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Taking our sweet time with this year’s Super Bowl ads

March 4, 2024

Another big game is in the books, and we’ve seen plenty of day-after assessments of the ads interspersed throughout on-field action (and suite shots of Taylor Swift).

But how many of these analysts took THREE WHOLE WEEKS to let these ads re-air, worm their way into the public consciousness, and age in a way that could elicit more well-rounded critique?

We here at The Martin Group decided that, this year, we’d take our time (see: procrastinate) and, for our agency’s most complete analysis, eschew the typical hot-take breakdown. Instead, I tabbed the expertise of Creative Director Frank Conjerti, made him drive through a snowstorm to Spot Coffee in North Buffalo, and settled in for a casual assignment of awards for this year’s cavalcade of hilarious and heartwarming ads.   

Against the backdrop of one of the Queen City’s favorite caffeine purveyors—and over a small coffee and whatever fancy drink Frank ordered—here’s what we came up with.

Best Retread of an Old Campaign – E-Trade

Babies talking finance is always hilarious. The ad minds working with E-Trade/Morgan Stanley know this, so they dusted off this concept which first debuted in 2008, inserted the modern competitive craze of pickleball (aka whiffle tennis), and delivered a 30-second spot that was both nostalgic and new.

Frank says: “It was well-written and played off the popularity of pickleball—but most importantly, babies are funny. It’s such a simple joke, but one that still works so well.”

Worst Retread of an Old Campaign – Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. for President

Borrowing campaign concepts from 15 years ago for a crowd of growing millennials? Sure. Reworking a campaign commercial and jingle from nearly 65 years ago that ignores this sought-after demo, all while alienating your famous family to connect with a narrow slice of the American voters? Wasteful—and not that creative. 

Frank says: “[The concept was] just a very old reference for a wide-ranging demo. If I didn’t watch Mad Men, then I wouldn’t have recognized it at all.”

Best Mistreatment of Cartoon Characters – Paramount +

This year’s ads were certainly not bereft of live-action celebrities. But football-shaped cartoon characters intermingling with starship captains and leggy cops, all while backed by the faux-inspirational bombast of Scott Stapp? Paramount+ went the extra mile to show off their streaming wares—and lodge Creed’s “Higher” in ears across the globe.

Frank says: “Hilarious and kept my attention, all while highlighting characters from content that I didn’t know they had—like Hey, Arnold and Reno 911.”

Best Use of Celebrity Surname – CeraVe and Michael Cera

Many of the most effective ad ideas aren’t very complicated. Sometimes, they’re right in the product name—as long as that name is the same as a popular actor’s surname. CeraVe skin cream saw this opportunity via the Arrested Development and Superbad star, and with Cera at the helm, carried it through for hilarious results

Frank says: “It was a one-note concept, but the way they structured it—how they had him so confident in the idea, and how he seemed so in on the gag—made it work.”

Best Use of a Rocky Alum – Skechers

In one corner was Carl Weathers, the Balboa foe-turned-friend from the film series’ first four installments, joining with former NFL tight end Rob Gronkowski for FanDuel. In the other, Rocky III’s Clubber Lange, Mr. T, sliding into a pair of Skechers. All due respect to the recently deceased Weathers, but merging the mohawked T with the shoe brand’s concept fit perfectly.  

Frank says: “I wish they would’ve spent more time setting it up, but it was a clever way to address the perceived misspelling of their name—and sell plenty of slip-ons in the process.”

Best Reunion for the Under-40 Set – Mountain Dew

To push their turbo-charged soda to the most cherished ad demo, Mountain Dew called on one of the most beloved comedies of the late-aughts (Parks and Recreation) and its two most delightfully cantankerous character actors, Aubrey Plaza and Nick Offerman. The result: Solid reunion—and plenty of dry sarcasm. 

Frank says: “It was funny and well-executed. Both picked up their popular, deadpan characters and played them against the message [of “having a blast”] perfectly.”

Best Reunion for the Over-40 Set – State Farm

Could State Farm have produced a series of ads around guest pitchman’s Arnold Schwarzenegger’s inability to pronounce the word “neighbor”? Sure. Most of 1990’s Kindergarten Cop was built on this gag. But instead, the insurance giant turned Arnold’s accent into an opportunity for an onscreen reunion no one knew they needed—much to the delight of ‘80s film fans who did.

Frank says: “[The Twins reunion] made that spot. Plus, as a rule, Danny DeVito is awesome in anything.”

Best Flip of Stereotype to Strength – Kawasaki

Close your eyes and envision a gang of dudes on all-terrain vehicles (ATV). What do you see—and more importantly, does this vision accurately depict reality? Maybe, maybe not. But this year, the ad minds behind the Kawasaki brand decided to lean into the hirsute generalizations of their clientele, connect it to their product, and have plenty of fun while doing it.    

Frank says: “It was lighthearted enough to not make fun of their target audience, all while bringing that same audience in on the joke.”

Best Brand-for-Brand Exchange – Verizon and Beyoncé

One needed to communicate the strength of its 5G network. The other needed to remind those outside the Beyhive of her prominence—and tease an unexpected country twist to her ever-evolving brand. Both got what they wanted, all within an ad that sent people to their phones to decipher a global icon’s next move.

Frank says: “It worked as a nice bit of codependency. Each brand was able to help each other’s cause, but within the construct that was entertaining and equally beneficial to both.”

Best Break from Celebs and Stupidity – Dove

This year’s majority of in-game ads employed a formula comprised of comedy + celebrities = success. Most brands veered away from heavy material, but that may be because emotionally connecting with viewers is no easy task. Dove just makes it look that way, with imagery and messaging that’s consistently impactful amid the jokes and star cameos of its ad contemporaries.

Frank says: “So few ads were serious because it’s so hard to walk that line between poignancy and preachy. Dove does it well, highlighting universal themes we can all get behind.”

Best Use of Suits – Elf

How is a cancelled cable comedy (off the air since 2019) now so popular that its cast members were featured in not one, but two Super Bowl ads? Ask a Meghan Markle fan. But even without her involvement, Suits cast members Gina Torres, Sarah Rafferty, and Rick Hoffman (Elf) joined Patrick J. Adams and Gabriel Macht (T-Mobile) to rep the re-run fave, all while hawking make-up and cell service. 

Frank says: “I don’t understand the popularity of Suits, but guess I’m in the minority. Its stars resonate with viewers, so tapping them for these two spots was a smart move.”     

Want to learn more about The Martin Group’s diverse array of work in the ad world? Click here.

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