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Nostalgia Was the Name of the (Ad) Game at Super Bowl LVI

7 MINUTE READ | February 18, 2022

Nostalgia Was the Name of the (Ad) Game at Super Bowl LVI

Super Bowl LVI was one for the books as a memorable slate of ads framed the surprise comeback of the Los Angeles Rams against the Cincinnati Bengals on the field and a star-studded halftime show that featured some of the greats of hip-hop. More than 100 million viewers tuned in for the action and ads on Sunday across NBC and Telemundo broadcasts, with streaming viewership trends on Peacock and other digital outlets not yet announced but expected to add several million more viewers to the tally. 

  • Ad inventory for the game sold out across NBC, Telemundo, and Peacock in early February, with several 30-second slots selling for $7 million, a record-high price tag.

  • Over a dozen first-time advertisers, including Planet Fitness, Cue Health, and Coinbase, made their debut during the Super Bowl, striking a more playful tone than last year’s lineup. 

  • Super Bowl LVI capped a season of improved ratings for the NFL as regular-season game ratings increased seven percent compared to the 2020 season, with the two conference championship games on January 30 setting multi-year highs.

Cryptocurrency exchanges and social trading companies Coinbase, FTX, eToro, and Crypto.com made their Super Bowl debuts as they aimed to become household names and demystify the web3 landscape amid the surge of interest in cryptocurrency, NFTs, and the metaverse. Many crypto enthusiasts dubbed Super Bowl LVI the “Crypto Bowl” ahead of the game in anticipation of a flurry of Super Bowl ads that would engage crypto fans and appeal to the public on the biggest stage in broadcast advertising. 

However, the cryptocurrency ad that captured the most attention during the big game didn’t bear much resemblance to the technology it sought to promote. The 60-second spot featured a color-changing QR code that bounced against the sides of the frame before the commercial ended with the Coinbase logo. Scanning the QR code redirected viewers to Coinbase’s official website for a sign-up bonus and a chance to participate in a Bitcoin giveaway.

Coinbase’s “Less Talk, More Bitcoin” Super Bowl LVI ad featuring a bouncy QR code

Within minutes of the ad airing, the Coinbase website crashed while the Coinbase app catapulted from the 186th position to 2nd place in the Apple App Store’s list of most downloaded apps. Similarly, mobile app downloads for FTX and investment app eToro also skyrocketed after running ads during the game. On Monday, Coinbase reported that the QR code ad drove more than 20 million visits to the company’s website in a single minute. Memorable, an AI company, cited ad recall of the bouncing Coinbase QR code was 30 percent higher than the average spot, as the simple design sparked greater curiosity among viewers. 

While Coinbase’s “Less Talk, More Bitcoin” campaign surprised viewers with its minimalist take on the iconic DVD screensaver from the early 2000s, other brands took a similar approach for Super Bowl LVI, tapping into talent and storytelling moments fueled by nostalgia and sentimentality. More than half a dozen ads were characterized by nostalgic messages and stories featuring the revival of fictional characters and iconic voices and people from entertainment and sports history, including:

  • Lay’s “Golden Memories” with Seth Rogen and Paul Rudd reminiscing on simpler times

  • Michelob Ultra’s star-studded “Welcome to the Superior Bowl,” where retired world-class athletes tried to strike a balance in their lives.

  • The Jurassic World Dominion trailer by Universal Pictures featured many stars from the original cast of the 1993 Jurassic Park film.

  • This year’s Super Bowl ad for Chevy Silverado was a near shot for shot of the opening montage of the hit show Sopranos, which originally featured Tony Soprano driving a Chevy Truck. The remake for the ad featured actress Jamie-Lynn Sigler, who played Meadow Soprano on the show, driving an electric Chevy Silverado, the vehicle for “the new generation.” 

  • Similarly, GM enlisted Mike Myers in a revival of his popular role as Austin Powers that showed Dr. Evil and his family taking over GM and saving the planet. 

  • E*Trade brought back the adorable baby last seen in 2014 in this year’s “Off the Grid” Super Bowl spot.

  • Actor Jim Carrey revived his character Ernie “Chip” Douglas from the 1996 film The Cable Guy to star in Verizon’s “Goodbye Cable” that touted the benefits of 5G connectivity.

  • Frito-Lays reimagined Salt-N-Pepa’s 1986 “Push It” when an explorer accidentally drops her bag of Doritos Flamin’ Hot Cool Ranch and Cheetos Flamin’ Hot Crunchy on the forest floor to soon be sampled by a menagerie of wild animals whose reactions to the flavor “coalesce into a reimagined version of the song.”

Taken together, the ads from this year’s Super Bowl were a creative escape from the pandemic and events of the last two years to the past, tapping into positive and familiar concepts and storylines that everyone could enjoy. Even Coinbase in its attempt to introduce more viewers to cryptocurrency, opted for a QR code to transport viewers into the possibilities of web3 financial technology. With a halftime show featuring a rendition of iconic songs from Dr. Dre, Eminem, and Mary J. Blige, to the fun and lighthearted ads from brands like Frito-Lays, Chevrolet, and Verizon, nostalgia was on full display as the past was celebrated in the present on Super Bowl Sunday. 

After the votes were cast by nearly 150,000 panelists, USA Today’s Ad Meter named “Dream House” with actress Anna Kendrick for Rocket Mortgage and Rocket Homes, the top ad for Super Bowl LVI. The 60-second spot in which Anna Kendrick helps Barbie settle on her forever home scored a 6.82 among voters, just ahead of Amazon’s “Mind Reader,” which recorded a 6.78. Ad Meter ranks commercials by consumer rating, with panelists scoring each ad on a 1-to-10 scale. The results are similar to 2021, in which Rocket Mortgage claimed the top spot with “Certain is Better,” which featured comedian Tracy Morgan, with Amazon’s “Alexa’s Body” following closely behind. 

Social analytics firms Tubular Labs and Sprout Social noted that Super Bowl spots—from teasers to trailers and replays of the ads—generated millions of views and reviews across platforms like Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, and YouTube. Sprout Social cited “Super Bowl LVI commercials were tweeted over 425,000 times and received 2.21 million engagements, with more than 284,000 tweets about Super Bowl ads on game day, generating 13.86 billion potential impressions.” Overall, 61 percent of tweets about the ads were positive, 23 percent were neutral, and 16 percent were negative.

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Views on Super Bowl LVI ads generated over 400 million views as of Monday afternoon across platforms, with millions of viewers re-watching their favorite ad spots after the game on YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. Tubular Labs found the top five ads by social views were Amazon’s teaser and ad with 93.1 million views across platforms; Nissan’s teaser and ad with 72.5 million; Turkish Airlines with 26 million views; the trailer for Pepsi’s halftime show with 25.7 million; and booking.com’s teaser and TV spot garnering 19.5 million views. By some accounts, the “Less Talk, More Bitcoin” Coinbase ad, featuring a bouncing QR code reminiscent of DVD player screens, stole the show, while USA Today’s Ad Meter named “Dream House” by Rocket Mortgage and Rocket Homes as the best spot of the big game. Despite early commentators dubbing the spectacle “Crypto Bowl” thanks to the buzzworthy advertising debut of web3 brands Crypto.com, Coinbase, and FTX, nostalgia defined Super Bowl LVI, and in doing so, demonstrated the timelessness of the tried and true—celebrity endorsements, memorability, and humor—in advertising.


Posted by Abby Long