Smith Brain Trust / February 15, 2022

Super Bowl Ads: Celebrities, Cars and Crypto

Super Bowl Ads: Celebrities, Cars and Crypto

If a single theme emerged from the deluge of Super Bowl commercials for cryptocurrency, electric vehicles and online booking agencies, it was one that steered viewers away from the worries of the last two years.

“If we look at the Super Bowl as a reflection of what we would like to be right now … We’re at, the pandemic’s over. We want to have fun,” said Amna Kirmani, the Ralph J. Tyser Professor of marketing in UMD’s Robert H. Smith School of Business.

Last year’s slate of commercials tended toward the serious and inspirational, but this year’s snapped back to silly gags and nostalgia-tinged spots that sought to appeal to young and old through celebrity sightings (Zendaya and Doja Cat vs. Arnold Schwarzenegger and William Shatner) and throwback songs.

Kirmani talked with Maryland Today along with Henry C. Boyd and Judy Frels, both clinical professors of marketing, to break down the winners, losers and head-scratchers of this year’s Super Bowl commercials.


Chevrolet, "New Generation"

From the theme song’s thumping opening bars and the scenes of New Jersey flying past, many viewers knew instantly that they were in “Sopranos” territory. Soon, the camera reveals that it’s mobster Tony Soprano’s daughter, Meadow (Jamie-Lynn Sigler), driving the vehicle (an all-electric Chevy Silverado EV), then neatly parallel parking it in a reference to the show’s famously ambiguous finale, and finally embracing her TV brother, A.J. (Robert Iler).

Frels: “I had this phenomenal reaction to the Silverado ad with Meadow Soprano in it. I mean, I’ve watched that ad five times this morning. I love that ad. I’m from Texas. I want to own a truck, I’ve always wanted to have a truck. I would’ve never considered a GM truck until now.”

Boyd: “That just caught you off-guard. You hear the song lock in and then, ‘Okay, I gotta know what’s going on. Who’s in that car? Where are they going?’ And then you’re like, ‘Oh, it’s Meadow.’ That’s great. That’s the reaction you want.”

Amazon, “Mind Reader”

In a compilation of smaller spots that aired during the Olympics, real-life married couple Scarlett Johansson and Colin Jost imagine what life might be like if Amazon’s Alexa could read their every thought—for better or for worse. Scarlett needs mouthwash in the morning. Colin left the oysters a group of dinner guests is about to enjoy in the car for five hours. Maybe some things are better left unsaid.

Boyd: “Anyone who’s been married understands: yeah, you will have those thoughts, and if Alexa knew, we’d be in a whole lot of trouble. I thought it was brilliant, in terms of the line execution. Very funny stuff.”

Loser (Kinda)

Frito Lay, "Push It"

In this commercial, a sloth, a deer, a bear, a fox and an assortment of other animals find their rhythm and break into Salt-N-Pepa’s 1980s hit, “Push It,” after tasting Flamin’ Hot Cheetos and Flamin’ Hot Cool Ranch Doritos. Musicians Charlie Puth and Megan Thee Stallion lent their voices to the spot.

Frels: “I couldn’t have told you those were their voices, and they’re not even singing their own music.”

Boyd: “In some sense, it missed the mark because you sort of had a sense of what was coming. You could anticipate it.”

Kirmani: “I had my college-age and just-graduated-from-college kids in different parts of the country, watching the Super Bowl with their friends. One was a male group and one was a female group, and they both loved that ad. The women said, ‘Oh, cute animals,’ and the guys said, ‘Oh, that was funny.’”


Coinbase, "Less Talk, More Bitcoin"

For 60 seconds—at a cost of roughly $14 million—a QR code bounced around television screens, silently inviting viewers to scan for (it turned out) $15 in free Bitcoin in exchange for signing up. It worked: So many viewers scanned the code that Coinbase’s website crashed.

Kirmani: “I was looking at it saying, ‘What a waste of 60 seconds, this ad is never going to be over. What, Coinbase?’ I had a very negative reaction to it. My kids? ‘Wow, let’s take that QR code, let’s go to that (site). That’s a different generation.”

Boyd: “The notion of being interactive with an ad, we’re older, we don’t get that.”

Frels: “I thought it was quite clever. The odd thing was, none of the four of us had our phones on us, so we couldn’t even scan it.”

Peyton Manning

Caesars Sportsbook, "Sit Down Dinner"

Michelob Ultra, "Superior Bowl"

From a “Big Lebowski”-themed Michelob Ultra spot to a star-studded Caesars Sportsbook ad, likeable retired NFL legend Peyton Manning turned up all over the Super Bowl, to mixed effect.

Kirmani: “If I were advising Peyton Manning, I would say, ‘Don’t do so many commercials.’ He was in so many that you lose the brand.”

–This article originally appeared in Maryland Today.

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