The Super Bowl has come and gone – leaving us with a glimpse at some of the best advertising of the year and a peek into the zeitgeist of the nation. With a price tag of $7 million dollars per ad, fans of all shapes, sizes, ages, and socio-economic backgrounds were privy to not only the Bengals/Rams matchup but also to brand messaging that, in many ways, captured the essence of where we’re at as a society. This is the time of year when brands jockey for a place in social conversation, hoping to make their mark with potential and existing consumers, and, hopefully, stir up a conversation that put consumers in a fresh headspace.
Below are my picks for the ads that best highlight the six socio-cultural trends we’re going to see a lot more of in 2022. These include the destruction of ecology via plastics, representation in emerging technology, the relationship between humans and technology, post-pandemic travel, greenwashing, and our collective tiptoe into the metaverse.
1. Liquid Death
Our world is facing a huge plastic problem. According to the Container Recycling Institute, consumers use over 70 million plastic bottles per day. Is there a solution to this problem? Enter Liquid Death. In order to disrupt the plastic water bottle category, this canned water company made an ad worthy of covering your kid’s eyes. It ends with a shot of a woman who is pregnant drinking Liquid Death – ultimately letting you in on their secret. It’s a brand on a mission that is poised to challenge the plastic water category. Well done. Socio-culturally, it’s going to take challenger brands like Liquid Death to question our current state of existence.
2. Google Pixel 6
When it comes to emerging tech, people with darker skin tones have been left in the dark. Quit literally, they aren’t being seen. The Pixel 6 brand spot hits on a huge insight. People of color aren’t experiencing the same camera effects as others with lighter skin. One might ask: Is this because the first digital cameras were engineered by white people? Or, why weren’t consumers of color given the opportunity to test and give feedback on digital cameras? Seriously. Digital cameras have been around since 1975 and camera phones were first invented in 1999. It’s 2022. For me, this commercial is a huge wake-up call to engineers, inventors, researchers, and advertisers. Pixel 6 says let’s do better and allow darker skin people to show up in this world by inviting them into the making and testing of new technology.
Scarlett Johanson and Colin Jost team up to hilariously poke fun at a shared consumer fear. People have been talking about their Echo and their smart devices reading their minds or spying on them for years. And, Amazon has fully leaned into their technology knowing you better than you know yourself – all the while making insightful quips on everyday lies we tell ourselves and each other.
We’ve all been stuck inside for years, and Ewan Mcgregger wants us to get outside and do all the things. Throughout the pandemic, people have spent a lot of money on home improvement. The spot from Expedia politely reminds us that we often don’t regret the things we do, but the things we buy. Ewan was a reminder that the world is opening back up and to not get stuck in our pandemic consumerism, but rather invest in experiences.
If you google Polestar above their web address reads ‘Polestar - 100% electric. No compromise.’ When the Polestar commercial started I literally wanted to say ‘Oh. No. They. Didn’t’ with total sass. Because ‘Oh. Yes. They. Did’. Did they just call out Elon Musk? Hell yes, they did. Did they just go toe to toe with Volkswagen? Mhmm. What just happened? I was in so much awe that I let out an audible gasp. Polestar, I’m applauding you for raising the bar on eco-cars and spotlighting greenwashing.
In 30 seconds, we were brought from the not-so-distant past to the not-so-distant future. Enter stage left: the 1990 screensaver bouncing box. Next, enter stage left: cryptocurrency. The simplicity of this ad is amazingly brilliant. The call to action was simple. The minute our collective party saw the bouncing QR code, everyone raced to take the first picture – uncovering what the QR code had in store for us. The commercial acted like nostalgic comfort, and a kick in the pants towards cryptocurrency. In the FTX commercial, Larry David doesn’t believe in all types of things throughout history - the lightbulb, the declaration of independence, etc. This resonated because it’s so true of human skepticism. I believe that the future is a version of the visionary metaverse. I also believe that the vision hasn’t quite caught up with reality. But, I’m sure it’s coming. If you say it’s not, or you skeptically say ‘we’ll see’ – then you’re probably behind. It reminds me of the Today Show in 1994 when they said ‘what is this internet anyway?’ That’s probably what we will sound like in 5 years talking about the metaverse. The metaverse is coming, let’s all get comfortable with it.