As the Tampa Bay Buccaneers take on the Kansas City Chiefs during Super Bowl 55 in Tampa Bay, Florida, a different kind of action is taking place off the field.

After a year of pandemic fear and isolation and a tumultuous election, brands are waging battle during the game’s commercial breaks. Many are sticking with nostalgia and light humor to entertain and connect to the 100 million viewers expected to tune in to the CBS broadcast On Sunday.

Cadillac updated the classic 1990 film “Edward Scissorhands,” with Timothée Chalamet as the title character’s son enjoying the Cadillac Lyriq’s hands-free “Super Cruise” Technology. M&M’s enlisted Dan Levy to show how a bag of M&M’s given as an apology can help people come together. And Will Ferrell teamed with GM – and Awkwafina and Kenan Thompson – on a madcap cross country dash to promote electric vehicles.

With so many light spots, advertisers that try a different approach risk polarizing the audience – but are more likely to stand out. Jeep will air a two-minute ad in the second half of the game starring Bruce Springsteen urging people to find common ground.

“There’s so much going on in this country, advertisers want to be a little more cautious and a little more safe around what they put out,” said Vann Graves, director of the Brandcenter at Virginia Commonwealth University. “The Super Bowl is a respite in many ways of what’s been going on.”

Many advertisers combined celebrities with humor. Rocket Mortgage tapped comedian Tracy Morgan to show a family why being “pretty sure” doesn’t cut it in situations like eating questionable mushrooms, skydiving — and taking out a mortgage. State Farm showed Paul Rudd and Drake as commercial set stand-ins. And Hellmann’s depicted comedian Amy Schumer as the “Fairy God Mayo” helping a hapless man figure out what to do with leftovers.

There was some weirdness, too. Oat milk company Oatly ran a surprise ad that showed its CEO singing with a keyboard in a field of Oats that its product is like milk but not milk. The ad sowed confusion – and buzz – online.

“While unusual, the Oatly ad really stood out as a result of being offbeat and a bit odd,” said Charles Taylor, marketing professor at Villanova University. “It will do a good job of building brand awareness for this plant-based milk.”


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