So an American football game took place yesterday, in case you hadn’t noticed. Apparently it was a closely fought thing, and there was a very famous singer in the audience, but you’re not here for any of that stuff, are you? You want to know about the ads, right?
The Super Bowl has long been seen as the last bastion of traditional advertising, where TV ads are king, and the massive live audience that it draws means brands are willing to pay astronomical sums to get a slot during the big game.
If there have been any changes to this format over the years, it is mainly that most of the ads are now released online in advance, either in full or as trailers, so there is less of a big reveal on the day, but in other respects this is a huge ad moment. In creative terms, this means the ads are going for mass appeal. Whereas in recent years, this might have been seen as an opportunity to tweak the heartstrings or deliver a purposeful message, 2024’s spots have mostly (apart from Dove and Budweiser) rejected this approach and instead placed their bets on celebrities and comedy.
The result is a risk averse year, with very, very famous celebrities making a lot of fairly obvious jokes. There is nostalgia aplenty, but with all poignancy erased and replaced by belly laughs (or attempts at them). This might be a relief to those who are fed up with brands preaching social purpose messages to us, but does run the risk of all the ads blurring into one big comedic celebrity soup.
This is not to say there were no moments to cherish, however. Here’s our pick of the ads that cut through for us this year:
CeraVe: Michael CeraVe; Agency: Ogilvy North America
In a year so inundated with celebs, this satirical spot starring Michael Cera, which comes with its own website, is particularly on point.
Booking.com: Tina Fey Books Whoever She Wants To Be; Agency: Zulu Alpha Kilo NY
Tina Fey headlines but a range of stars (including Glenn Close, no less) make cameos in this witty spot that highlights that you can be whoever you want to be when you’re on holiday.
Etsy: Try Gift Mode; Agency: Orchard
This spot for Etsy, which reimagines historical gifting between the US and France in hilarious fashion, is somewhat reminiscent of classic Stella Artois and Canal+ ads. There might be lots of cultural stereotypes on show here, but happily no major celebs.
Squarespace: Hello Down There; Agency: Squarespace
Martin Scorsese directs and stars in this ad for Squarespace, where aliens are forced to create a website in order to get us humans to look up from our devices and notice them.
Drumstick: Doctor on the Plane; Agency: Opinionated
Totally silly but hard not to love this spot for ice cream brand Drumstick, starring Eric André.
Google Pixel: Javier In Frame; Agency: Gut
One of the more serious spots in the game, this ad for Google Pixel was directed by blind filmmaker Adam Morse and showcases Guided Frame, the AI-powered accessibility feature for the Pixel camera that helps blind and low vision people take selfies and photos.
State Farm: Like a Good Neighbaaa; Agency: HighDive
It’s kind of odd that in 2024 a Super Bowl ad is based on laughing at Arnie’s Austrian accent, but this spot for State Farm at least pushes the gag to its limits (and a bit beyond).
T-Mobile: That T-Mobile Home Internet Feeling; Agency: Panay Films
Jason Momoa, Zach Braff and Donald Faison rework Flashdance for T-Mobile in a way that will inevitably get stuck in your head.
Kawasaki: Mullets; Agency: Goodby, Silverstein & Partners
If you’re concerned about the return of the mullet, this ad for Kawasaki will do nothing to assuage your fears.
Uber Eats: Worth Remembering; Agency: Special Group USA
Uber Eats gets a ton of A-list celebs to appear in this ad, where the jokes are built on the somewhat strained premise that in order to remember something you’ve got to forget something else.
Verizon: Can’t B Broken; Agency: Oglilvy
Taylor Swift may have been in the stands but Verizon scored a coup in signing up Beyoncé for this spot, which sees her try anything to ‘break’ the brand (including announcing a new album release).
Hellmann’s: Mayo Cat; Agency: VML US
Cat fans will rejoice in the silliness of this spot for Hellmann’s mayonnaise.
Dunkin’: The DunKings; Agency: Artists Equity
Ben and Jen return for another Dunkin’ Super Bowl spot, this time accompanied by Matt Damon, Tom Brady and some terrible singing.
DoorDash: Promo Code; Agency: Wieden+Kennedy
In a refreshing twist away from the celeb approach this year, DoorDash pledged to give away every item that aired during the Super Bowl to the first viewer who can crack the promo code.
Reese’s: Yes!; Agency: Erich & Kallman
We close with an ad that feels like Twitter in TV form, as a group of Super Bowl fans are shown reacting with horror and delight to a series of statements from a Reese’s voiceover. It’s all very silly, shouty and kind of joyous.