Trends and Insight in association withSynapse Virtual Production

Ad Industry Reactions to 2024’s Super Bowl Commercials

London, UK
Creative leaders from TBWA\Media Arts Lab, TBWA\Chiat Day, BETC, Pereira O'Dell, alma, and more reflect on this year’s big game ads
We’re beginning to wrap up our 2024 Super Bowl coverage - though we do have a number of Behind the Work features on big game ads still lined up. So, we figured it was high-time to hand over the baton to the industry itself to offer healthy judgement and reflection on the commercials that filled the many gaps in between the Kansas City Chiefs’ victory over the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LVIII.

NB: We’ve embedded a number of mentioned spots throughout the feature below. If you want to see all of them - and their credits - click here.

Deacon Webster

Co-founder and chief creative officer at Walrus

This year's Super Bowl was an exceptionally noisy ad environment. Everyone seems to have adopted a similar story arc where the ad starts with a premise, and then just gets louder and more extreme as they keep layering on celebrity after celebrity; so I found myself drawn to the ones that broke that formula. My number one favourite ad was the five-second Duolingo owl spot. It came at the perfect time, and it felt weird and subversive. 

The whole CeraVe campaign including the influencer lead-up was masterful. I also appreciated that Doordash, Reese’s and Etsy all decided to NOT go the celeb route and just make great creative about the brand. Other things that made me chuckle: Suits guys in the garage, "I too am having a blast", "this lady's in lay-bah", "oh, crap. That's a really good gift," and "let my cream hydrate you”.

Mike Sotelo

VP, digital content + experience strategy at alma

Let’s start off with the obvious. One of the biggest superstars being watched during the game wasn’t even on the field – Taylor Swift. According to USA Today, we saw Tay Tay for 55 seconds on Super Bowl Sunday, and she had Swifties all over the world glued to the game, which added a new filter for viewers and brands trying to connect with the new Swiftie audience tuning in.
The spot that stood out the most in leveraging this was Snapchat’s ‘Less Social Media. More Snapchat’. The spot tapped into the Taylor Swift craze and the platform’s more playful space that allows its users to make meaningful and authentic connections. As someone who has worked in the social and digital media space since Myspace (and the father of a teen on social media), Snapchat gave me a sign of hope for healthier social media spaces. 

Coincidently, the audiences for Snapchat and Taylor Swift are likely the same, and the ad was a great tactic by Snapchat to reach an audience that probably wouldn’t be watching the Super Bowl had it not been for her. No one knew the Chiefs would be in the Super Bowl until two weeks ago, so Snapchat didn’t know Swift would be present to draw those viewers. It was a little luck that helped their idea pay off even more.

There were some other big game surprises along with some familiar and welcome formats that I think stood out this year and showed the continued success in using humour, nostalgia and weird surprises.
  • Kanye’s self-recorded spot put him up as a creative agency, media agency, production house and talent all in one spot. This might not have been a hit, but it was certainly unexpected.
  • We saw a number of sports gambling ads from BetMGM and FanDuel, during one of the most bet-on sporting events, while it was played in the sports betting capital of the world. 
  • There were some classic, beautiful ads like Volkswagen’s ‘An American Love Story’ that tapped into a more emotional message. 
  • We laughed at spots from Hellman’s (‘Mayo Cat’) and felt the connection via great insights from the Uber Eats spot, ‘Don’t Forget Uber Eats’, and E-Trade took us back to 2008 with ‘Picklebabies’.

Mike McCormick

Chief creative officer at Rodgers Townsend

DOVE - If a brand is an expectation, Dove continued to live up to it with 'Hard Knocks'. They hit me right where I am as a father with nine-year-old girls. Gymnastics. Swimming. Self worth. Body image. As I barrel toward the next unknown nine years, this one had me wide-eyed with a little pitter patter in my chest when the stat landed. Particularly nice edit. A great use of a cut and tone shift to create two chapters of the story. I’ve always been 99.44% a fan of the brand. 

AUTOMOTIVE - This category has always been important to the Super Bowl. Made in Detroit, cowboys and their trucks, Jeep things, etc. David & Goliath always impresses for Kia, certainly. But it's so nice to see BMW and VW as two of the 58 spots this year. As someone who’s seen many ideas over the years (creatives do love reading scripts like Mr. Walken), it’s the way the actor himself handles it that makes it such a good spot. 

For VW, the beetle arriving in America felt like that of a long, lost family member. There was production craft, playfulness and even a tip of the bonnet to Herbie the Love Bug. All leading up to the new kid in town. Maybe we can start to forget what tarnished the badge in 2015. VW makes people smile. Yes, let’s get back to that.

DUNKIN’ - The worst donuts ever. Seriously. And while I tend to resist celebrity, I thought the performances were really good. Especially Matt Damon. Loved Jack Harlow in the car with the simple hook of ‘I don’t think you should do this’. Not sure if the spot needed Tom Brady, but J-Lo asking him to stay back was downright scandalous. As for the whole endeavour, I like seeing a top-tier power couple risk embarrassment. Paid off for me. 

BOOKING.COM - Want more Tina Fey? Please report to the 90-second version. Gym Tina and Rustic Tina are so good. And Glenn Close is stunning. Fun ride. [We did a deep-dive on the spot with reps from the brand and agency, Zulu Alpha Kilo. Check it here.] 

REESE’S - Great humour is hard. We’re all pulling for its comeback in the age of analytics and the algorithm. That’s why this one drew my applause. Off-leash stupidity. The guy wearing the grandfather clock might be my Halloween costume. YESSSSSS!!!!!

STATE FARM - The Governator is a huge get for a Super Bowl spot, right? Like CeraVe, I think State Farm won the weeks-long onramp to Sunday. It’s never just about the spot. Good clients buy all the stuff around the spot, too. Truly curious what the other scripts were that didn’t get made. Maybe there was something better than the play on ‘neighbour’, but I do love the repetitive nature of the brand asset AND the way Arnold’s face looks when he says anything with baa in it. 

AB INBEV - For me, Bud Light got it more right than Budweiser. The escalation of absurdity felt right for a party. I might be biased being in St. Louis, but Clydesdales are sacred. There’s so much history. And you can’t pull them out of the stables for just anything. All the ingredients were certainly there. But it’s a very high bar. Related, I’d love to get on a train with LL. 

Jeff Warman

Partner and chief creative officer at Curiosity

If you’re going to push it, really go for it. Like Dunkin.

One of the most insightful opening lines was, “Aw crap, that’s a really good gift,” from Etsy. My 12-year-old daughter made me replay it.

As a sensitive, sad dad type, I wanted the emotional stuff to hit me harder. It usually does. But not especially this year.

A few tried too hard to insert themselves into culture when they’re already there. Oreo.

If you only have one celebrity in your spot, do you even care?

Jesus did not use to spend so much on media.

I saw a group on Reddit trying to figure out the DoorDash promo code together and isn’t that what it’s really all about?

"I too am having a blast." – Ron Swanson

Kirsten Rutherford

Executive creative director at TBWA\Chiat\Day LA

The DoorDash spot had me the most engaged. Yes-I-will-spend-a-good-ten-minutes-trying-to-figure-that-stupidly-ridiculously-long-promo-code.

Celebs. Celebs everywhere. But is more always merrier? Star duos like Danny and Arnie or Ross and Rachel or even Matt and Ben felt right, but I found some star gaggles to be superfluous, leaving me more interested in doing the mental arithmetic for the talent and residuals than the idea. Admittedly I did snigger at the quirky Paramount+ collective (bonus points for Creed).

I wish T-Mobile or Nerds had paid for track exclusivity. Dan Marino’s agent was a true winner (not one spot, but two!), and with all the phonetic frivolity to be had (neigh-baa / Mayo! / no T in Skechers / Pizza w’Hut)… the most memorable was CeraVe. That crowd knows how to seed a campaign in culture too.

One of my favourite spots was actually the teaser for the halftime show. Seven minutes of silliness in a madcap search for Usher that made the most of the Vegas setting (I see you Blue Man Group) paired with cameos that all served the story. Nice one.

Nick Bakshi

Creative director at BETC Paris

I think the internet collectively crowned Michael CeraVe the king of the Super Bowl before the game was over. Honourable mentions go to Beyonce being unable to break the internet for Verizon, DoorDash’s insanely long promo, and Dunkin' Donuts selling enough cheap coffee to hire every celebrity I loved in high school. All that said, the real winner here was clearly brand Swift and its collaboration with quarterback Travis Kelce. More people were talking about Taylor than Usher and he had to dance and sing (magnificently, I might add) for our attention. 

I don’t know if we can call it a trend at this point because it’s just a lot of the same and has been for a while, but brands are continuing to spend insane amounts to hire big name celebrities and then finding contrived ways to plaster their logos all over the ads to ensure people don’t remember it as ‘the Ben Affleck’ ad but rather ‘the Dunkin Donuts’ ad (no shade, Dunkin' - I laughed at the ‘how ‘bout them donuts’ line). Oddly, this is also one of the reasons why CeraVe worked so well - the name of the celebrity and the name on the logo are the same. Personally I’ll take an idea you remember over a cameo you remember any day. But I think when it comes to the Super Bowl that’s a battle we may have already lost. 
I’m pretty averse to spending for the sake of spending. I don’t think it’s good for brands and I don’t think it’s good for the industry. I don’t know the ROI numbers on a Super Bowl spot but I continue to believe that hacks are far and away the best way to get your money’s worth during the Big Game. Joao Coutinho [quoted below in this story] and Marco Pupo of the Atlantic are masters of this. They first did it with Volvo Interception in 2015 and then again last year with Steve the Cockroach for Blockbuster. There are great paid media examples of this as well - last year’s Tubi ads for instance. I’d love to see more brands putting real money into this sort of work next year. 

Jason Apaliski

Executive creative director at Pereira O'Dell

In a sea of celebrities, slick productions and calculated humour, one ad really took a risk that made it an instant standout. Reese’s was absolutely ridiculous in the best way possible. It was loud. It was weird. It was different from everything else. And I loved it. Is it for everyone? No. But damn if I didn’t watch it three more times to catch all the different characters.

Nick Ciffone

Group creative director at TBWA\Media Arts Lab Los Angeles

After the halftime show I didn't know I needed (Usher on roller-skates is now a core memory) my two-year-old son asked for Miss Rachel… and I don't blame him. When the most entertaining moments of the game are a tie between commercials for Kawasaki giving bald eagles mullets and Reese's announcing an added layer of caramel you know it's bleak. On the advertising side, the amount of celebrities ‘getting that bag’ was truly next level. I'll give Micheal Cera, Arnold, and Hey Arnold a pass for a mix of nostalgia and utter subjectivity. 

Instead of lambasting the rest, I'll focus my critique for celeb-based-cringe advertising on Michelob Ultra. Truthfully, it's personal. After its absolutely brilliant campaign serendipitously built around Mark Radetic’s presence at the PGA, feeling the good vibes, I actually drank a Michelob Ultra at Top Golf… and now I'm embarrassed for associating with a brand who doesn't know how to spend $15 million properly. They would have been better off buying Mark a front row seat at the game and a bucket of beer. Then he could have witnessed first-hand how truly boring this Super Bowl was without the Detroit Lions in it.

Greg Carson

President at 62ABOVE

Overall, I thought it was a great year for Super Bowl advertisers. With so much stress in the world, more laughs than tear jerkers seemed appropriate. Celebrities were also a critical part of the commercials for many, many brands including State Farm, BMW, and CeraVe. But in my opinion, no one did it better than Dunkin’ Donuts. 

Pat Laughlin

Chief creative officer at Laughlin Constable 

First reaction: Wait, who are these ads for again? Celebrities or brands?

Dunkin Donuts. Really fun spot, glad I didn't see it before the Super Bowl. Good use of celebs. Tied to the roots of the brand plus a ton of star power.

Google Pixel ad: GREAT – emotional, interesting, benefit driven and partnered with a visually impaired filmmaker.

My favourites: Dunkin Donuts, Reese's and CeraVe. Loved that Reese's could stand out and didn't rely on a celebrity. Dunkin was celebs galore but they tied to the brand so it worked well. CeraVe, the big game spot was funny but they've unleashed a massive TikTok campaign that makes this stand out. The TikTok campaign includes ‘security footage’ of Michael Cera signing bottles of lotion at a store. They sent kits to influencers with his face on shirts, stickers, lotion bottles, etc. Love how they extended this campaign beyond ‘just’ the Super Bowl spot.

Losers: I don't get what Temu is doing spending all that money on the same ad three times in a row.

One more take: Beyonce seems like another big winner. It feels like Verizon paid $7 million to advertise her new album that she announced on the last line of the ad.

Jon Laughlin

Chief creative officer at Laughlin Constable 

Etsy made a big impression right before Usher. Loved the mime popping out with joy for a cheese board.

CeraVe: Great use of celebrity. Who knew Michael Cera would be a Super Bowl pitchman?

Easy to miss but this had everyone ‘laughing’:

I enjoyed BMW. Really great use of Walken. All of America was doing a Walken impression after that ad aired. What was really interesting was right after that, the State Farm Arnold ad ran. Two ads - both kind of making fun of a celeb’s voice running back to back.

Miss: TurboTax has had some really fun Super Bowl ads the last few years. But now they are using a celebrity to have service call chats with a customer and a big QR code on screen. Seemed like a major waste.

Matt McDermott

President at Humble & Wallop

My faves: 
DoorDash - The ad itself wasn't necessarily the best, but I love the marketing scheme behind it. To show that DoorDash can deliver just about anything, they're going to deliver one of every product advertised in the Super Bowl to a lucky customer. The copy was snappy, the idea of an endless coupon code clever, and the buzz it generated well worth the spend.

Verizon - Two things I love about this ad. One: Tony Hale (from 'Arrested Development' and 'VEEP' fame). He plays the perpetual bagman to Bey, following her around to show her that, no matter how viral each of her increasingly viral stunts get, the Verizon network can handle the volume. He's made a career to transforming awkwardness and loyalty into comic magnificence. Two, the brilliant co-op of the spot to tease her new music. She's savvy as hell and has always delivered brilliant activations and cross-promotions.  

Google Pixel - Super Bowl ads that try to pull on the heartstrings typically pull on my diarrhoea rope. I'm nauseated by the sappiness and predictability, and furious at the teams that believe we'd buy this shit. Kia's 'Power Within' spot is a prime example of it. But Google has done a fantastic job of showing us the point of view of Javier, whose view is blurred by visual impairment. But he loves to take pictures that capture the most important moments in his life. Throughout, Google Pixel's AI tool, Guided Frame, offers verbal guidance and description to help him compose his shots. The ad is one of the few that made the product a co-star that balances out the human experience without dousing itself in saccharine.

Jim Curtis and Cinzia Crociani

EVP, global executive creative directors at McCann New York 

On DoorDash: It’s always refreshing when a brand is open to playing with the Super Bowl medium and trying something different. This idea had people talking all through the lead-up and the execution was playfully difficult (which actually works when you have an audience already leaning in). We’ll also give a shout out to Squarespace — a nice insight around what it takes to get the attention of the human race these days, and beautifully executed.

João Coutinho

Co-founder and chief creative officer at Atlantic NY

I don’t understand much about American Football, but I know enough to find that the game was boring, with the ads being the exciting part. Uber Eats is becoming a tradition of having the best commercial in the Super Bowl. I prefer the teasers to the all-celebrities ad. Love the Beckhams and the guy licking the hand instead of shaking it. 

Doordash was by far my favourite activation. I wonder how it worked out at the end, the commercial felt hard to decipher, which was fun and part of the strategy. I also loved M&Ms’ ‘Almost Champions Ring of Comfort’ and State Farm’s ‘Neighbaa’. Both have all the ingredients of a great SB commercial. 

The weirdest (and greatest) award goes to Paramount +. ‘A Mountain of Entertainment’ is a terrible tagline but made total sense with this commercial. I loved the writing. Microsoft takes home the worst commercial of the night. A sizzle video made with AI? Just lame.

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