But we also like to have fun with our knowledge. So annually, we get together to view some of the newly pre-released Super Bowl ads and this year was no different. Our experts grabbed the popcorn and sat down to enjoy some funny, witty, and (hopefully) diverse commercials over a Zoom lunch, with plans to banter about the various spots. Which commercials would best resonate with today’s growing multicultural audience?
One of the first things we collectively noticed was the great amount of teaser ads. There was no shortage of commercials that gave us hints, but by design, didn’t quite explain the premise or concept.
We also observed that many of the brands went the route of using lesser-known celebrities, or those well beyond their prime. One ad featured Aidan Hutchinson (a pretty good football player, but not super well-known), while another starred Ozzy Osbourne (a superstar in his day, but probably not very-well known among millennials and Gen Zers).
Disappointedly, there weren’t many commercials that featured diversity across race and ethnicity. Even diversity in terms of sexuality and gender was lacking.
A good amount of the spots made an attempt to lean into humor, while more than a few were rather bewildering.
The first ad we reviewed was one for Booking.com.
Director of Cultural Insights, Katya Skogen thought the brand made an excellent selection in going with Melissa McCarthy as the spokesperson.
“Her unapologetically confident embrace of self-care through indulgence is so disarming and oh-so on-brand for her. This is the essence of taking care of her own needs and on her own terms. And we see this attitude really resonate with so many women in our own research. Melissa’s enterprising and self-assured tone is particularly salient for Gen X consumers, the forgotten generation which, despite being in its prime earning (and spending) years, continues to fly under the radar in much of the cultural conversation.”
Skogen also enjoyed the gender role reversal displayed in the ad.
“A choice to cast a (White!) man as a massage therapist is a cherry on top of this already sweet, sweet spot. I should note that the luxurious, opulent setting may come across as alienating. But that’s true of the travel industry as a whole: When the cost of living ratchets up, travel becomes more of an aspiration, a luxury that’s out of reach for many.”
Custom Solutions Analyst, Maria Garavito also found it risky for the spot to be featured in the backdrop of lavishness.
“I thought the ad was a bit tone-deaf to the current economic situation. A spa day in what looks to be a private apartment, full of expensive art, and Melissa eating what appears to be jamón ibérico (a notoriously hyper-expensive food) is so completely divorced from the reality this country is currently in, it broke any enjoyment I could have had of Melissa’s acting (who I’m usually a big fan of).”
To that point, Collage has asked Americans how they are coping with the current erratic economic situation. Many agree that inflation has taken quite a toll.
Research Manager of Cultural Insights, Giana Damianos was a bit confused by the spot.
“I did not like the Booking.com one with Melissa McCarthy. What is it really promoting? The setting was all fake, and not something you’d really book.”
The next ad we viewed was one for Rakuten, which turned out to be very well liked amongst the group.
Research Manager of Custom Insights, Melis Hernandez said she enjoyed this one the most.
“The Clueless reference was my favorite because as a Millennial, I love that movie and the ad elicited positive feelings the moment I saw Cher’s iconic outfit, and the main actress. I also think that it’s a great fit for a shopping brand like Rakuten.”
Clueless, of course, is a classic comedy from the mid-90’s. As if. Rakuten likely figured the commercial would score well with millennials and Gen Xers.
Cultural Insights Analyst, Elizandra Granillo agreed that this was a great spot.
“Cher from Clueless returns. Rakuten is an e-commerce brand, and Alicia Silverstone’s character Cher is obsessed with shopping, making it a perfect fit! This ad not only taps into older millennials’ nostalgia for the 90s, but also younger millennials who probably remember Iggy Azalea’s Fancy music video from 2014, which is a tribute to Clueless and starts with the same scene as this ad. And since late 90s/ Y2K fashion is so trendy, this also appeals to teen shoppers looking for inspiration for self-expression.”
Director of Cultural Insights, Sudipti Kumar is also a fan of Clueless, and thus also a fan of the ad:
“Total nostalgia vibes on Alicia Silverstone playing Cher! Loved seeing that and made me remember it was for Rakuten and so smart since she was/is such a shopper.”
To that point, Collage has been intently observing and analyzing the unique behaviors of younger multicultural shoppers.
The next ad: Bud Light featuring Miles and Keleigh Teller.
Skogen: “This one checks so many boxes when it comes to successful Super Bowl Ads: light humor, celebrity, cute dog, and, of course, beer – not necessarily in that order. The creative genius of this commercial, in my opinion, is in its cleverly layered approach. For all the fifteen Americans who’ve managed to dodge the 2022 pop cultural sensation of Top Gun: Maverick and Miles (the Rooster) Teller — this is a cute couple making the most of the hours spent on hold. For the Gen X parents who’ve seized the opportunity to share this blast-from-the-past blockbuster with their Gen Z and Gen Alpha offspring, seeing Teller on big game day is yet another sweet hit of nostalgia. As for Gen Z fans of the celebrity couple, the spot itself is a natural extension of #tellertok — a peek into the actor’s everyday life laced with a healthy dose of thirst traps, which are endorsed, encouraged, and generously supplied by Teller’s spouse, Keleigh Sperry. The creative team behind the ad offers an opportunity for each viewer to experience this commercial from their own emotional vantage point. But what really makes this spot for me is how relatable and sweet it is. Being stuck on hold – everyone has experienced that! A caring partner who’s trying to cheer you up? Yes, PLEASE! And a GUY fetching the refreshments? (A 180-degree pivot from a nameless, subservient lady of the house bringing chips-and-dip and cleaning up spills.) Well, sign me up for that, too! The only part that’s clearly fiction is that celebrities make their own customer service calls, but I happily suspend disbelief there.”
Cultural Insights Research Manager, Jill Rosenfeld concurred that Bud Light was a clear favorite:
“This ad takes a very relatable, painful experience – waiting on hold for customer service for seemingly forever – and turns it into a cute moment between partners. Miles and Keleigh Teller make the most of their hold time by opening a Bud Light and having a dance party to the beat of the hold music. It also stars the couple’s real-life dog!”
Next up was Avocados From Mexico:
Skogen was a tad taken aback on this one.
“Yes, the brand’s known for its cheeky ads. Yes, the jingle is catchy. But I can’t get over Anna Faris looking utterly dumbfounded and clueless as Eve. I might be overreacting, and all I’ve seen is the teaser so far, but I am peeved to see this kind of representation of a woman on screen. Tonal choices like this are one of the many reasons 46% of women are dissatisfied with portrayals of their gender in advertising.” (Source: Collage Group America Now Survey, September 2022)
The commercial from Pringles was a letdown, according to a few Collagers, including Granillo. She thought the spot had a great opportunity to reach diverse America . . . but ultimately missed the mark:
“I think the ad fell short on the story about this song and what it represents. We know that TikTok offers younger generations the ability to explore other cultures and be creative, so a good example would have been showing how this song became viral and how different people experienced the Made You Look dance challenge. This would have been especially appealing to Hispanic and Black Americans, who are more likely to engage across different media types.”
Rosenfeld also did not love the commercial, but for a different reason:
“My least favorite was the Pringles ad starring Meghan Trainor. It is not very relatable to many people showing her in a very fancy high-rise apartment, plus I just don’t like that song very much or think the joke about getting your hand stuck in a Pringles can is very funny.”
As a team, most of the experts were a bit perplexed by a commercial from a brand called Limit Break, a blockchain-based game developer. It was about a giveaway of NFTs . . . we think! Confusion aside, one thing was quite evident with this advertisement: It was the least liked by the group.
Kumar: “Disappointed to not see many multicultural/ diverse people in the ads! I did not like the Mint ad specifically because it was so unclear what it’s for and I don’t feel like I want to know more after watching it.”
Hernandez: “My least favorite one was the NFT gaming ad. I am not familiar with the brand or the product. On top of that, the ad felt low budget, and the quality just wasn’t at the level of a ‘Super Bowl Ad’.”
Director, Business Development, Joe Zigtema: “I’m probably getting up to grab a drink and snack during this commercial.”
Our overall assessment was mixed. Some commercials were pretty funny and memorable. But as noted, the diversity element was missing. We all wanted to see more multiculturalism. Garavito summed it up well:
“All of the commercials felt like they were targeted toward older people, white people, or men, and, as a young Latina, none of the ads really landed. (Also, worth noting that I don’t think a single spot we watched featured any Latine people.)”
Garavito raises an excellent oversight. Collage Group research shows that the U.S. is growing more diverse every year, and brands that fail to market to this growing demographic could end up regretting that calculation in just a few short years. Culturally Fluent brands understand that engaging diverse consumers not only is crucial to driving positive outcomes in 2023 but also will enable them to leap-frog competitors when the economy improves.
As an aside, we should note that in order to compile our thoughts and distribute them in a timely fashion, we decided to watch the ads a couple of days before the Big Game. Therefore, we could only critique what was available, as some brands decided to keep their commercials tightly under wraps until Super Sunday. However, we’re planning to provide an update post Super Bowl. Also, later this month, we’re releasing a CultureRate:Ad review of even more Super Bowl ads, so stay tuned!