Super Bowl 2024: Funny, but seriously expensive

Advertisers shell out as much as $7 million for 30 seconds of attention to keep a highly engaged audience smiling.

кем Mark Tungate , Adforum

 

As any screenwriter or stand-up will tell you, being funny is hard. Yet many of the best Super Bowl ads this year were in a comic vein. While the event has always been a showcase for the chirpier side of advertising (as opposed to somber purpose-driven campaigns), it seemed there was a determination to shrug off the dark clouds that swirl around the rest of the media.

The Las Vegas location, as well, cried out for glitz and fame. The New York Times recalled that the late “gonzo” journalist Hunter S. Thompson had written two articles headlined “Fear and Loathing”: one about Vegas, and another about the Super Bowl. Here was a perfect fusion of the two. Historian Douglas Brinkley commented: “The Super Bowl is a TV commercial extravaganza, a retail mall set up in the parking lots where the game is just one component.”

For advertising professionals, it’s perhaps heartening to note that – amid the innovative AI projects and activations that win awards these days – agencies are still more than capable of making decent TV commercials.

Those films remain important to viewers: according to WARC’s pre-game research, a whopping 73% of them intended to watch the commercials.

There were other reasons for tuning in too: Usher’s half-time show was put into the shade by Chiefs star Travis Kelce’s mega-coupledom with Taylor Swift, which had generated millions of dollars’ worth of media exposure for the NFL well before the game. With the event set to be the most watched in Super Bowl history, it probably justified the $7 million CBS was charging for a 30 second spot, according to Reuters and other sources.

Picking the best is a somewhat subjective task. There’s a Humor category for the first time at Cannes this year, so maybe some of these will be contenders. 

There was a faint note of absurdity about many of the ads. Here’s a typical example, which is both a dig at the French and perhaps an insight into how Americans see Europe.

 

 

Kawasaki evokes the (terrifying?) return of an iconic haircut in one of the Big Game’s most entertaining spots, which actually makes you want to try out the vehicle. 

 

 

The Super Bowl has always loved celebrities, and here they were omnipresent. You may have thought you’d escaped any more references to AI in this round-up, but no! Beyoncé mentions the tech in her blockbuster ad for Verizon.

 

 

Skincare brand CeraVe’s collaboration with Michael Cera (via Ogilvy) was no doubt the smartest use of a celebrity, teasing in advance the suggestion that he’d actually created the brand, then debunking the idea on the day. Ad critics agree that CeraVe basically won this year’s Bowl.

 

 

Some of the teaser ads were almost as good as the final cuts. This one for Uber Eats, featuring the Beckhams, replays a scene from the recent documentary about the star couple.

 

 

Here’s the full celebrity-packed ad, which, as you surely know by now, reunites Ross and Rachel from Friends.

 

 

A typical Super Bowl ad features an actor satirising themselves, and one fellow always seems willing to oblige, this time for State Farm. What was it he said again? 

 

 

There weren’t just actors and sports stars – there was also a celebrity director, in the form of Martin Scorsese. It’s his first Super Bowl spot and, unsurprisingly, a visual treat.

 

 

When brands weren’t trying to hit the funny bone, they went for emotional punch. This is one of the more heartwarming spots of the Big Game. And in its own way, a classic of Super Bowl advertising.

 

 

Can’t get enough Super Bowl ads? Check out our line-up here.