Making commercials to advertise a product or service during the Super Bowl is really hard. You have an enormous audience eating out of the palm of your hand — possibly even literally if you're a perennial participant like Doritos or M&M's — but only precious seconds to say or show something that will stick in the minds of viewers for week, months, or even years afterward.
Because it's so hard, however, most advertisers come out with guns blazing, to the point that it almost doesn't matter whether their 15 seconds of fame are memorably good or spectacularly awful. The real trick is simply to steer clear of the murky middle of forgettability. There's also a football game while all of this is happening, but that's beside the point.
The point is for we, the team that publishes Certification Magazine, to share some thoughts on the commercials that are selling IT or IT-adjacent products and tell which of them we liked most (and why). Beer and soda commercials, or vehicle commercials, or health-and-beauty-care commercials, like Pat Brady and Tom Mahomes, are for other commentators.
Some years we're have to really stretch find even just five or six ads for products and services that include a strong IT angle. In 2021, we counted up 12. Maybe that says something about where the overall goods and services industry is headed, and maybe it's just indicative of who had money to burn after a year of pandemic-dampened economic activity.
Who, in our humble opinion, got the most bang for their $5.6 million (per 30 seconds of ad time) during Super Bowl LV? Let's break it down:
Best in Show
Amazon Alexa: This one is a semi-reprise of an Alexa ad from the 2018 Super Bowl, in which Cardi B and Anthony Hopkins (among other) take turns responding to queries directed at Amazon's brand-name personal assistant. This time around, actor Michael B. Jordan plays Alexa's new human-like avatar— fueling the daydreams of an Alexa team member. It's funny, memorable, and cleverly spotlights several voice commands that activate nifty Alexa features. Why Michael B. Jordan? The ad also includes a micro-commercial for the new Amazon Original Movie production Without Remorse, a Tom Clancy adaptation starring Mr. Jordan that will be released April 30.
Most IT Geeky
T-Mobile and Verizon: Both T-Mobile and Verizon threw their coin at touting the reliability and potency of their 5G networks, invoking one of the hottest buzzwords in IT. T-Mobile flames the fuzzy connectivity of smartphone rivals while reimagining the roots of the now-flourishing romantic relationship between fellow The Voice coaches Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani. Verizon recalls a humorous payoff from the career of movie star Samuel L. Jackson, who dresses down some online gamers for blaming their losses on latency issues.
Watch Online: T-Mobile
Watch Online: Verizon
Fiverr and Reddit: Ads that scratch the itch of yesterday's news run the risk of referencing events or issues that have faded from public consciousness. Gig work platform Fiverr takes aim at the humor sweet spot with an ad cleverly themed around Rudy Giuliani's infamous news conference at Four Seasons Total Landscaping. Meanwhile Reddit crammed in a last-minute five-second ad that makes hay out of the social network site's involvement in the Robinhood online stock trading scandal that broke last week.
Watch Online: Fiverr
Watch Online: Reddit
Robinhood and Indeed: Speaking of Robinhood, the stock-trading app had a Super Bowl ad queued up already and opted to ignore the egg on its face and stick with a feel-good "up with people" message celebrating how we are all investors. Job search platform Indeed is more or less on the same wavelength, not-so-subtly referencing the pandemic-induced mass layoffs of 2020 with a blandly hopeful "you can do this" pitch to workers reentering the marketplace.
Watch Online: Robinhood
Watch Online: Indeed
Most Nostalgic Needle Drops
Squarespace, E-Trade, and Mercari: Cuing up a pop song from America's shared pop-cultural subconscious is a reliable advertising gimmick. Website builder Squarespace's message is a bit confusing, with the idea being that you should use their tools to create a website to promote your side hustle, or something you do when you're not on the clock— hence a Dolly Parton-endorsed riff on the working girl anthem "9 to 5." E-Trade is more direct, urging home-based investors to buff up their bottom line with a comical workout montage set to Joe Esposito's "You're the Best" from The Karate Kid.
Mercari outdoes both Squarespace and E-Trade, finding a pop song with lyrics that perfectly describes its purpose and a nostalgia rating that blows Joe Esposito and Dolly Parton out of the water. The Beatles' "Hello, Goodbye" is ideally suited to capture the Facebook Marketplace-esque MO of Mercari, which new owner say hello to old stuff that other people (goodbye) just want to get out of the house.
Watch Online: Squarespace
Watch Online: E-Trade
Watch Online: Mercari
Klarna and Logitech: Klarna is a Swedish banking conglomerate that provides payment processing services, but we had to look that up online. What we got from their Super Bowl commercial is that four miniature Maya Rudolphs riding down Main Street in some Old West town has something to do with money and payments. Huh? It's not as hard to make sense of what computer peripherals maker Logitech is selling, but the blah-biddy-blah about how their tech enables the defiance of the "screamers and dreamers" (among others) is just bland advertising doublespeak.
Watch Online: Klarna
Watch Online: Logitech