Oh, boy. This year. Overall, the commercials were — well, not entirely joyless, but close. None of these are going to go down in the Super Bowl ad hall of fame (like Volkswagen’s “The Force” or Wendy’s “Where’s the Beef?”) or, quite frankly, even be remembered a week from now.
If there was one connecting thread, it was that 2022 is the year the Super Bowl promoted millennials to the cherished “old enough to pander to” demographic previously held by boomers, with a halftime performance starring beloved quinquagenarians Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre and Mary J. Blige. This was also reflected in the commercials, where late 1990s/early 2000s references were abundant: Dr. Evil, “The Cable Guy,” Salt ‘n’ Pepa, Lindsay Lohan, “Celebrity Skin.” Unfortunately, those commercials elicited a half-smile at best, and none really rose to the top, with the exception of a retro Barbie pastiche and a postscript of sorts to “The Sopranos.”
Here are the five best ads of the big game — and let’s just say that we’re grading on a curve.
The most talked-about commercial this year begins with a drive through New Jersey, set to “Woke Up This Morning” by Alabama 3 — a direct reference to the opening credits sequence of HBO’s “The Sopranos.” Only this time, the driver isn’t Tony Soprano. It’s his daughter, Meadow, played by Jamie-Lynn Sigler. She’s all grown up (and, presumably, better at parallel parking).
Meadow drives her Chevrolet Silverado EV up to a charging station outside a restaurant, where she meets up with and embraces her brother, A.J. (Robert Iler). That’s about all that happens here, but the mere appearance of Meadow and A.J. Soprano inspired tons of nostalgia-driven conversation online about the post-series finale narrative implications. The ad was probably met with better reception than the actual “Sopranos” movie released last year.
Barbie did not get the memo that many consider this to be a historically terrible time to buy a home, but that’s okay: Actress Anna Kendrick is here to help her through the process of buying her Dream House. Uh oh! Barbie faces competition from Better Offer Betty, Cash Offer Carl and House Flipper Skipper (“You vultures! You’re gonna start a bidding war!” Kendrick exclaims). But because Barbie is already approved by Rocket Mortgage, she still wins — leaving the competition to bid on nearby Castle Grayskull. It perfectly channels the aesthetic of Barbie commercials circa 1992, whose target audience is probably now struggling to afford their own Dream House. As Barbie says in the commercial: “This is less than ideal.”
Not only is it refreshing to see a car commercial that actually involves people driving cars, but it is also fun when there is an obvious theme to celebrity cameos. Toyota decided to encourage viewers at home to keep up with actual Joneses: Tommy Lee, Leslie and Rashida, to be specific. The first two greet each other by their shared last name before racing through the desert to the sounds of Tom Jones’s “It’s Not Unusual.” Rashida eventually catches up.
The next Jones? Well, he’s actually a Jonas. After the three Joneses drive to a snowy part of town, narrowly avoiding a fallen tree trunk, they look to their right and see Nick Jonas pull up in his own truck. Tommy Lee glares at the singer, and Leslie asks, “Jonas?”
“Yeah, it’s keeping up with the Jonases now,” he responds. The race picks up again.
A one-minute buddy comedy is always a formula that produces Super Bowl commercial success. So we were charmed to see Paul Rudd and Seth Rogen partaking in some sensitive bro time over bags of Lay’s potato chips, which were present for all of their fondest memories: belting out Shania Twain’s “Still the One” on a road trip, getting kidnapped by a stalker, buying a house inhabited by a ghoul. “Those were good times,” Rudd says. “You ready?” Cut to Rudd officiating a wedding between Rogen and Janet, the ghoul, who levitates during the hora.
Rogen quips, “Best day of my life.”
Colin Jost and Scarlett Johansson are not exactly a couple who have won the country’s heart — give us that Bennifer cameo from the first half, instead! — but their willingness to poke fun at themselves in this Amazon Alexa ad is endearing. When the couple enters their palatial living room, they tell Alexa to turn on the game — and she replies that she’s lowering the blinds and chilling drinks, too. “It’s like she can read your mind,” says Johansson, setting off a number of uncomfortable scenarios: Alexa turning on the smart blender to drown out Jost’s inane chatter or setting a reminder “to fake your own death” to help Jost get out of seeing a cringey play starring Johansson.
What makes it good is that they’re absolutely correct: Alexa is creepy! This might be the first time we’ve seen Amazon acknowledge that, even in a tongue-in-cheek way. (Disclosure: Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post — but we’re being surveilled by our devices just like the rest of you.) “It’s probably better Alexa can’t read your mind,” Jost concludes. Uh-huh.