NEW YORK — Advertisers made a big bet that viewers would turn to the Super Bowl in search of a comforting escape, and delivered a series of ads that relied on familiar celebrity faces, light humor and plenty of cuddly dogs.

It was not a year for sharp humor and experiments. After a global pandemic, economic uncertainty looming ahead, and the ongoing war in Ukraine, advertisers just wanted to make people feel good.

And it worked.

“This year’s ad was very light and focused on being fun and making the viewer feel good,” said Charles Taylor, a marketing professor at Villanova University. “Most followed the distinct formula of pairing A-list celebrities with humor, while some used nostalgia and/or music to good effect.”

Super Bowl every year, advertisers try to reach more than 100 million people who tune in to the broadcast. It’s an expensive proposition: an ad can cost up to $7 million per 30 seconds.

It was a year of change for the Super Bowl, as other alcohol ads were allowed to air after Anheuser-Bush backed out of its exclusive deal, and after a decade, the halftime show’s sponsor switched from Pepsi to Apple Music.


Many announcements were released earlier, but viewers were in for a surprise. In its first Super Bowl ad, Dunkin’ Donuts tapped a superfan Ben Affleck and wife Jennifer Lopez.

In the ad, Affleck, with a Boston accent, drives a drive-through at a Dunkin’ Donuts in Medford, Massachusetts, and shocks customers. Lopez walks through the line of cars and asks what he’s doing. “You embarrass me in front of my friends,” he says. “Get me the frosting,” she demands. Affleck has long been associated with the brand and is often spotted with Dunkin’ Donuts drinks in paparazzi photos. He also filmed an ad.

GM and Netflix tapped Will Ferrell to promote their deal to feature more electric cars on Netflix shows. Bud Light commercials featured Miles Teller, his wife Kelly, and their dog Bugsy dancing to the music. Melissa McCarthy sings a jingle for and Adam Driver creates multiples of himself for Squarespace. Pepsi Zero Sugar hired Ben Stiller and Steve Martin. Avocados From Mexico enlists Anna Ferriss for one of the few risque ads this year, featuring a gift where everyone is naked – including the Statue of Liberty. Tennis star Serena Williams has starred in two commercials: one for Michelob Ultra and one for Remy Martin. T-Mobile has tapped Bradley Cooper and his mom to star in a gag-filled ad.

One unusual star: A group of donors bought two ads to feature Jesus in a campaign called “He Gets Us.”

And U2 ran an ad for their Las Vegas residency that featured unidentified balloons hovering over cities. One of the balls has a child saying “Achtung!”. The U2s show opens at a venue called the MSG Sphere, so the spheres make sense. But on the same day that the US announced it had shot down a fourth unidentified flying object, images of balloons hovering over cities struck a harsh note.


Many marketers have tried to capitalize on popular television and motion pictures. This year, online retailer Rakuten hired Alicia Silverstone and Eliza Donovan to recreate a scene from the 90s romance comic Clueless. Popcorners, the snack brand from Frito-Lay, has brought back “Breaking Bad,” which first aired in 2008 and starred Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul.

Other advertisers are trying to capitalize on beloved content from yesteryear: A T-Mobile ad featured John Travolta singing T-Mobile’s Internet home version of “Summer Nights” from “Grease” with “Scrubs” stars Donald Faison and Zach Braff. Michelob Ultra recalled “Caddyshack” by advertising it at Bushwood Country Club, which appears in the film.


Those who did not use celebrities preferred humor. Kia featured a father on an epic mission to retrieve his child’s forgotten binky. And E(asterisk)Trade has brought back its famous talking children: this time they’re attending a wedding. Some of the ads were unconventional: Tubi’s ad featured giant blue rabbits throwing people down holes to demonstrate the idea that Tubi helps people “find rabbit holes you didn’t know you were looking for.”

Ram’s ad was a little risque and poked fun at erectile dysfunction ads by having couples talk about “premature electrification.” Villanova’s Taylor said that approach could work.

“Given the turn the Super Bowl has taken away from sexual appeal or humor over the last decade, this will make the ad stand out and create buzz,” Taylor said. “Although they risk offending some consumers, I think the ads will be well remembered and mostly well received.”


It’s not the Super Bowl without cute animals — especially dogs.

Jeep has stuffed a herd of animals, including meerkats, a bee, a bear, a goat and more, into its ad, which shows the animals dancing to the tune of the Jeep 4xe. A dog food subscription service called Farmer’s Dog featured a touching story about a girl growing old with her dog.

Other ads feature dogs alongside celebrities: a Skechers ad features Snoop Dogg shaving a poodle; Pringles shows Meghan Trainor cuddling with her dog, while Pepsi Zero Sugar features Steve Martin as a vet operating on a dog. An Amazon ad shows a family purchasing a companion puppy for their senior dog.


Advertisers sometimes do stunts to get attention. The biggest this year came from FanDuel, which brought in former NFL player Rob Gronkousi to try to score a live field goal during the broadcast.

If successful, customers who bet at least $5 on the Super Bowl should have received a share of $10 million in free bets. But the problem with stunts is that they are risky. FanDuel caused confusion with its ad that appeared to show Gronkowski throwing a punch. But FanDuel said it missed the mark, but announced that bettors would still get a share of the $10 million in free bets.

More successfully, the Peacock ad at the end of the game tried to do the trick by acknowledging the other ads. The concept of the show “Poker Face” is that Charlie, played by Natasha Lyonne, can tell when someone is lying. The ad shows Lyon watching the game with a companion in a bar. She tells him that M&M’s characters “never left” and the kid in the Google Pixel ad is actually 19 – both referring to an ad shown earlier in the game. Peacock says it created the ad in partnership with Google and M&Mrs.

Copyright © 2023, The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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