Super Bowl 2024 - The touchdowns and the fumbles

By Ruby Derrick | 15 February 2024

Thirty seconds of air time cost $US7 million at this year’s Super Bowl. 

From DoorDash to Doritos, and Uber Eats to CeraVe, the football game was the chance for brands to go all out, in front of an audience of more than 100 million. 

The commercials this year were packed with celebrities, some in lieu of having an actual idea, Australian creatives say. 

According to Matt Geersen, creative partner and Alexa Burchell, art director at Connecting Plots, the event saw some real touchdowns, and some definite fumbles it terms of its advertising. 

DoorDash encouraged viewers to 'Door Dash all the ads'. 

A clever activation that hijacks every other Super Bowl ad, believe Geersen and Burchell.

"And turns it into one for DoorDash by promising to deliver one lucky fan every product they see in every single commercial – snacks, beauty, holidays, beers, cars and tax services (to name a few)," they say. 

"It’s a unique way to show the breadth of their service, and create noise against competitor Uber Eats who enlisted celebrity heavyweights."

Another success for the creative duo was work for Doritos, with Jenna Ortega and a pair of daredevil abuelas.

Kicking off the pre-Super Bowl buzz, Doritos dropped a teaser with Ortega that took a wild twist when the actual ad hit the screens, says Geersen and Burchell.

"The spot features her two abuelas, Dina and Mita going to extreme lengths to get some Doritos. Picture supercharged mobility scooters, a dash of kung fu, wire stunts, and parkour – all in one. It’s quirky, unforgettable, and a blast to watch."

Liquid Death, a brand that sells tap water in a can with fancy packaging, used its big game to sell little, says Geersen and Burchell. 

The brand has taken a pretty unhinged approach, they say.

"Their big game ad is an ad to sell ads on the side of their packaging via an eBay store. In a sea of polished ads packed with celebrities it stands out like dog’s balls and gives them the potential to recoup the cost of their air time – because they certainly didn’t spend a lot on the production of the spot itself," says Geersen and Burchell. 

Among the ads that worked, there were some fumbles - where the money wasn't as well spent. 

For Geersen and Burchell, Miller Lite, light American lager company, missed the mark for audience participation. 

If convoluted was an ad, this would be it, says the creative pair from Connecting Plots.

"Miller aimed to sign up 1,000 people before the Super Bowl to wear a branded QR code shirt and encouraged them to go for a run outside during the ad breaks for a chance to win beer. Why anyone thought fans would willingly leave the comfort of their sofas to run the empty streets while half cut is a mystery," says Geersen and Burchell.

As well as this, Uber Eats forgot it couldn't just whack a celebrity in an ad and call it a day, they said. 

Uber Eats’ teaser with Victoria and David Beckham showed some promise and intrigue by playing off a viral moment from the Beckham Netflix documentary.

"However the final ad missed the mark with a barrage of forgetful celebrities. It’s a far cry from the local ‘Get almost almost anything’ work which, in our opinion, is much more clever and memorable," says Geersen and Burchell.

In the battle of delivery giants, they say, DoorDash takes out the championship.

Howatson+Co creative director, Scott Zuliani, says the best thing he saw this Super Bowl was a tweet saying, 'I heard Taylor Swift's boyfriend is playing at the Usher concert this weekend'.

"It pretty much summed up Super Bowl LVII and the 30-60 second celebrity cameos that played between it," says Zuliani.

"This year, we got Scorsese, Goldblum, Walken, Affleck, Damon, Brady, Beyoncé, T (Mr), Beckham, Aniston, Schwimmer,  Schwarzenegger, and $o $o $o $o many. And although I liked a few of the spots, I can't remember what brands/products most of them were selling."

Zuliani believes Dunkin' Donuts is a good example of one of the bad ones.

"It featured a dozen A-list celebrities but was missing an idea. I can't imagine how much money must have been spent on this only to be played once and then forgotten," he says.

An example of a good use of celebrity, says Zuliani, is the CeraVe commercial featuring Michael Cera.

"Get it? It was funny, memorable, and wonderfully orchestrated weeks before the game on TikTok and will continue to live beyond the Super Bowl. Never again will you be able to see a CeraVe product without picturing Michael Cera massaging Michael Cera. Before this, I didn't know CeraVe existed. So, money well spent," says Zuliani.

What could have been better, according to Heather Sheen, head of strategy at It’s Friday, was Dove's 'Keep.Her.Confident' ad.

Sheen says there’s no denying this was a very important issue for Dove to get behind and a partnership between the brand and Nike is an amazing initiative.

"Their timing is just right too given viewership of the game by young girls and their parents has skyrocketed thanks to Tay Tay," says Sheen.

However, she says, perhaps it’s because they’ve set their own brand bar so high.

"I feel like they could have made those very expensive 30 seconds work harder for them. The spot presents a problem and a nice observation, but it only starts to scratch the surface of the issue," she says.

"What it doesn’t do, is exactly what their past campaigns have done so well: creating an unignorable, emotional smack-in-the-face. Something that stops you in your tracks and forces you to reflect on your own beliefs and behaviours, and importantly, take action."

Like Zuliani, Sheen says where the money was well spent was for CeraVe: Michael CeraVe. 

"Ah Superbowl ads. So many celebrities, so many, many millions of dollars. We all know why brands are so keen to hand over the cash in exchange for their endorsement; they get attention on the big day, and now, also in the all-important teaser phase," sh says.

Marketing scientists have even proven celebrities are one of the most powerful distinctive assets a brand can utilise, great for converting that attention into memory structures, says Sheen.

"However, this is under normal conditions, not in the Superbowl celebrity soup. When more ads feature celebrity than not, these effects diminish whilst misattribution rises. Just using the biggest celebrity available for your budget in this circumstance is not the best way to get the most bang for your buck."

One of the reasons she's a big fan of CeraVe’s campaign with Michael Cera is that it’s a rare endorsement only this brand can own. It’s not just another interchangeable celebrity.

"At the end of the nearly four-ish hours of broadcasting jam packed with coverage of celebrities across the field, on stage, in the ads and amongst the crowd, there’s no way you are going to separate the two," says Sheen.

"They’re some solid memory structures ready to be activated the next time you are standing in front of a wall of moisturisers."

For Lyndon Christie, copywriter at Ogilvy Sydney, some brands in particular scored clout at this year's Super Bowl.

"This year I felt like brands really leaned into meme culture. At times it was almost as if brands were playing our social feeds back to us," he says.

His favourite moment was Paramount soundtracking its spot with Creed’s dad rock anthem ‘Higher’.

The revival of the song has only just peaked in memes (search Creed Halftime Show for a dream slice of 2001 nostalgia) so to bring the band onboard was a great example of Paramount acting at the speed of culture, says Christie.

"Was BMW’s ‘Talkin Like Walken’ spot built entirely off a social insight? Who hasn’t lost a few minutes of their day watching a drama school graduate, or a famous actor, attempt the perfect impression. It’s the kind of content that distracts our eyeballs on the train to work, so shout out to Walken for smiling back to his imitators in that gliding BMW," he says.

Christie also loved CeraVe going all in on Michael Cera. Playing into the narrative of actors attempting to become a global influ-entrepreneur was very funny, he notes, and chatter has been mumbling for years on Reddit about a CeraVe x Cera partnership.

"So stoking the fire with an army of TikTokkers and the Bobbi Altoff podcast really got social talking. A statement from CeraVe added some smoke. Now we’re all laughing at Cera and his well moisturised dolphin. Well played," says Christie.

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