Where Did All of the Good Superbowl Commercials Go?

Where Did All of the Good Superbowl Commercials Go?

Elliott Weix

Watching the Superbowl a couple weeks ago, I realized something: the commercials weren’t as much fun as I remembered. I think the moment that did it for me was a ham-fisted commercial about NFTs demanding viewers to scan a QR code and buy into their pyramid scheme. Usually, bad commercials just make me feel bored, but this one actually left a bad taste in my mouth.

Superbowl commercials have been getting steadily worse as time goes on. Gone are clever witticisms and quick jokes, replaced with what amounts to stock footage or ads that try too hard to pander to pop culture. I’m not making myself out to be some iconoclast or art major, but I do prefer commercials that are more interesting than “hey wouldn’t it be great if you traveled more?” Yes, Mr. Magic Man on the television, I would like to travel more, but I’m not signing up for your gold-premium-ultra-exclusive credit card membership. I don’t even have a bank account.

Honestly, the best commercial that I remember from this most recent superbowl was the one involving Mr. Peanut being insulted. It was more than a little bit on-the-nose, especially with the references to parent companies, but it got at least a chuckle out of me. What happened to the memorable and interesting commercials, like throwing people with selfie sticks into the snickers hole? Now that was something to write home about.

I blame the economy for the bad commercials. I mean, look at those prices! A 30-second Superbowl this year cost about $7 million. Back in 2015, it was $4.2 million. It gets much cheaper the further back you look. The increasing cost of advertisements correlates strongly with a decrease in advertisement quality. If you’re spending some $300 million per second of airtime, you might be afraid to put out commercials where you can’t reliably predict audience response. That might be the reason that fewer and fewer of them dare to break the tried-and-true mold—there’s more data on stock commercials than wacky ones.

I long for those days of yore, when commercials were plain weird: salesman cracking open their heads to reveal pistachios, geckos trading barbs with people looking for insurance, and all sorts of fast-food places just being… strange. Those are the days I long for, back before I was old enough to understand half of anything and before the fun spirit of those commercials faded away into that same-old same-old feel.

Maybe there wasn’t a spirit in the first place, and I’m just looking at this wrong. Give me a minute to go polish my rose-colored lenses.