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Super Bowl ads add to disappointment, local exec says

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Super Bowl ads Dunkin' Ben Affleck

The Dunkin’ ad featuring actor Ben Affleck was among the highlights of the Super Bowl, according to AB&C Chief Creative Officer Steve Merino. | PHOTO COURTESY OF DUNKIN

WILMINGTON – The greater Philadelphia region woke up Monday morning with the lingering disappointment of the hometown Philadelphia Eagles losing Super Bowl LVII to the Kansas City Chiefs, and the lackluster crop of advertisements during the high-profile game didn’t help, according to one local advertising director.

Steve Merino, the award-winning chief creative officer of Wilmington-based ad firm Aloysius Butler & Clark (AB&C), said this year’s spots were “pretty mediocre.”


“I think the overall trend is that the Super Bowl has now been overly celebritized,” he said, noting that while nearly every commercial featured at least one celebrity, some like Michelob Ultra’s “Caddyshack” spot had so many that they didn’t even stand out. “I think it’s just too much, and I think the spots that probably worked best were the ones who either had none, or maybe they just used one sparingly.”

The failure for even a handful of commercials to be truly memorable after the game concludes only adds to the risk run by advertisers as the airtime has become more expensive. This year, the average cost of a 30-second ad was reportedly $7 million, up nearly 8% from last year.

Merino, who previously produced a regional Super Bowl commercial for WSFS Bank, said that cost dynamic often encourages companies to look at celebrities as “a safety net” as they seek to live up to the hype of the game that reaches around 100 million viewers each year.

“The problem with celebrities is it’s hard to pull off and do well,” he said.

Among the celebrity-based ads that did work this year was actor Ben Affleck’s Dunkin’ ad, where he worked at a Boston store and featured a cameo from wife Jennifer Lopez, Merino said.

“It was shot using very security-cam-type footage, and it felt authentic. Ben Affleck really dialed up his Boston accent for a Boston company, which also felt like a good match for why he was there,” he said.

Super Bowl ads Amazon

Amazon’s original Super Bowl spot featuring a dog dealing with its owner returning to the office was Merino’s favorite spot of the night. | PHOTO COURTESY OF AMAZON

The best ad of the night for Merino went to e-commerce giant Amazon, which used a bait-and-switch tactic along with some sentimental value about a family buying a dog crate to bring home a companion dog as they began to head back to the office.

“It made online shopping surprisingly human,” he said, noting the best ads tap into a common experience among viewers – in this case having to leave pets at home while returning to the office and school. “They were dialed in, with an original concept and no celebrities and it worked really well.”

Elsewhere, nostalgia was once again heavy in the offerings, with nods to “Clueless,” “Caddyshack,” “Grease,” “Breaking Bad,” “Zoolander” and more in the mix this year, which Merino said speaks to the state of society as well.

“It’s almost like what’s happening with movies, where everything is a reboot,” he said, adding that the more carefree approach also comes amid an often polarized public. “I think there’s a bit of ‘Remember when we weren’t fighting about everything? When we weren’t fighting about M&Ms?’”

The candy company was one of the biggest bombs of the night, Merino said. A weeks-long campaign that served as a fake-out of replacing the long-running mascots with actress Maya Rudolph only to bring them back – amid a time when the company is in the crosshairs of conservatives – seemed to do nothing to change the narrative and only add more confusion, Merino said.

“It feels like they just never answered the question of why they did this weird stuff, and they spent so much time and effort around the stunts. It never paid it off,” he said.

Looking forward, one thing seems certain to Merino: we may never see another Super Bowl ad for a non-electric vehicle. Every automotive spot during the game once again played up electric vehicles, ranging from General Motors to Dodge to Jeep. Seeking to raise market awareness for offerings that rival leader Tesla, Super Bowl ads are often meant to inform more than push a viewer to buy, Merino said.

The ads are also a good look at what’s happening nationwide.

“It’s interesting to watch the Super Bowl because you can tell what’s going on economically and you also know what’s going on culturally, so it’s a nice slice of the exact moment where the country is,” Merino said.

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