The five Super Bowl ads worth their salt

From the Duolingo BBL to Sir Anthony Hopkins.

12 February 2024

It’s February which means we finally get to see how brands have been prepping for the biggest ad opp of the year: the Super Bowl. As of 2023, a 30-second slot at the Super Bowl was going for £7 million. But most brands clearly see pay-off, case in point is Temu, who purchased not one or two, but three Super Bowl slots.

Creatively, there were some highs and lows. Some modes of storytelling are getting a little old. For example, Cerave worked with Michael Cera to spoof high-end skincare ads, but the perfume ad-gag is something we’ve seen in every form by now. Another recurring visual theme is nostalgic-tinged archival footage, used to advertise everything from sugar-free soda to Volkswagen.

At the top of the pack, there were five great adverts that told original stories with tight construction and some flare. Honourable mentions include an oddly dystopian look at how we consume culture for Pluto TV and Ryan Rynold’s Wrexham AFC spot with Sir Anthony Hopkins.

Gut: Google Pixel SB, Javier in Frame

Gut: Google Pixel SB, Javier in Frame

To advertise the capabilities of Google AI for people with blindness or low vision, Gut and Smuggler tell the story of Javier, a blind man who uses Google Pixel SB to take pictures of his everyday life.

It was directed by Johnny Foreigner’s Adam Morse, who is also blind and has said he aimed to “translate the blind experience” through film, using Petroleum jelly on the lens to give the crew a jump off point. It does what any good ad should – show us the benefits of a product with a story worth watching.

Duolingo, No buts

Duolingo, No buts

The Duolingo bird gets a big old butt in the language app’s first ever Super bowl ad. This five-second spot aired at the same time as Duolingo sent out a blanket push notification to users which said: “Not buts, do a lesson now!”.

It’s very clever and owes a lot to Reddit’s famous five-second Super Bowl ad, which encouraged viewers to pause the advert (naturally extending its airtime without having to pay extra). This direction resonated with Duoligo’s CMO, who has since talked about how big budgets can flatten creative ideas.

Interestingly, for such a concise creative strategy, this one was developed in-house.

Goodby, Silverstein & Partners: BMW

Goodby, Silverstein & Partners: BMW

People try to do Walken impressions for BMW (the tagline being there is only one Walken, and only one BMW). Hungry Man’s Bryan Buckley gives us a nicely deadpan take on one of Hollywood’s biggest commodities: Walken’s voice.

It’s a close call between this and Anthony Hopkins for the best cameo, but Walken just pinches it.

72andSunny: NFL, Born to Play

72andSunny: NFL, Born to Play

A young football fan who dreams of playing in the NFL has an imaginary run-in with players including Saquon Barkley, Justin Jefferson, Cameron Jordan and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah. We see his dream come to life as we move from a crowded market in Accra onto the pitch.

A heartfelt narrative builds across the two-minute runtime and its all shot beautifully by Malik Hassan Sayeed, with Andrew Dosunmu directing.

Squarespace: Hello Down There

Squarespace: Hello Down There

Martin Scorsese throws his hat into the ring with this sci-fi spot for Squarespace. Aliens invade earth but humans are too focused on their phones to notice, until our extraterrestrial friends make a website using Squarespace.

It’s not laugh out loud funny – the cuteness of the aliens is a little bit overbearing – but it looks fantastic and there’s a chef’s kiss moment towards the end when Scorsese looks up from a tablet to deliver a nice one-liner.

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Squarespace / Martin Scorsese: Hello Down There (Copyright © Squarespace, 2024)

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About the Author

Liz Gorny

Liz (she/they) joined It’s Nice That as news writer in December 2021. In January 2023, they became associate editor, predominantly working on partnership projects and contributing long-form pieces to It’s Nice That. Contact them about potential partnerships or story leads.

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