Super Bowl 2023: Nostalgia is the big winner in this year’s commercials

Super Bowl 2023: Nostalgia is the big winner in this year’s commercials

  • Finance
  • February 11, 2023
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Although a number of companies advertise their wares during Super Bowl LVII, a common theme runs through many of the spots: nostalgia.

Many of this year’s Super Bowl commercials play it safe, picking up cultural references from the 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s. For example, tennis champion Serena Williams stars in a Michelob Ultra commercial adapted from the classic comedy Caddyshack, while John Travolta, who starred in Grease more than 40 years ago, starred in Summer Nights, the Musical hit, sings 5G home internet service from T-Mobile.

“Super Bowl ads are always reflective of the country to some degree,” said Tim Calkins, a marketing professor at Northwestern University. “Companies are sticking to light-hearted advertising given all the challenges the country is facing because it’s a safe approach.”

That means edgier ads like Apple’s acclaimed 1984 commercial for its MacIntosh computer are out and humor is in.

“Consumers want a good laugh and feel good,” says Rich Weinstein, professor at the VCU Brandcenter. “It’s less about living in the problems the world is facing today and more about getting nostalgic and having fun.”

Other Super Bowl ads this year that look back fondly on the past: Alicia Silverstone, who reprises her role from the 1995 film Clueless in an ad for Rakuten; Intuit TurboTax on the 1982 song “Safety Dance” by Men Without Hats; and actor Adam Driver, who stars in a Squarespace commercial reminiscent of The Matrix.

Driver told CBS MoneyWatch he has virtually no experience building websites, which is the main service Squarespace offers. Still, the actor said he agreed to do the spot because he’s always been a fan of Squarespace’s “weird and funny” commercials.

“I never think about the people in their living rooms watching it until someone reminds me it’s the endgame,” he said.

Time for a national “group hug”?

The Super Bowl is advertising’s biggest stage, with companies struggling to get their products in front of millions of people. Last year, more than 208 million people watched the big game, according to NFL data. This year, a 30-second ad costs about $7 million. But the cost can more than double when you factor in the price of producing the spot and running the associated social media campaigns.

Aside from the sheer number of viewers, creating a Super Bowl ad is difficult in part because of the diversity of the audience. For example, “You have to come up with a spot that resonates with both younger and older people,” Calkins said.

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And for Super Bowl LVII, advertisers are likely to turn to older, well-known celebrities because of their broad appeal. Meanwhile, the US is still recovering from the pandemic, while inflation and the raging war in Ukraine are also overshadowing the current cultural moment.

“This year, people have gotten over it and advertisers are responding really well,” said Kelly O’Keefe, CEO of Brand Federation. “There’s traditional brands, traditional humor, and it’s going to feel like a big ol’ group hug.”

Crypto is losing value, Coinbase, and FTX Trading ran some of the most talked-about commercials during last year’s Super Bowl, but none of these companies will air an ad this year. Four crypto companies were gearing up for Super Bowl promotions but decided to pull out late last year, a Fox Sports executive vice president said.

The crypto industry is mired in its version of a bear market and is still suffering from the sudden collapse of FTX. Some of the biggest names in crypto – including Binance, Coinbase and Kraken – have confirmed to CBS MoneyWatch that they are no longer around.

“A 30-second ad at this stage in our industry’s infancy is at best not a wise use of resources and at worst risks attracting new users before they fully understand the opportunities and threats,” said Patrick Hilmann, Chief Strategy Officer by Binance. “There is a way to responsibly promote crypto, but the expectations of a Super Bowl ad are not conducive to that type of message.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Christopher J Brooks

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