Once upon a time, the Super Bowl ads were just that: adverts that aired during the intervals of the most-watched sports event in North America. They ran once, with audiences across the country waiting in anticipation for the best work the advertising industry could muster.
Today, Super Bowl ads are trailed by their own teaser adverts, with a PR campaign drawn out over several weeks in the run-up to the game.
Attracting conversation is the highest priority. But grabbing attention and headlines cannot be achieved, so it seems, by relying solely on the power of creativity. It needs the pervasive power of celebrity.
For most stars, being in an advert might have been derided as selling out. But getting paid to be in a Super Bowl ad could buy you the cultural cache your agent can only dream about. For brands, it costs $7m for 30 seconds’ airtime before you can even think about celebrity fees.
So this year’s crop of Super Bowl adverts have spent the GDP of a small nation on more celebrities than a Met Gala red carpet. But let’s take a look at the ones that really stood out.
Squarespace Super Bowl ad
The website-making website, Squarespace, has hypothesised about its capabilities with the help of multiple Adam Drivers.
We see Driver realise Squarespace could essentially create itself, causing him to replicate himself hundreds of times before being sucked into a black hole hovering eerily above a desert.
Driver’s performance is as great as you’d expect but in the teaser he’s even better, going behind the scenes of the main advert with dozens of Adam Drivers all together on set.
T-Mobile Super Bowl ad
T-Mobile is still a thing in the US and they’ve bizarrely paired John Travolta with Zach Braff and Donald Faison, the two main protagonists from sitcom Scrubs.
They rewrite Summer Nights from Grease, using the classic hit to sing about home broadband. Despite the inexplicit nature of the entire premise, it’s catchy, entertaining and leaves you longing for a remake of Scrubs with a guest appearance from Danny Zuko himself.
Popcorners Super Bowl ad
In another reprisal of classic TV roles, Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul bring their Breaking Bad characters back to life for corn crisp snack Popcorners.
It’s well written, riffing on famous Breaking Bad scenes as Jesse and Walter create the snack instead of crystal meth before selling it to the local crisp dealer.
Breaking Bad director Vince Gilligan is also behind it so fans of the show will love the authenticity of this remake.
Paramount Plus Super Bowl ad
Streaming channel Paramount Plus has marooned a plethora of stars on the mythical Paramount Mountain, including Dora The Explorer and Beavis and Butt-Head.
The real stars, though, are the Stallones. Sylvester reprises his role from Cliffhanger, climbing the mountain’s rock-hewn likeness of his face, a la Mount Rushmore.
The best performances, however, are from his daughters Sophia, Scarlett and Sistine, who play themselves with Oscar-worthy familiarity.
Finally, software company Workday has enlisted a group of ageing rockers to implore the corporate world to stop calling its employees “rock stars”.
Billy Idol, Joan Jett, Gary Clark Jr and the eternal Ozzy Osbourne show us what it takes to be a proper rock star, from trashing hotel rooms and endless touring to doing “bad things”.
It’s a great idea that exposes a workplace ick that really needs to stop, while bringing together a cast of celebrities who you might have presumed were long gone.
Steve Howell is creative partner at agency Dark Horses.