Aaron Paul (Jesse Pinkman) was masterfully done. In fact, I think it was by far the best ad in the game thanks to the incredible script and fully in-character acting. The Frito-Lay brand craftily turned a dark drama into cheeky comedy. Normally, I’m not too fond of “borrowed interest” rereleases, but in this case, the execution is exceptional. They really made it work. Now I just have to get my hands on one of those bags…
Watch the ad

Pepsi Zero Sugar
Pepsi used celebrity in the best possible way. By leveraging the comedic talents of icons Ben Stiller and Steve Martin and connecting the clever idea to their brand message, the all-American soda brand wins big. The 60-second spots are hilarious and memorable. Let’s see them again!
Watch the Stiller ad | Watch the Martin ad

The carmaker’s “Binky Dad” spot was the kind that wins both hearts and minds — a concept everyone can love and many can relate to. A big production with a flawless editing + perfect comedic timing + cute baby factor = Score!
Watch the ad

This particular PR hype machine and months-long ramp-up to the Super Bowl commercial is worthy of mention. After a seemingly innocent makeover of its characters generated some unwelcome feedback, M&M’s announced in January that they were pulling the spokescandies and replacing them with the one and only Maya Rudolph. Rudolph jokingly renamed the candy “Ma&Ya’s,” printed her own face on the colorful shells, and introduced “clam” as its latest flavor. The whole thing was a masterfully executed publicity stunt that generated a huge following. The spot inserted into the game was a head scratcher, suggesting the hoax wasn’t quite over yet. However, once the game was over, the candies made an appearance once again. I’m giving them points for originality and some serious guts!
Watch the “Ma&Ya’s” ad | Watch the “Back for Good” ad

The Fumble

Rémy Martin
Serena Williams in a football locker room giving a halftime pep talk about teamwork with several overused stereotypical statements thrown in… Brought to you by cognac. Nothing about the “Inch by Inch” spot made any sense. Bad call!
Watch the ad

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