Super Bowl or more like Celebrity Hole: Why the ads are super stale

Warning: This article contains numerous Rihanna songs that may leave you calling in an SOS.

Super Bowl, te amo. But what’s happened to you? As your halftime shows get better – Rihanna had better deliver – your ads seem to have become, well, super stale.

If last year was Crypto Bowl, this year is Celebrity Hole. Every brand is taking shelter under the umbrella of celebrity and humour. No disputing that we’ve found love in amusing celeb ads; I’ve worked on a few myself. No denying that celebs in ads – when done right – drive impact. And there’s no doubt that the Super Bowl is historically all those things wrapped up.

But dozens sandwiched together in around 90 minutes?

It reminds me of a week in 2012 when I played Rihanna on repeat; what started as please don’t stop the music turned to disturbia when everything sounded the same. And much like that week, Super Bowl LVII has tipped the balance, moulding into one big indistinguishable celebrity ad. Of the 37 ‘big ads’ released, 28 are celebrity fronted, with more yet to come.

Originality and risk, where have you been?

Remember the bold work of previous Bowls? Tide’s 2017 ‘Bradshaw’s Stain’ hijack? Old Spice’s 2010 ‘The man you can smell like’ Twitter fuelled campaign? Snickers’ 2010 ‘You’re not you when you’re hungry’? VW’s 2011 ‘Darth Vader’? Or Reddit’s 2021 ‘Wow that actually worked!’ 5 second spot? These were distinctive. These caught the imagination and travelled beyond paid in to earned. Some of these even went on to become global campaigns.

But there are some diamonds amongst it all. Take a bow PopCorners Breaking Bad reprisal, Uber One’s Diddy Don’t Do Jingles and Doritos’ Jack Harlow career change, each having mastered the art of feeling fresh with the celeb being integral to the story – plus they’re actually funny. But there are some tough ones, with M&M’s chaotic campaign being so hard to follow it feels more S&M than M&M; maybe it’ll all make sense when the full ad is outed.

The Celebrity Hole may be more obvious because brands have love on the brain. 2023 is the era of brands partnering up with a celebrity. GM & Netflix ft. rude boy Will Farrell, Molson Coors and DraftKing, Miller Light and Coors Light, and Heineken and Ant Man ft. Paul Rudd.

Let’s not forget, the Super Bowl is the $10 million $4.60 ROI bet! When you consider a 30” spot costs circa $7 million plus an average of $3m to produce, why are they all swimming in the same direction? Where’s the innovation and originality? It’s fair to say this was written six hours before the actual Super Bowl airs, with a potential 50 more ads to come.

So it may be that there’s a few big bets yet to air. But it’s safe to say that celebs are here to stay. Hopefully next year is not a pon de replay and brands will woo us with something fresh.

David Kennedy is a Partner at WiredCo.