Super Bowl 2022 ads: Learning from the touchdowns

Kim Malcolm, Lucy Robbins

Leading up to the Super Bowl, we shared an article that covered the elements that could help brands create a winning ad for the big (and costly) event.

On Sunday night, once the Super Bowl 2022 ads were officially released, we ran them through the Zappi platform to see which ads won with consumers.

In a matter of hours, we talked to 12,000 people covering over 60 ads in total, comparing them to one another and to the other 3,500 ads we have developed using the same methodology.

We explored areas such as whether the ad was likable, whether it was distinctive, how well it connected to the brand, whether it made them more likely to try the product or service, the emotions they experienced and more. What we walked away with was a clear understanding of which ads truly hit the mark among the crowd of Super Bowl ads and, more importantly, why.

Here’s a countdown of the top five Super Bowl 2022 ads, based on our own data, and the trends we saw among these winners.

So which were the best Super Bowl 2022 ads?

#5. Hellmann’s Mayonnaise

#4. Doritos and Cheetos

#3. Google Pixel

#2. BIC

#1. Lay’s

In the chart above, you’ll see the scores of overall appeal (how likable the ad was) and brand feeling (whether the ad made people feel more positive about the brand) and which ads landed among the top performing.

But what made them winners? Were there commonalities across them? And if so, what were they?

Let’s break it all down with a countdown of winning Super Bowl 2022 ads and the common themes we saw throughout.

#5. Hellmann’s Mayonnaise

In this ad, Jerod Mayo, a famous NFL player, takes up the cause of food waste and tackles people (including other celebrities) who are about to waste food that could easily be made into tasty leftovers with the help of some mayonnaise.

Hellmann’s ad had a good use of celebrities that easily tied into the Super Bowl, while also addressing the issue of food waste, using NFL player Mayo to quite literally tackle the issue in a way that people found authentic. The ad ends with a cameo by Pete Davidson, who also gets tackled, ending the ad on a more lighthearted and humorous note.

Hellman's superbowl ad performance dashboard

Respondents liked the celebrities and some even commented on the recipes suggested. Here’s what some of them had to say:

  • "The personalities in the ad are funny and the concept is hilarious and smart connecting to the super bowl."

  • "Food waste is a huge issue in our country - the message is good. I like that people of various ages and races are included."

By linking Super Bowl food, food waste and physical comedy, Hellman's delivered a highly relevant and unique ad, landing it at number five on our list.

#4. Doritos and Cheetos

Number four on our list features a group of animals including a sloth, deer, bird and a bear eating some Doritos and Cheetos flamin hot chips that were left behind by a tourist. As each of them takes a bite, they start to make noises which leads them to start singing 'Push it' by Salt n Pepa, featuring Cardi B singing as a bird.

The ad also featured celebrities from the music industry who, while not actually displayed, were recognizable by the sound of their voice — just like Salt n Pepa’s famous tune. This was also paired with humor, as each animal looked shocked by the strong flavor and then contributed to the tune with each bite.

Doritos and Cheetos super bowl ad dashboard

Here’s what some of the respondents had to say:

  • "I love the characters (both the person and the animated animals), the background setting, and the humorous and playful nature of the ad."

  • "Unexpected, and the animals were fun. The animation was pretty good. I like that the nature observer was a black woman."

This ad also relied heavily on the use of celebrities and humor, seemingly kicking off a trend right at the start of this count down. Let’s see what number three brings…

#3. Google Pixel

Google Pixel’s ad addresses the issue of how historically, camera technology has not accurately represented darker skin tones.

The ad starts by showing pictures of people with dark skin tones where they appear hidden, overly shiny, or not picked up by the light while several voices explain the problem they’ve faced. Lizzo begins to sing her new song “If You Love Me” as pictures taken on the Google Pixel 6 appear on screen and the darker skin tones come out beautifully balanced in clear contrast to the earlier pictures.

Google Pixel Super Bowl Ad Dashboard

People found this ad moving and many commented that they hadn’t considered the problem until this ad. It scored very well on uniqueness and clearly left an emotional impression. Here’s what some of the respondent’s had to say:

  • "I liked the quality of the pictures and how people were happy. I also liked seeing the older pictures without the color correction to make the difference even more evident. I didn't realize it was a problem that had to be fixed until I saw the ad."

  • "It showed people with different skin tones being shown in beautiful and flattering pictures as they deserve to be."

This ad tackled a troubling issue people of color have had to face with technology that may not have been apparent to many. Google Pixel included the music celebrity Lizzo in the ad and used her song throughout — celebrity usage being a common theme across all of the top ads so far.

#2. BIC

Number two on our list, BIC’s ad comes in hot with celebrities (and best friends) Snoop Dogg and Martha Stewart seated at a patio table using BIC’s new EZ Reach lighter to light candles and other items — making lots of weed smoking innuendos along the way

BIC Super Bowl Ad Dashboard

Here’s what some of the respondents had to say:

  • "I love seeing martha & snoop dog doing shows & ads together! they're so opposite from each other but yet they go together so well."

  • "The comedy in the subtext of the ad was excellent."

This ad was chock full of humor, with puns flying left and right throughout the entire ad spot. BIC’s use and choice of celebrities also paired extremely well with the ad and the jokes they were landing.

#1. Lay’s

And our top spot goes to…Lay’s!

This ad featured both Seth Rogen and Paul Rudd sitting together and reminiscing on their memories while eating a bag of Lay’s potato chips before Seth’s wedding.

Humor is nearly a given for this ad as soon as you see these two celebrities side by side. So naturally, each of their memory flashbacks were absolutely hilarious. But the reveal at the end — that Seth is marrying the scary ghost he and Paul met in one of their earlier flashbacks — had many viewers laughing out loud.

Lays 2022 Super Bowl Ad Dashboard

Here’s what some of the respondents had to say:

"It was hilarious. Paul Rudd and Seth Rogan have great chemistry. I enjoy lays and I like how they were advertised and the center of the funny stories."

"I really enjoyed the shock value of the commercial. I also enjoyed the mix of comedy and horror."

This ad brings it back to the initial theme of celebrity usage and humor, but also brings to light another theme we can see throughout...

Consistent themes between the winning ads

Now that we’ve broken down the best Super Bowl 2022 ads and what they entailed, here’s a summary of the commonalities they shared:

  • Humor: While many Super Bowl ads tried using humor, these winners managed to do so with good-natured humor that appealed to the whole family, such as in Doritos’ and Cheetos’ ad, or where people felt in on the joke, as with BIC’s ad. Each one told a story, best shown by Lay’s who set up the final wedding scene, which left the viewer with a hilarious twist.

  • Celebrities: If you’re going to make a splash, a celebrity is a good way to get attention. These brands found partnerships that felt genuine rather than simply relying on a big name. From the made-to-be Mayo connection that also drove product association to the fun on-screen chemistry between Seth Rogan and Paul Rudd, the celebrities that paid off were engaging to watch and believable — even in some less-than-realistic scenarios.

  • Social issues: Authenticity is the key to addressing a social cause, so you are better off steering clear than attempting to tie your name to an issue with no credibility. Hellmann’s and Google Pixel both managed to raise the profile of their chosen causes successfully as people saw the connection was genuine. The people we surveyed responded thoughtfully to these ads, showing that advertising can provoke a considered response to big themes when handled carefully and authentically.

  • Keeping the product (or brand assets) front and center: All of these ads feature their product prominently, and it was definitely a winning strategy. Lay’s, BIC, Hellmann’s, Doritos & Cheetos, and Google Pixel 6 all showed off the product in their ads, helping to seal strong brand connections between their product and content. Each found a fun way to use the product, from the singing animals to Snoop Dogg’s not-so-subtle humor, and Lay’s chip appearance throughout each of Paul and Seth’s memories. This kept the ads fresh and entertaining while consciously highlighting their products.

Final thoughts

Many factors go into creating a winning ad. However, through our research, we are seeing the use of humor and entertainment, celebrities and clever brand assets seem to be the leading combination to score a touchdown and land them in the lineup of winning Super Bowl 2022 ads.

And when your brand (and massive budgets) are at stake, this is something to pay attention to.

We’d like to congratulate all of the creators who were involved in bringing these ads to life — from insights teams, to marketing teams to creative agencies and more — well done!

Learn more about how Zappi can help you create winning ads