The cost of a Super Bowl spot keeps increasing—with prices this year in the neighborhood of $7million for 30-seconds! With ever-increasing stakes, Super Bowl advertisers are investing more time and attention on the ads.
The 2023 Super Bowl featured upbeat, safe advertising. The number of celebrities seemed to hit a new high, with many advertisers featuring a cast of different characters. Of course, all the partnerships and celebrities makes production another huge cost. How expensive were some of those ads to produce? Perhaps $3 million? More?
Overall, it was a strong collection of advertising. For the 19th year, a panel of approximately 70 Kellogg students evaluated all the ads during the game. Here are the top and bottom spots, according to the Kellogg Super Bowl Ad Review panel.
The top spot this year was Google Pixel. The ad broke through the clutter, starting with an emotional segment on memories, then pivoting to correcting them. At the core, it was a product demonstration.
The late branding might have been a problem for some, but the overall look and feel was so consistent with Google’s past efforts that the panel made the connection.
Of interest, the features shown in the spot weren’t unique to Google, but somehow that didn’t matter. Just because something exists in the world doesn’t mean most people know about it.
The Disney spot was a surprise; the company hadn’t released plans for the ad in advance. The Disney spot was charming and exceptionally well-branded. It was a reminder spot, highlighting just how remarkable Disney is.
This ad didn’t have a specific call to action, but it reinforced positive associations among anyone familiar with the Disney brand. It is a great example of using the reach of the Super Bowl to reinforce the relationship between a consumer and the brand to maintain brand equity.
Doritos made a curious strategic decision, to focus on the shape of its chip. Some might debate that call, since people don’t buy a chip because of its shape. Moreover, the shape isn’t even a unique attribute. Frito-Lay was also running another Super Bowl spot for another triangle-shaped chip, Popcorners.
Still, that didn’t seem to matter as this engaging spot scored well with the Kellogg panel. It was surprising and cute, with strong branding. The Elton John appearance was one of the great moments of the Super Bowl.
Bringing together a product, an insight and a benefit is often a recipe strong advertising. That was certainly the case with the Kia Binky Dad spot. Parents can easily relate to forgetting a child’s special item, and the emotional trauma that can result. The Binky Dad’s heroic effort to retrieve the forgotten item is embraced by social media. It captivates the nation’s attention.
In the middle of this story, however, is a product demonstration. The ad features the Kia Telluride doing amazing things.
T Mobile has become one of the most consistent Super Bowl advertisers. This year the company did it again, scoring well with two strong spots. Branding was solid in both executions. The Bradley Cooper spot was funny and communicated product messages: America’s largest 5G network, price lock and most awarded.
The second spot, a takeoff of Grease, was charmingly product focused. Tell me more was a call to action. The ad also communicated product information like one cord, fast speeds, $50 a month.
Uber ran perhaps the most complex spot of the Super Bowl, featuring artists singing about its loyalty program Uber One. The ad was distinctive and broke through the clutter. It also communicated the benefit: saving money.
There wasn’t much in the way of detail. How much saving? Any other benefits? Still, perhaps getting people to remember that Uber One is enough. People will then take the next step, learning more about the product. Tell me more.
It might be hard to go wrong with Will Ferrell in a Super Bowl ad. GM ran a Super Bowl spot with him in 2021, a clever spot about Norway.
This year’s GM spot, featuring a Netflix partnership, attracted attention. It clearly communicated GM has a lot of EVs.
The Kellogg panel gave this a high score. We are a little more split ourselves. First, we found the branding is odd. Do people know the GM brands? Second, why buy a GM EV? Given GM has established itself in the EV category, it might be time to differentiate itself. For now, the question remains: why buy a GM EV instead of a Tesla?
For many years, perhaps most years, you would find Squarespace at the bottom of our rankings. The brand has run some very weak ads over the year. Most of the misses were from a lack of linkage – the creative was interesting, but the branding was weak, and it wasn’t clear what the product even did.
This year, Squarespace went with a different approach and, according to the Kellogg panel, it worked. The spot featuring Adam Driver was creative in execution, but essentially a simple product description. Squarespace is a website that makes websites. Got it.
Media partnerships were a creative theme this year, and Popcorners embraced Breaking Bad in its Super Bowl spot. The spot was creative, and the branding was strong. Not everyone may walk away knowing exactly what Popcorners are, but we will try them despite the association with some rather unsavory characters.
For the past several years, Amazon has been at the top of the Super Bowl ranking with creative spots for Alexa. This year, Amazon changed strategy, backing away from Alexa and instead supporting its core business.
The spot, featuring an engaging dog story, was product focused. The unexpected twist at the end was charming.
That said, the ad suffered from two things. First, it was one of two dog spots on the Super Bowl. Similar spots risk interfering with one another. Second, the basic message was that you can order a dog crate on Amazon. That isn’t a powerful message. Perhaps Amazon has deeper strategic issues to consider.
It is time for a vacation, according to Booking.com. If the effort here was to get people to remember Booking and to think about travel, well, mission accomplished. The spot communicated that it was time for travel and Booking has lots of options.
At issue was the lack of a differentiating message. Why Booking instead of other travel platforms? This was clearly a strategic choice by the brand; perhaps Booking just needs to own the “non-Airbnb” space.
Across the span of Super Bowl history, some of the funniest ads have come from the creative team at Bud Light.
That was not the approach this year. The Bud Light featured a couple stuck on hold, a universal experience. Opening two Bud Lights transforms the moment, turning it into a small joyful scene.
The spot was different and product focused. The entire spot pivoted on the product: great integration and branding.
If Bud Light can bring that kind of joy to everyday moments, well, it is time for some Bud Light.
This Super Bowl used the classic trojan horse image to dramatize cyber-threats, and notes that Crowdstrike protects you in the digital world. Branding kicked in about half-way through this spot, which helped the linkage. Overall, an entertaining and effective spot.
Healthcare ads were scarce on the Super Bowl this year. Astellas ran a spot just before the game, and Dexcom ran an effective spot during the game.
This ad, featuring Nick Jonas, was product focused. It showed the product, how to use it and what it does.
In terms of business impact, we suspect this ad will do very well, even if it didn’t have the breakthrough of other ads on the game this year.
The first spot of the Super Bowl was unexpected: Ben Affleck was working at the local Dunkin.
The ad was distinctive, creative and memorable, with great use of celebrities. The Jennifer Lopez appearance was a highlight. Branding was good, too, but the spot could have communicated a stronger product benefit. Why to go to Dunkin? There was a mention of low price but not much beyond that. A product mention could have strengthened this.
Most of the Super Bowl ads were light-hearted this year. One of the few brands to take a more serious approach was the Farmer’s Dog.
The spot was a celebration of dogs. The team that created the spot apparently liked dogs more than the team behind the Amazon spot. The ad touched on one of the emotional truths of dog ownership, that dogs don’t live very long, and loss is an inevitable part of dog ownership.
Branding was weak, however, and the spot didn’t say anything about the product. How does the Farmer’s Dog give us more time?
This year Hellmann’s was back on the Super Bowl battling food waste. Of course, people don’t use Hellmann’s because the brand is worried about food waste. That is perhaps the brand mission, but it isn’t the benefit. People reach for Hellmann’s because it makes food delicious. One reason this year’s spot worked better than prior efforts is because the creative spot focused on a more motivating benefit: Hellmann’s creates delicious food.
Pepsi Zero Sugar
Pepsi made two interesting choices this year. First, the brand focused on just one item instead of the overall brand. The goal appeared to be to drive trial of Pepsi Zero Sugar. This wasn’t a bad strategic choice, assuming Pepsi Zero Sugar is a key part of the brand’s growth plan.
Second, the brand encouraged trial by simple asking a question: real, or acting? Will people be intrigued enough about the question to go out and try Pepsi Zero Sugar? Perhaps. It is likely more motivating than going with the predictable and tired “tastes amazing!” message.
Roasting Planters? This spot played off the meaning of roasted. This is a simple idea, but the spot was product focused and well-branded. The mention of killing off Mr. Peanut was a bit of advertising inside baseball, but we aren’t against that.
Should a brand embrace its most distinctive feature, even if it is a negative thing? The Pringles team offers an argument for doing so, at least based on this Super Bowl spot. The ad focused on the awkward container, and the challenge of reaching in for the chips.
Reminding people about Pringles might be enough; that is what this spot did in an engaging and well-branded fashion.
This spot was a cute joke, a play on ED. We quickly tired of it, however, and wished the brand moved on to explaining how it addressed some of the reliability and power issues mentioned.
As with GM, why buy a Ram instead of a Tesla? That is a pretty simple question, so we aren’t sure why they didn’t answer it. Jeep did a better job.
Snoop Dogg and Martha Stewart teamed up (again) in this entertaining Super Bowl spot for Skechers. It attracted attention and delivered a product message – comfortable, slip-on shoes. This is not going to go down as one of the great Super Bowl spots of all time, but we can see how it could help the brand.
A solid spot from Weathertech! The brand managed to show many of its different products, while sticking with its historic message of made in America.
It is hard not to like the Weathertech brand.
Serena Williams showed up in two first quarter spots. This might be good for Serena, but it isn’t ideal for either Remy Martin or Michelob Ultra.
Michelob Ultra ran a creative, engaging spot. However, perhaps the story was more interesting than the brand. The Kellogg panel gave it a C.
Remy Martin ended up as the bottom spot in the Kellogg ranking. The problem? There was so little linkage. The ad is an inspirational talk about Serena about teamwork, dedication, and achievement. How does Remy Martin fit into that story? It doesn’t seem too. Branding is weak, linkage is weak.
This year M&Ms rolled out an elaborate campaign. The brand was going to shift away from the characters and embrace Maya Rudolph. She would proceed to make crazy changes. The characters would come back and save the day.
First, the brand misled major news outlets, which is not a great way to build credibility, trust, and good relationships with media partners.
Second, the Super Bowl spot was just Maya Rudolph doing crazy things like introducing clam M&Ms. That was it.
After the game, there was a spot with the characters holding a news conference announcing their return. This attempted to resolve the story. But the main Super Bowl ad fell flat.
This effort was just too complicated.
The prize for the most disturbing character on the Super Bowl this year goes to Tubi and its demonic rabbits. The critters showed up on several occasions, but it was never clear why they were roaming the screen.
The Super Bowl interruption spot caused stress for millions – at least some in our room were panicked that our review would run into technical problems. That attracted attention.
Tubi never really got around to its positioning. Who is it for? What is it? What is the benefit?
Overall, a great year for Super Bowl advertising. Look for another year of record prices in 2024.
By Tim Calkins and Derek Rucker