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Will Super Bowl 2024 Mark a Continued Renaissance for Comedic Advertising?

London, UK
The Big Game has forever been an occasion for brands to flex their humorous sides, but are the winds evermore shifting? LBB’s Addison Capper endeavours to find out
A key theme we identified during the 2023 Christmas ad season was the prevalence and resurgence of humour. It’s a trend that makes sense considering the covid years that preceded, despite the difficulties that much of the world is still experiencing. Plus, Cannes Lions introduced its first ever comedy category for the 2023 festival.

With that in mind, what are the predictions for comedy during the Super Bowl this year? 

Admittedly, the Big Games tends to be more fruitful ground for comedy than the heartfelt, pulling-on-the-heartstrings tendencies of the festive period. 

But does the industry predict even more comedy this year? What cultural trends of the past 12 months - the Beckhams, Barbie, and Swifites - will shine through and which will bomb? And how will celebrities do their bit to deliver all of these intended laughs?

LBB’s Addison Capper gathered the opinions of a host of people in a bid to predict if viewers are set to be entertained or not. 

Dan Kelly

Executive creative director at Droga5 New York

I wouldn’t call it a renaissance. Comedy is definitely already a trend during the Super Bowl. The travesty is that the emphasis on crafting top-notch stupidity seems to disappear on the other 364 days of the year. But, yes, I do believe most brands will be trying to bring the comedy goods—emphasis on trying. 

Because with more budget comes more pressure and more cooks in the kitchen, and that’s usually not a good recipe for funny. Due to the bright lights of the moment and the millions of dollars spent, there’s often a tendency to cram more, more, more into everything. 

More celebrities! More jokes! More cutty! But pacing must be protected, and comedy needs air to survive. So, as with most things in life, less is often more. Because things don’t go from funny to less funny. They go from funny to not funny—and that’s a delicate dance on the biggest stage in advertising.  

Here’s to hoping comedy prevails on the day it really, really, really counts.

Julie Rutigliano

Creative director at Pereira O’Dell

I’m hoping humour will make a comeback this year – not just humour ha ha, but legitimate humour. Last year there was a ton of borrowed interest, but not a lot of spit-my-guac-out funny. I think activations online will heavily revolve around buzzy prizes, and Hellmann’s will get Mayo Cat memes to trend after their spot airs. The Las Vegas Sphere will be a thing. Although, I suspect a lot of smaller brands will try to get in on the Vegas Sphere/Super Bowl conversation with fake Sphere videos seeded on social for an attempt at the earned media win. 

Trends I expect to see are pro athletes trying to act. Which is always a gamble. Sometimes it works brilliantly, but more often, it’s a dumpster fire that burns millions of dollars. The one brand I’m most curious to see is Bud Light. For them, the stakes couldn’t be higher. However, if they do manage to crush it, it will be the advertising equivalent to the Patriots rebound against the Falcons in Super Bowl LV. [Bud Light's Super Bowl ad for 2024 since got released, so we've embedded it below.]

Joe Kantrowitz

SVP, group creative director, NA at Momentum Worldwide

Will this year be the year where we see a renaissance for comedic ads? The old adage (not Ad Age) says the level of comedic ads is based on the current economic sentiment. In good years, brands were willing to take more risks with comedy, and in down years brands tended to take a more serious approach. For some of us longer in the tooth, we remember the days of briefs where all the brand wanted to do was make people laugh. 

Today, it’s all changed. Big data, AI, multiple KPIs, rounds of testing, and running the gauntlet of layers upon layers of internal and client approvals. Can you imagine some of the greatest comedic Super Bowl spots going through this same process today? Would they have survived? 

But, I’m hopeful. Do I think it’s the start of a renaissance for comedic ads? Maybe. What strengthens my faith is the roster of Super Bowl advertisers. I see a lot of great brands who seem to subscribe to the old philosophy that there is beauty in simplicity, just make people laugh.

Paul Prato 

Executive creative director at PPK 

This year, celebrity cameo-fication of the Super Bowl will only continue. The ‘hey look who it is!’ appearance arms race that has marked spots in the game in recent years shows no signs of stopping, with just under half of the 40 or so advertisers building ads around one or more celebrities. While this will steer the tone of in-game ads away from the more serious side, it may not land them firmly in the camp of successful humour. Advertisers spend large sums on recognisable faces and want them on screen as much as possible. This inevitably leads to the backwards-engineering of joke structures and story arcs to make room. It’s even more tricky when you add more than one cameo to the mix, even a 60-second feels rushed as we cram in multiple guest appearances into the storytelling.

Stephanie Ehui

Head of connections at TBWA\Chiat\Day LA

There’s no doubt we’ll continue to see more swings at humour during the Big Game, but the question is, will it make us laugh?

Humour is so personal and, when attempting to appeal to (or sometimes appease) the masses, humour can often land somewhere between try-hard, insider winks and simply over the top.

This year, I’m hoping we continue to see brands that make us laugh through surprise. Last year, most of America laughed at itself in reaction to Tubi’s UX fake out. It wasn’t just an easy gag; it was a joke on all of us that led to a pure moment of connection among the people with whom you were watching the game. And isn’t that one of the things that the Super Bowl is all about? Friends, parties, fun? More of that, please!

Comedy that adds to the moment over fleeting punchlines is what I’m hoping for. Unfortunately, it’s an abundance of punchlines that I assume we’ll get.

Tom Hamling

Founder and chief creative officer at The Mayor

The Super Bowl is unique because it’s truly the only moment of the year where people look forward to seeing ads. People try to avoid them the other 364 days. That turns up the pressure. And when it comes to comedy, that’s why the Super Bowl can be a place where brands try to do too much.

At that price point, everyone wants to make sure they aren’t wasting a single cent of airtime. At $7 million a pop, each second costs a brand $225,000. That’s why we see so many celebs… and special effects… and a higher percentage of things like ‘crotch kicks’. Brands are stacking the box with all the classics and hoping something lands. The results can be chaotic. The thing is, those things don’t work as well as they did 20 years ago. People’s taste in comedy has evolved.

We all need a laugh, so I think we’ll see more brands dip into comedy this year. And that a lot of it will attempt to tap into a cultural moment of the past 12 months. As always, there will be some conceptual crossover because of that. The funniest ones will be the simplest ones, executed perfectly. Odds are, it won’t involve a dog kicking Timothée Chalamet in the crotch. 

Chase Zreet

Associate creative director at The Martin Agency

There are a lot of real, imminently existential things going on in the world right now, and simply existing is doing enough pulling on people’s heartstrings without a brand jumping into the mire. Especially during the Super Bowl. The idea that people WANT a brand to show them their heart is finally being outed as off-base, shallow, and self-serving. Frivolous, dumb, and funny are coming back in style. To me, they’re welcome guests. I bet, at least I hope, this Super Bowl cements a return to the days of yore. I hope brands go back to using commercial interruption to make people happy instead of drowning them in hollow, baseless, branded pontification. Make me laugh, show me a logo, and go away. That’s the stuff I was raised on. That’s why I got into this business. And that’s what study after study says that people want from the majority of brands. So I would think that the winds shifting toward humour means that brands are listening, and proving it on advertising’s biggest stage. The advertising world could use a few more jokes and a few less soapboxes. 

Steve Howell 

Executive creative director at Dark Horses

Calling it a ‘renaissance’ is a disservice to an incredible history of comedic adverts that have long lined the Super Bowl game. It’s been the moment when even typically unfunny brands might attempt some form of humour, or challenger brands use it to touchdown in the minds of consumers for the first time proper.

Like every lauded TV commercial, entertainment is key. Although nowadays talkability has been conflated with entertainment, particularly for the Super Bowl, so we’re left with a lot of average ideas sprinkled with Snoop Dogg or the Manning brothers. Watch out for a lot of celebrity endorsements again this year, because it’s a sure-fire way brands can guarantee eyeballs on their eye-watering investment. Even the NFL knows celebrities get talkability. No one has done more for American football than Taylor Swift has done this season. Oh, the power of celebrity.

Scott Friedman

ECD/co-founder at Wildlife

Let’s face it: every trend exists on a pendulum - whether that’s business, entertainment, food, design, culture, music, whatever! When things get serious and uncertain, we all need a good laugh. Given all the things going on in the world, there’s no doubt we’re all looking for more moments of levity, hope and goofy distraction. Not surprisingly it’s usually that kind of risk taking that often breaks through the clutter. The Super Bowl itself is one massive, shared, entertainment-extravaganza and the most iconic spots have often been based in brilliant comedy. Looking at the trends in social, brand communication as well as economic and tech uncertainty lately, I fully expect this year’s Big Game will be chock full of lots of weird, self-referential break-the-fourth-wall kinda stuff that also taps into our fears, acknowledges them and reminds us things will mostly be OK - sometimes all we can do is collectively laugh in a moment of unity. We may not know what’s coming but hey, at least we’re all in it together?! Plus lots of cute animals and celebs. Those are unavoidable during the Super Bowl.

Dan Roberts

Creative director at The Romans

I don’t think the Super Bowl has ever struggled filling airtime with funny ads. In fact, it’s probably the only prime-time slot that has never fallen victim to the world of super-serious, super-important, super-eye rolling purpose driven campaigns… And frankly, that’s SUPER!

I think the brands that buy these spots know they need to compete for viewers’ attention mid-game and mid-beer. They want a moment of light relief that gives them a laugh but will almost certainly be forgotten once the final whistle is blown. 

For me, whilst the humour will be full-tilt, the trend I expect to see is a ‘year-in-review’ element to these ads. Brands bringing back people, stories and moments from the past twelve months that in their own right became memes. I’m thinking the Beckhams, Messi, Barbie and the countless other 2023 highlights that will allow brands to leverage their fame and no doubt provide viewers with another chuckle on Sunday before they head to work with a heavy head the next day. 

Simon Bruyn

Executive creative director at Mother Los Angeles

The Super Bowl has always had comedy as a big ole component of the commercials. After years of cause and heartfelt taking an oversized chunk of it, you saw it start to roar back over the last couple of years. And it makes sense. After you’ve sucked back a few brown pops and eaten your weight in liquid cheese, who wants to be bummed out? 

I’m looking for who will sway from the popular Super Bowl comedy formula. The cliff notes are something like nostalgia + celebrity + pop culture trend. Mix ‘em together, add some ‘haha’, and you have a Super Bowl spot. And I get it; if you’ve already spent a boatload on the ad space, why not add a celeb and licence some tracks from the ‘90s, right?! But what I’m curious to see is how much we see comedy played out in more unexpected ways. That’s the juice I’m curious about right there. Who's gonna get interesting/different/weird with the comedy their brand brings and be left standing as the champion of the sports ball comedy bowl?!

John Parker

Executive creative director at Havas New York 

There’s always that one person who thinks bringing a salad to a Super Bowl party is a good idea. Do you want to be that person? The Super Bowl is the one day every year that people are actually excited to see ads. Funny ads. The Super Bowl crowd is a diverse mix of die-hard football fans, the ‘here-for-the-halftime’ crowd, and now, even the Swifties are joining the party. It’s the perfect audience recipe for comedy to thrive. Of course, there is an argument to be made that if everyone is doing funny, you’ll stand out more doing the opposite. And there has definitely been a trend to be clever and gamify your ad. But let's be honest, when you’re sandwiched between screaming fans and Usher’s halftime show, it’s the laughs that hit the spot. On Super Bowl Sunday, I’m predicting less salad and much more seven-layer dip.

Ryan Alexander, Alex Boss, Sydney Sims and Tony Wood

Strategists at Dentsu Creative

As Dentsu Creative looks toward Super Bowl LVIII, we anticipate humour will play a leading role in game day advertising. We’ve highlighted this trend in our 2024 trend report, where it’s manifesting in what we’ve termed an ‘Ode to Joy’. What we’re finding is that joy, softness, and play are used to combat the often frightening, frantic, and chaotic world around us.  

Consumers are showing signs of ‘purpose fatigue,’ a rejection of over-serious messages amid a world of societal, political, and economic turmoil. The introduction of humour as a category in the 2024 Cannes Lions Festival is a testament to its growing influence.

We expect brands to employ humour by relying on celebrities to bring moments of levity and as social currency (think meme-ification and TikTok-ification). This extends the investment value beyond game day. 

What genre of humour? We expect more surrealism and absurdist silliness. But will the humour land? It depends on who you are trying to impact. We know that the social trends most resonating with gen Z lean on this style (such as AI-singing Patrick Star)—thus exemplifying how younger consumers seek refuge from everyday stress. And with gen Z as top of mind for brands, we anticipate an embrace of playful irreverence and defied expectations brought to TV on Sunday. 

Tom Murphy

Chief creative officer at VML North America, East

There was a lot of talk at Cannes this past Summer about the return of comedy. When it comes to the Super Bowl, it’s never really left. I don’t see that changing this year - we need a laugh more than ever. One thing to keep your eye on will be the celebrity factor. Last year, many wrote that the industry had become too celebrity-fixated. I will go on record to say that I still believe the right celeb for the right brand is magic. But of course I would say that - my agency has a spot in the game featuring Kate McKinnon and a talking cat. #MayoCat

Paul Anastasiadis

President at M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment

Super Bowl TV spots represent huge investments to capitalise on one small slice of the outsized consumer attention during the game. Showing up in a distinctly memorable way is the objective and humour is a potent tactic to achieve that. It can be an antidote to consumer scepticism, one of the most salient ways to provoke emotion, attention and (ultimately) brand connection and remains a tried-and-true formula for success.
For all these reasons and more, we can expect a heavy serving of comedy in our Super Bowl game day spread. Humour has always been a big part of the Super Bowl marketing playbook, across numerous cultural contexts, so we shouldn’t expect it to change this year. But we don’t anticipate a collective ‘style’ of comedy. Brands must stand out to ‘win’ on game day, so distinctiveness through the brand’s own sense of humour is the aim of the game. What will be interesting to observe is how the use of comedy best compliments other, smaller microtrends that permeate in, and out, season to season. In 2023, it was the overwhelming motif of nostalgia that connected a lot of brand work. What will it be in 2024?

Brandon Del Nero

Managing director at Wildlife

I'm not sure comedy ever went away in the Super Bowl. The Tide spots were hilarious, and launched at the height of covid. I feel like there's always going to be a silliness to the Super Bowl, it's kinda synonymous with these baked-in comedy breaks. Nobody tunes in for a heart-warming commercial, but they WILL tune in for Nic Cage doing a Pepsi spot with the Coen Brothers. Comedy never went away, we just got way more serious, and I think it takes more to make us laugh

Eric Segal

Co-founder at X&O 

Boy, I hope there's more comedy this year. I could use a laugh.  We all could. I think you nailed it regarding the greater context and mood of the country. Brands feel that overall need. Whether we're looking for a collective purpose or meaning or an escape. I think we'll get back to more of a classic approach this year. 

The Super Bowl is about putting on a show. It's America's Gladiator moment. "Are you not entertained?!" Of course, there are many ways to entertain. And I do think the folks at home appreciate a great story full stop, whether it makes them giggle or weep. But comedy just hits different. It's harder to do well. So far I've seen a lot of brands hitching their ride to celebrities, leaning on their big personalities or repurposing past jokes for a laugh. I'm hoping to see more inventive original bits on game day. Great ideas are firmly attached to a brand or product. Not just a gag with a logo at the end of it. 

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