The best Super Bowl ads of 2023 so far, and why they work
It's the biggest year in the ad industry calendar. So what have the world's best creative minds come up with for 2023? Check out our selection of the best Super Bowl ads so far.
Whether or not you like American football, the annual Super Bowl game is something everyone in the creative industries needs to pay attention to because the ads in between the action have become a kind of World Cup for creatives.
The Super Bowl is the most watched television event in the US, with millions of viewers tuning in, and offers a unique opportunity to reach a massive and diverse audience. That makes booking airtime ruinously expensive, and you sure don't want to get it wrong. It means brands tend to throw everything at it, luring the biggest stars and the top creative talent in a bid to create the ad everyone will be talking about.
And the payoffs can be huge. Produce a creative, engaging and memorable Super Bowl ad, and it will become the subject of water cooler conversations, social media buzz, and news articles for weeks on end. Some will be remembered for years, even decades to come.
The game itself takes place this Sunday (12 February) and sees the Philadelphia Eagles square off against the Kansas City Chiefs. But you don't have to wait until then to enjoy the Super Bowl ads. Because in the same way that Christmas doesn't just happen on 25 December, the Super Bowl ad 'season' increasingly starts weeks before the actual game.
Nowadays, brands often release multiple teasers for the full ad on game day or simply premiere the full ad in advance. Below, we round up the best ads so far, reveal who made them, and explain why they work so well.
1. Backstage with Adam Driver, Squarespace
Most brands can only afford one A-list actor, but for its 2023 Super Bowl ad, Squarespace has cleverly managed to get three for the same price. Well, kind of. This tongue-in-cheek spot presents a backstage interview with three versions of Star Wars actor Adam Driver.
No, it's not the most original idea, but the ad takes its comedy potential to new places, as the star muses on the delights of playing all the characters "because I don't like other actors".
It works, partly because we sort of believe Adam Driver could be this surly and pretentious in real life (based on characters he's played in the past) and partly because it sends up the concept of actors promoting things they don't actually like (when asked "What's your favourite website?" the star deadpans "I don't look at websites.") The ad was created in-house, and directed by Squarespace duo Alex Thompson and Jose Pepe Hernandez.
Update: Since we wrote this article, Squarespace has launched the full spot here, which focuses in more on what the platform actually offers people.
2. Why not an EV?, General Motors
Advertising for electronic vehicles has quickly shifted its attention from early adopters focused on saving the planet to targeting a general audience, who are probably more motivated by having a fun driving experience. And that means a wholly different approach.
GM's Super Bowl ad shows how it's done by roping in actor Will Ferrell and placing him inside various Netflix shows. The reason behind these surreal scenes is that Netflix is pledging to increase the visibility of electric vehicles in films and television. So far, so worthy, but the spot puts a fun twist on the concept by putting EVs where they don't belong, such as Bridgerton, Stranger Things and Squid Game.
It's an idea that could have fallen flat on its face, but the ad's high production values and superb comic timing by Ferrell make it a real winner, promoting both brands in equal measure. The ad was created by New York agency The Community and directed by David Shane through O Positive.
3. Who's in the Fridge, Hellmann's
If you've got the budget to hire A-listers, you want to make something memorable. And this ad for Hellmann's certainly does that by taking Mad Men's Jon Hamm and Captain Marvel's Brie Larson, miniaturising them, and placing them in a fridge, where they have to work out why they're there.
The punchline comes when they realise they've been chosen because their surnames are both foodstuffs that go well with mayo. No, it's not exactly comedy gold, but it's the kind of dad-joke humour that will stick in your brain whenever you open the fridge. And what more could Hellmann's ask? The ad was created by Wunderman Thompson and directed by Martin Granger.
4. Somewhere, Anywhere, Booking.com
Most of us with Disney Plus and insistent children will have been subjected over Christmas to Disenchanted, which pokes fun at traditional fairy tale musicals by turning the tweeness up to 11. This ad for Booking.com takes a similar approach, as Melissa McCarthy is swept away on a whirlwind tour of hotels and rentals while gustily signing an overblown musical number.
The sets, costumes and Melissa herself are all loud, flashy and colourfully over the top. But sensibly, the makers have also slipped in scenes of her actually using the app, ensuring the promotional message isn't lost along the way. The creative was developed by Zulu Alpha Kilo and Mindshare managed the media strategy and planning.
5. Not So Clueless, Rakuten
The teen movie Clueless may be almost three decades old, but it hasn't really dated and continues to win new, younger audiences year-on-year. So this ad for cashback platform Rakuten is a coup indeed: the first time Paramount has ever granted its IP to a brand for marketing purposes.
The spot recreates the same 'let's party with the Haitians' scene parodied by Iggy Azalea's 'Fancy' video in 2014. But this spoof goes one better by actually using the original star, Alicia Silverstone – who looks unchanged in the role and still looks fabulous now aged 46.
Drawing on her character Cher's love for shopping, this is basically an explainer video for Rakuten. But by wrapping it up in colourful nostalgia and comedy, the audience doesn't even notice it's been educated; a great trick to pull off. The ad was created in-house by Rakuten and directed by Will Speck and Josh Gordon, with production by Furlined.
6. From Memes To Dreams, Popeyes
This Super Bowl ad for fried chicken franchise Popeyes eschews the A-list crowd for someone who's arguably a bit more down-to-earth and relatable. Dieunerst Collin went viral at the age of nine when he was waiting in line at a Popeyes, and a stranger captured him on camera, glancing sideways, looking confused. Shortly after, he became a worldwide meme: the face that launched a thousand GIFs.
A decade later, Collin is now an 18-year-old college football player who embraces his earlier social media fame in this ad, gently poking fun at commercial culture and sharing a promotional offer with the tagline: "Eyes on the fries or pies".
It's always a gamble using people who are 'internet famous', as many viewers won't know who they are. But Collin exudes confidence, swagger and charm, so even if you don't recognise him, the ad still works to engage you and get your drool going for some chicken. Creative was by GUT.
7. The Busch Guide: Cold + Smooth Survival Skills, Busch Beer
Busch Beer's 2023 Super Bowl ad harnesses the broad appeal of Canadian singer-songwriter Sarah McLachlan and places her in the wilderness. The gag is that you need three main survival skills: "food, beer, and shelter".
That's mixed in with a brief spoof of Sarah's 2007 fundraising ad for the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), and there's some comic back and forth between Sarah and the lumberjack shirt-wearing brand character, played by Gerald Downey. There's also a wolf, which gives the spot added, er, bite.
In all honesty, this is not the wittiest or most sophisticated ad on this list. But it gets the point across, associating Busch with fun, music, the great outdoors, and attractive, confident people: is there anything more a brand needs to do? This spot was created by The Martin Agency
8. One Hit for Uber One, Uber Eats
Uber Eats clearly reckons there's a big overlap between hip-hop fans and takeaway lovers. And for the Super Bowl, they've clearly thought: 'Go big or go home' because this year's ad has a serious number of stars.
It revolves around hip-hop producer Diddy setting out to make a new track for the food delivery service. We then see a procession of stars, including Montell Jordan, Donna Lewis, Kelis, Ylvis and Haddaway, churn out revised versions of their much-loved hits, only with clunky new lyrics extolling the virtues of Uber.
Fans will be in heaven, while even people who pay little attention to pop culture will recognise at least some of these much-loved hits. The spot was produced by Biscuit and directed by Andreas Nilsson, with the campaign as a whole created by Special Group U.S.
9. Easy to Drink, Easy to Enjoy, Bud Light
Phoning a company only to be put on hold for an indeterminate amount of time, with tinny music playing in the background, is one of the most annoying aspects of modern life. But Bud Light turns things around in this fun Super Bowl ad.
It's a clear and simple concept, brilliantly executed. The hold music in question magically becomes room-filling surround sound, and a couple goes wild dancing to it while drinking a Bud, of course.
The spot works partly because the tune (Opus No. 1 by Tim Carleton) is an absolute banger and partly because the actors hit the perfect balance between goofy and adorable. That may be because they're played by a real-life couple: Miles Teller, of Top Gun: Maverick fame and his wife, Keleigh Sperry, who's also an actress, along with their French bulldog, Bugsy. The ad was created by Anomaly.
10. Dave Grohl Learns Something New, Crown Royal
Which global star to pick for your Super Bowl ad? For Canadian whiskey Crown Royal, it was a slam-dunk to lure in Dave Grohl, who's known to be a super-fan of the brand.
In the run-up to Sunday's game, they've released two teasers. In the first (shown below), the Foo Fighters frontman lists a series of random nouns, including peanut butter, the paint roller, the battery, trash bags, the egg carton, the electric wheelchair and Hawaiian pizzas. What's the connection between them? You'll have to tune in on Super Bowl day to find out.
The term 'teaser' often just means a short version of a longer ad to come. But this spot, created by Anomaly, really does tease. As does the second, in which Ghrol is shown saying random phrases and words, then adding "thank you", repeatedly. We, and no doubt millions of others, can't wait to find out the point to all of this!
11. Big Game Teaser, Avocados From Mexico
The internet is currently packed with clickbait articles saying that Anna Faris is 'nude' in this ad for Avocados from Mexico, the number-one-selling avocado brand in America. She's not at all.
This fun romp casts the comic actress as Eve in a spoof of the Bible's first chapter. The twist is that she takes a bite of avocado rather than an apple.
It's simple and not at all sophisticated, but that's largely where its appeal lies – along with beautifully realised environments and a very buff Adam. The ad was created in partnership with Lerma and directed by Bryan Buckley, who's been dubbed the 'King of the Super Bowl' by The New York Times.
12. Rock Star, Workday
Anyone who's worked in a corporate role will have heard people in very non-glamorous jobs, from HR to finance, being described as 'rock stars'. This ad for business software company Workday ridicules this concept mercilessly by bringing on real rock stars, including Ozzy Osbourne, Joan Jett, Billy Idol, Paul Stanley of KISS and Gary Clark Jr., to reclaim the word and its rightful meaning.
It's a simple concept, and all the better for it. Plus, even if you're too young (or old) to know who any of these ageing rockers are, you'll still get the point. The ad was directed by Jim Jenkins of O Positive.
13. Make You Look, Pringles
The best ads connect with people at a very basic level, and there's nothing more basic than getting your hand stuck in a tube of Pringles. For this Super Bowl spot, Pringles gets Meghan Trainor to do exactly that while her hit song 'Make You Look' plays on her smartphone. And that's it: there's nothing big or clever about this ad. But it does succeed in, well, making you look. The ad was created by the Grey Group with support from marketing agency CIEN+.
Want to see more great ads? Now read our round-up of the best Super Bowl ads of 2022.