Crypto bounces into the Super Bowl

The Super Bowl ads for 2022 were marked by humour, massive celebrities, nostalgia, and a distinct lack of purpose marketing. Plus quite a bit of crypto

Whereas once marketers and ad agencies would have been feverishly waiting for the big game to start to see what their competitors were up to, the vast majority of the ads that featured in the Super Bowl this year were released several days before kick off.

This added a certain excitement to those spots that did make their debut during the game, reminding everyone why the Super Bowl commands such enormous fees for the ads that appear in its breaks ($7 million for a 30-second ad, apparently) – that this is one of the rare moments when TV can guarantee a massive audience will be watching live.

So what trends can we observe from the advertising in the game this year? Well, there was a distinct lack of earnestness on display – very few brands were trying to say anything much at all apart from sell, sell, sell. Unlike a few years back, there was no politics to be found, very little purpose marketing, and instead we had celebrities crammed into the ad breaks, plus quite a lot of silliness and nostalgia. Well, it’s been a very tough couple of years after all.

When brands were not drawing on the past, they were trying to predict the future. Some spots were trying to do both – in one of several ads for crypto brands this year, Larry David showed up for FTX in a funny spot that features Davids from across history, slamming every new idea, including the wheel, electricity, and, most amusingly, travelling to the moon (“It’s too far, it’s really far”), before – of course – giving a damning verdict on crypto.

Coinbase delivered the polar opposite of FTX’s glitzy spot, instead forking out for a 60-second spot that just featured a bouncing QR code, which led, in an act of unintentional 90s nostalgia, to an error code when too many people tried to connect to the site at once. Despite this, the brand’s irreverent approach appears to have ‘won’ the Super Bowl this year.

A bunch of other brands tried to reflect our future-facing times, with mixed results. Meta’s spot about the possibilities of the metaverse for reviving old friendships felt weird depressing, while Polestar’s attempt to position itself as the electric car brand that is different to all the other baddie brands out there was undermined somewhat by its rather predictable ‘car-porn’ imagery.

If it was big, uncomplicated lols you were after, a great number of brands stepped up to that, with most bringing in some big name stars too for good measure. Uber Eats’ spot was packed to the gills with celebs, who all seemed to be confused by the brand’s name and found themselves eating everything from nappies to deodorant, to a scented candle (a star turn from Gwyneth Paltrow).

Joining this was Amazon Alexa’s spot with Scarlett Johansson, which saw the voice assistant reading minds; Arnold Schwarzenegger and Salma Hayek Pinault performing as Zeus and Hera for BMW; and Paul Rudd and Seth Rogan delivering a funny turn for Lays. Meanwhile, Zendaya appeared in a more gently humorous spot for Squarespace, which featured a voiceover by André 3000.

The ‘trip down memory lane’ theme of the Lays ad could be found in a number of other ads, as brands turned to nostalgia via music, movie characters and Lindsay Lohan.

Frito-Lay’s spot featured a very silly version of Salt-N-Pepa’s 80s classic Push It; Austin Powers showed up (again – it feels like he’s in a new ad every year) in a General Motors spot; while Lohan sent herself up for Planet Fitness and Jim Carrey reprised the Cable Guy for Verizon. And if that wasn’t enough, Chevy delivered a new version of The Sopranos’ classic opening credits, with Meadow in place of Tony, at the wheel of a Chevy Silverado EV.

If you were after an emotion other than laughter from this year’s ad event, the pickings were slim, though Google stepped into Apple’s space with an ad that emphasised the camera power of its Pixel 6 phone. Set to a new track by Lizzo, the spot demonstrated how the phone is designed to better capture darker skin tones in photos.

At a time when we thought the purpose trend would never end, this is as close to it as we got in this year’s Super Bowl.