Verdicts on Super Bowl LVIII Ads: Too many celebrities; too little to celebrate

By Rob Duboff

This year’s slate was unique, with the most celebrities ever, replete with directions to websites to explain or show more than the ads themselves.

As my reference point, I like to go to CMOs since they are the people who best understand the pressures on the advertisers and the balancing act of getting approval to spend $7 million or more just for 30 seconds of time on the most watched TV event of the year (it’s amazing to think that each year more than 90 of the 100 top-rated US TV shows are football).  A CMO must get the CEO (if not others) to approve the ad, get a creative team to develop the commercial, get the right people – celebrity or actor – to participate and/or direct (Scorsese? For a web site maker?) and somehow produce an end product that not only gets attention but also attracts the right consumers.

To assess who did it best, I asked three former CMOs: Alexandra Morehouse (Banner Health, Kaiser and AAA), Peter Horst (CapitalOne and The Hershey Company); and Tony Gallo (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and a Partner of mine for years).

The overall finding of this group of experts is a pretty poor collective grade.  “Cheesy and not compelling,” and “very forgettable,” to which I’d add, “designed to attract social media buzz, but not sales.”

Celebrities with authentic brand connections create impact.

Many analyses of past Super Bowl ads have shown that ads with celebrities produce less effective ads than average.  And, in general, ads that say something connected to the brand work better, particularly if it is something new.

That said, our experts did point to a few of ads they felt positive about. In each case, a key celebrity (or four!) helps increase memorability, but importantly they also have some connection to the brand and/or the primary message about the products.

Dunkin’: The DunKings

(notably, none of the experts noted above reside in Boston)

NFL: Born to Play 

BMW: Talkin Like Walken

The misses were many. and TEMU, each with multiple spots, did not seem to step up to the opportunity.

It was a memorable game, but these experienced marketers feel these ads, as a whole, did not live up to the moment.  Or, as one of our experts said when referring to several of the ads, “I mean, talk about retreading old tires.”

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