California Love: How This Year’s Super Bowl Used The Sounds Of Nostalgia To Unite Audiences

Super Bowl Ad

By Johanna Cranitch, Associate Creative Director at MassiveMusic

To most people, the question ‘Who won the Super Bowl?’ will probably reference the Rams’ stunning home victory Sunday night at SoFi Stadium in LA. But for the brands who had commercials during the broadcast, spending on average $6.5million for a 30-second slot, they want to know whose ad ‘won’ with 100 million TV watchers.

While there’s no silver bullet for creating the perfect Super Bowl ad, the best performing commercials this year all had something in common. Like the much-lauded halftime show of hip hop legends Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, 50 Cent, Mary J Blige and Kendrick Lemar, the ads all used tools to take us back to a time of true millennial nostalgia: great music, culture and fashion.

Taking It Back to the Old School

Whilst the last two years have seen the huge rise in big tech, home-working platforms and new ways of meeting and connecting, this was not the feel of Super Bowl 2022. And boy did it sound different.

Not only could we hear the roar of a full crowd (notably missed last year) but a halftime show that tapped right into an ongoing nostalgic movement visible across music, fashion and now advertising. We might be living in a world becoming obsessed with NFTs, blockchain and the metaverse but for these few hours, we were transported firmly back into an era of ‘cool’ (plus a few robots).

 

So which brands hit the right chord this year? Advertising effectiveness leaders, System1, tested all the ads featured on how much people were emotionally engaged. And it wasn’t surprising to see that music played a huge role in those that hit the top spots.

Despite the strong feeling of ‘looking back’, the ads weren’t completely devoid of modern tech. In fact, some of the top spots feature robot characters, brilliantly juxtaposed with a nostalgic sound.

Robots, 90s, Celebrities and Humor

Take the Samuel Adams spot. It was fun and silly — drunk robots partying with the beer mascots ‘Your Cousin from Boston’ and a real Beastie Boys-esq sound.

Similarly, Kia, used a cute robotic dog running through the streets to the soundtrack of Bonnie Tyler’s ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’. A brand known for its good Super Bowl spots; it was entertaining, funny and sounded epic.

Doritos took us into a jungle of twerking and burping wildlife performing Salt N Pepa’s ‘Push It’ – it won’t win awards for pushing any boundaries but by God does it entertain and perfectly match the feel of this year’s game. We feel upbeat and nostalgic through its music choice and it’s funny! It’s escapism and story-telling at its finest.

A film synonymous with the exciting boundary-pushing of the 90s? Comcast’s spot for Universal Pictures transported us back into Jurassic Park – once again, technological feats in the special effects of the dinosaurs but coupled with absolutely pure nostalgia. That familiar sound of its cinematic theme tune is a sure hit for audiences young and old.

Skechers doesn’t need to really do much to get us thinking about our teenage years. The iconic look of its sneakers and immediate associations with nostalgic pop culture transports us quite quickly. Such is the influence that music has on us: the emotions it triggers is an incredibly effective tool in building equity.

This year’s ad took this principle and ran with it, really honing in on that feeling of us getting back out ‘on the road again’ using Willie Nelson’s classic track and instead sung by those featured in the ad. Less on the humor but strongly fueling that element of ‘togetherness’. No wonder it resonated.

In BMW’s spot with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Salma Hayek, music plays a distinct role in creating humor in a subtle way. The choice to have a lovely piano waltz, while Zeus is clearly getting frustrated with everyday problems, creates a distance between what you hear and what you see. That contrast is something that helps the humor present itself without having to explain itself. 

There were also other playful ads that took advantage of celebrity partnerships, using the power of voiceover (and alliteration) to add rhythm, like in Zendaya and Andre 3000’s commercial for Squarespace. Or, on the other hand, taking a more bold tone, whilst also utilizing the power of voice, was Turkish Airlines’ spot with ambassador Morgan Freeman, which we actually worked on at MassiveMusic.

We wanted to create something that would equal the visual of continents coming together, and find a sweet spot where the music complemented Freeman’s iconic voice. Turkish Airlines have featured Freeman in its commercials before, so his familiarity and uplifting message about closing the distance between us helps to deliver a great story.

As we reflect on another Super Bowl extravaganza, we can look back at 2022 as a pretty fascinating one. In a largely changed world with technology accelerating at what feels like the speed of light, we’ve united in remembering what makes us happy as people – and this has been reflected hugely in its advertising. Where music took us back to what felt like simpler times, it also offers a real reflection on how far we’ve come.

From the robots in our advertising to Eminem’s defiant taking of the knee to reflect the BLM movement’s much-needed progression, music was able to underpin this whilst making us feel pretty great.

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