Big Game winners + losers: Some ads killed it, others bombed on the world’s biggest stage

Super Bowl winners and losers: Some ads killed it with humor, while others bombed on the world’s biggest stage

There was a big game played February 12. No, we’re not talking about the Super Bowl. We’re focused on a scrum with much higher stakes than football: the battle of the brands for best commercial. With a 30-second spot estimated at $7 million (not to mention astronomical production costs), the competition was fierce for the most memorable ad.

To help us separate the champs from the chumps, we enlisted the expert opinions of our Laughing Matters Council (LMC) members. The LMC brings together leaders from across the humor spectrum to provide insights, expertise and guidance on how to leverage humor in business.
In almost every ad we watched, there were two or three famous faces, from Alicia Silverstone to Sylvester Stallone. The best of these spots struck just the right note of humor and connection to help us remember them for a long time to come.

“This was the Year of Nostalgia,” said LMC member Clayton Fletcher. “Clearly pandering to customers in their 40s and 50s, brands went back to the past in a way we haven’t seen in recent memory. Or perhaps we have seen it, but as I’m in the target demographic myself, maybe I forgot.”
And without further ado, here are the winners and losers of our celeb-driven analysis.

Uber One featuring Diddy

This was far and away our council’s favorite ad, as Uber One nervously asked Diddy for a new jingle that wasn’t a jingle.
Fletcher highlighted the “big laughs from Diddy’s self-deprecating sense of humor.” He added that this “one-minute spoof of the music industry with its larger-than-life egos” works so well because the audience “has a blast remembering what a mammoth and wild business the music industry used to be.” Fletcher admitted he’d never heard of Uber One, “but I’ll never forget that song: Uber One…Uber One saves me…saves me…way more.”

LMC member Luvell Anderson, associate professor of philosophy and affiliate faculty in African American Studies and women’s & gender studies at Syracuse University, also loved the “play on Diddy’s no-nonsense persona and the silliness of the jingles.” Agreeing with Fletcher, Anderson noted the “good use of throwback artists like Montell Jordan, Donna Lewis, Kelis and Haddaway to provide something familiar to the audience.” For Anderson, it was all about tying a new brand (Uber One) with familiar artists and their songs to create a new association with the audience.

LMC member Liz Joynt Sandberg, head of the comedy arts program at DePaul University and lead designer, facilitator and director for The Second City Works, called this ad “a solid and fun idea.” She connected with the “tons of stars adapting their songs to rep Uber One. Many of the song parodies were hilarious!”

General Motors + Netflix with Will Ferrell

These two iconic brands came together for a mashup for the ages, featuring Will Ferrell piloting an electric vehicle through some of our favorite content.

Joynt Sandberg said this worked by using the perfect spokesperson to feature “just the right jokes-to-info ratio, and the comedy helped the message come through loud and clear…and funny!” Calling the commercial “a great example of humor helping us make connections between otherwise disparate ideas.” Liz added that the ad succeeded in communicating so much in 60 seconds: “EVs are good, Netflix is using them where it makes sense, and maybe you should also use an EV if it makes sense for you.”

Anderson noted that “a good parody is always easy to watch.” Doubling down on connecting something new (GM EVs) to something familiar — including the charismatic Will Ferrell — he “loved the callbacks to Squid Game, Walking Dead, Bridgerton and Stranger Things.”

Squarespace with Adam Driver

Squarespace melted our brains with this meta take on a website that makes websites. Joynt Sandberg explained the ad worked because, “the comedy comes from a central truth about the Squarespace brand that is slightly absurd — or at least a bit unique to the average consumer — and it’s executed in an absurd and heightened way.” She also thought using Adam Driver in a very authentic performance (“It’s very him!”) was a huge win. “Concept and execution are both solid; fun and funny!”

LMC member David Horning, a comedy, speaking and corporate training innovator for more than a decade, called this ad “an effective use of existentialism with a new, relevant spin on the chicken-or-egg conundrum, paired with a bit of absurdity and stunning visuals.” While the ad didn’t rely on going for traditional chuckles, it continually surprised and delighted viewers. “This ad took a risk, and it paid off,” Horning added. “You did it, Squarespace.”

Pro tip: Check out Squarespace’s “making-of” video for this ad. It might be even funnier than the commercial.

Now, do you want to know which commercials our LMC members felt badly missed the mark? Check out the list on MediaPost.