Over the years, we’ve seen an incredible range of funny, engaging, catchy, and otherwise memorable Super Bowl commercials. There have also been plenty of duds that leave the audience wondering, “what was that even about?” Whether they knock it out of the park or fall a bit flat, Super Bowl ads are infamous for their creativity and, for some, are as or more entertaining than the game itself!
The first Super Bowl in 1967 aired on NBC and CBS. NBC charged businesses $75,000 for a 60-second spot, and CBS charged $85,000. With inflation, those costs today equate to $2,112,136 and $2,393,754, respectively. For contrast, in 2021, a 30-second spot during the Super Bowl cost a whopping $5,500,000, but with more than 100 million expected viewers, these high-priced ads are the most coveted advertising spots on television.1 For many businesses, these price tags are out of reach, but marketers can still learn a ton just by watching them.
What Makes a Super Bowl Commercial Great?
Around the internet, viewers cite this specific commercial as one of the funniest and most memorable in recent Super Bowl history. So, what makes it great? First, let’s look at the big picture.
When the commercial opens, Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis play themselves in a domestic setting. The ad plays on a classic “Tempting Cookie Jar” trope, in which Ashton discovers his Cheetos have once again been stolen and confronts Mila to ask if she’s the culprit. Caught red-handed, Mila freezes, unable to respond. Fortunately, musician and actor Shaggy is on hand for support. Shaggy instructs Mila to lie to Ashton by repeating the line from his song about deceiving a loved one, “It Wasn’t Me.” The song’s backing track plays for the next minute or so while Ashton and Mila trade accusations and denials of Cheeto theft throughout their home. Every time he accuses her, she decries, “it wasn’t me,” while covered by telltale signs of cheesy dust on her fingers and face. At the end, Ashton’s trust in his wife overcomes his suspicions, and he stops questioning her, despite significant evidence of guilt. Shaggy expresses shock that Ashton fell for it, and the commercial ends with a narrator reciting the advertised product’s full name – Cheeto’s Crunch Pop Mix.
Celebrity endorsements are a powerful marketing tool, even in B2B, that boosts brand awareness, commands attention, enhances credibility, and improves visibility among a sea of competitors. Celebrity endorsements are typically associated with large companies, but smaller players are increasingly getting involved with celebrity influences to help promote their brands. Being household names, proven comedic actors, and a fan-favorite couple, Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis were a great choice to cast in this ad. The concept of one partner eating all of a particular food is intimately relatable for many audience members, helping to build strong emotional connections between snacks, hunger, love, trust, and Cheetos.
Shaggy, a major celebrity in his own right, helps to further expand the commercial’s potential reach, most notably through the use of his song, “It Wasn’t Me”, off his hit album, Dance & Shout, released in 2000. In a recent Nielsen article, Dr. Bradly Vines, Director of Neuroscience Europe, explains that the familiarity some consumers experience through music helps engage memory frameworks, bringing back positive associations already present in their minds.2 In this specific commercial, marketers hope that for viewers familiar with “It Wasn’t Me”, hearing the song’s catchy, upbeat melody will trigger emotions that our brains subconsciously cross-connect with other stimuli. In this case, Cheetos. Not every song generates positive emotions, so marketers should be highly considerate in their choices, especially when selecting a well-known song. Since popular music licenses can be costly, using a hit single is unrealistic for many brands, but the alignment of a soundtrack and creative elements is no less important. In the above commercial, the concept of the ad and the accompanying lyrics work together incredibly well, and clearly, a ton of thought and planning went into the overall production.
One final element that makes a significant impact in this commercial is repetition. Repeating messages in advertising encourages reinforcement and builds credibility, and this whole commercial is based on that concept. Every time Ashton questions Mila with Cheeto-fied stanzas of “It Wasn’t Me”, she repeatedly replies in turn, pushing a catchy earworm on viewers that helps keep the song, scenario, and Cheetos connection fresh in their minds well after the commercial ends. Cheetos also used repetition at a higher strategic marketing level by running the ad on all major digital platforms following the initial spot. While the massive Super Bowl audience is perfect to unveil a great new ad, the potential reach and repetition to attract new customers through paid search and social media ads on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube are incomparable. In B2B marketing, repetition through ads on multiple channels is especially important, as customers typically require many more touchpoints on the buyer’s journey than in B2C.
What B2B Marketers Can Take Away from a Great Super Bowl Ad
Be relatable: The most effective marketing shows that a brand understands its audience and what they want. Tap into people’s emotions with the universal desire to laugh, feel, and get drawn into a narrative by presenting scenarios and situations that are familiar, emotional, and empathetic to their needs.
Focus on a single concept: The Cheetos commercial has a lot going for it that’s only possible with a huge budget, but the core concept is simple: Cheetos are so delicious that even a happily married couple will have a hard time sharing. The selected actors, music, and settings all work together to reinforce that concept over and over, prompting viewers to wonder, “if Ashton and Mila love this new Cheetos product so much, maybe I will too.”
Make it about the customer: The Cheetos commercial never discusses the company, what they do, or how they do it. Customers are not even told to buy or try the product at the end. It’s all about generating an emotional response and connecting a brand name to a positive experience.
With the 2022 Super Bowl just a few days away, we can’t wait to see what advertisers have in store this year. As you watch, think about the concepts and strategies you find most engaging and how you can apply them to your marketing campaigns in the coming months. What makes you laugh, what piques your curiosity, and which ones keep you thinking about them days later?
Sagefrog Marketing Group is a full-service B2B marketing agency that helps businesses develop and execute engaging and memorable integrated marketing campaigns that grow audiences, build brand trust, and generate sales. If you need help putting it all together, don’t hesitate to reach out!
- Southern Living. History of Super Bowl Commercials. https://www.southernliving.com/culture/history-of-super-bowl-commercials
- Vines, Bradley. The Celebrity Power of Music in Advertisements. https://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/article/2017/perspectives-the-celebrity-power-of-music-in-advertisements/