Crypto ads are out. Nostalgia is in.
By Lora Kelley
Attention-grabbing ads for cryptocurrency trading platforms were ubiquitous during last year’s Super Bowl. Larry David reacted crankily to inventions in various old-timey outfits in an ad for FTX. A group of people swarmed like bees through the air in an ad for eToro. And a QR code bobbed around the screen for Coinbase.
At this year’s Big Game? Crypto ads are nowhere to be found.
In the months since the last Super Bowl, the crypto industry has fallen on hard times — especially FTX, a cryptocurrency exchange that declared bankruptcy in November. Its founder, Sam Bankman-Fried, was arrested in December on charges that he used billions of dollars of FTX customer deposits to finance political contributions, lavish real estate purchases and trading operations at his hedge fund. (He has pleaded not guilty to charges that he engaged in widespread fraud.)
In 2022, crypto companies spent a combined $39 million buying Super Bowl spots, according to an analysis from Kantar, a data and consulting firm. Alfredo Troncoso, an analyst for Kantar, said that “financial services had a very soft performance in 2022,” largely because crypto ads did not achieve a strong return on investment.
One of the few nods to the crypto industry in Sunday’s game was from Limit Break, a gaming company, which ran an ad saying that the company was giving away digital tokens.
Other advertisers have since taken their spots. Mark Evans, executive vice president of ad sales for Fox Sports, which broadcast the Super Bowl, said that “multiple units were in a category that had a spectacular explosion earlier in the year — the crypto category.” Their disappearance this year, he added, “created a little more inventory.”
— Between the chip ads, beer stunts and celebrity cameos, two ads with a different kind of message appeared during the Super Bowl: spots for the “He Gets Us” campaign promoting Jesus Christ.
The 30- and 60-second spots were part of a multimillion-dollar campaign from the nonprofit Servant Foundation, which also does business as an organization called the Signatry. The 30-second ad featured images and videos of children playing and embracing. The longer one showed a series of photographs of people arguing and confronting other people. At the end of the ad, the message “Jesus loved the people we hate” appeared on screen.
— The future is uncertain. The present is complex. But the past? That’s pretty safe terrain for Super Bowl advertisers.
This year — yet again — advertisers have reached into the cultural vaults of decades past. Several spots in Sunday’s game featured stars from, and references to, hits from the 1980s and 1990s.
“It’s just comfortable,” said Brad Adgate, a veteran media analyst. “You’re there to relax and enjoy the game and watch the ads. This type of strategy works.”
A Super Bowl ad for Michelob Ultra included a star-studded reference to “Caddyshack,” the 1980 comedy about mischief at a country club. In the spot, Brian Cox of the TV show “Succession” tees off against tennis legend Serena Williams. Professional athletes Nneka Ogwumike, Jimmy Butler, Alex Morgan, Canelo Álvarez and Rickie Fowler, along with sports commentator Tony Romo, watch and taunt the competitors.
In another plaid-forward throwback, Alicia Silverstone, who starred in the role of Cher Horowitz in the 1995 romantic comedy “Clueless,” wears her character’s iconic yellow-suit look for Rakuten, a Japanese e-commerce giant.
An ad for workplace-software company Workday, a newcomer this year, featured old-school rockers such as Joan Jett and Ozzy Osbourne (as well as contemporary artist Gary Clark Jr.). Jokes about corporate “rock stars” ensued.
“People have a really emotional connection to the music they listen to growing up,” said Pete Schlampp, the brand’s chief marketing and strategy officer. Workday’s buyers are “commonly from a more senior generation,” he said, adding that the ad aims to appeal to all ages.
“I tested early versions of this ad on my 15-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son,” Schlampp said. “They were laughing, and they knew who these people were.”
— Not all the major advertising action was on television. Much of it was on TikTok.
Brands have invested heavily on TikTok in promotions and partnerships surrounding the game.
State Farm, which did not run a television ad, did a TikTok promotion. The insurance company posted a video several days before the game inviting people to enter a contest. The winner will appear in a TikTok video with megapopular creator Khaby Lame.
Even brands that aired TV commercials during the game tried to engage audiences on TikTok to extend their ads’ reach. “If you’re going to invest that much money in a 30-second spot, you need to surround that with something else to make that investment worth it,” said Kelsey Chickering, an analyst at Forrester.
Twitter had been the primary second screen for many years, she said. People watching the game on TV were also keeping an eye on their Twitter feeds for real-time conversations, and advertisers poured money into ads on the service. But this year, she said, brands have turned to TikTok. “Consumers haven’t abandoned Twitter, but advertisers will prioritize TikTok,” she added.
Booking.com offered audiences a chance to win thousands of dollars in travel credits if they commented on the company’s TikTok and Instagram posts with mention of its “Somewhere, Anywhere” campaign. Pringles asked viewers to use the hashtag #StuckInPringles on TikTok to share stories of their hands getting stuck in Pringles tubes.
And last month, Doritos invited TikTok users to enter a contest to appear in its Super Bowl ad. More than 1 million videos were submitted in three days, a spokesperson for the brand said.
The winner, Angie Yadao-Payad, of the #DoritosTriangleTryout challenge was seen dancing about 41 seconds into the ad, which also featured rappers Missy Elliott and Jack Harlow.