Celebrity Cameos, Politics and Classic Songs: The Highs and Lows of Super Bowl 2021 Ads

Between last year’s Super Bowl and last night’s Super Bowl, the country has been plagued with a pandemic, political unrest, and most of us abiding by little to no socializing of the physical sort. The more things change, however, the more they stay the same. The Super Bowl LV ads were littered with gimmicks, celebrity appearances, references to ubiquitous and/or classic moments in pop culture and more. One thing that was newish: More serious ads that alluded to the pandemic (Ford) and political division (Jeep). Here are the ads that stood out.

Timothee Chalamet tapped into his weird side as Edgar Scissorhands for Cadillac. Beyond his talent—and his hair—the thing that drives Timothee Chalamet’s magnetic appeal is his effortless but ultimately very weird nineties aesthetic. His entire vibe is the hottest guy at school who, for some reason, plays hacky sack at lunch and probably listens to early 2000s emo when he sets his Spotify to private, which is always. In a new SuperBowl commercial for the Cadillac LYRIQ, an electric car, Chalamet stars as Edgar Scissorhands, the son of Edward Scissorhands and Winona Ryder reprises her role from the 1990 Tim Burton film as Kim Boggs, Edgar’s mom. Thankfully, Johnny Depp is not in it. The ad lets Chalamet do what he does best, which is be Timothee Chalamet. It also lets him express how weird he is. If Timothee Chalamet makes a career pivot into weird and freaky, it’s because of Edgar Scissorhands, and GQ may have to personally thank Cadillac for making it happen.

Bruce Springsteen tried to bring America together in a Jeep. If you don’t form weird parasocial relationships with multimillionaire celebrities you don’t know, you won’t have a meltdown when they star in an ad that makes you call their politics into question. But then there will come a time when Bruce Springsteen decides to do his first commercial ever. The two-minute spot for Jeeps and Centrism™, set at a church in the literal center of the country, was a groan-inducing pander to rural voters. We’ll just have to chalk it up to Springsteen’s Western Stars phase—he was even wearing the trademark double jacket. Call us when the Jeep gets back to New Jersey.

Fiverr cleverly spoofed one of Trump’s most chaotic failures. Spoofing the “Four Seasons Total Landscaping” post-election Trump/Giuliani fiasco, this commercial was sharp, witty, and memorable. Fiverr even went the distance by featuring the actual landscaping company in the ad. Fiverr’s mission as a company is connecting people to small businesses and freelancers, and beyond the joke, their commercial actually showcased that there’s more to Four Seasons than just prime meme potential.

Tide referenced a top five George Costanza stunt. Jason Alexander on a hoodie seems like a fever dream of a concept. It actually was the crux of a memorable ad for Tide detergent, as we saw the timeline of the…esoteric piece of clothing over various skirmishes and washes. What really elevated this ad was the music. The theme to “The Greatest American Hero” blasted in the background, and true Seinfeld heads were likely spitting out their nachos/beers as they made the connection to George Costanza’s answering machine bit. Nostalgia is always a great cheat code when used correctly.

Reddit made a big splash with the shortest ad. This ad was just five seconds long, but it may have had the most impact. In lieu of Reddit traders “going to the moon” and waging war with hedge funds, the social media site blew its entire marketing budget on a five second ad highlighting the Gamestop saga, and how Reddit as a community can bring people together. Yes, you’re probably sick of hearing about “stonks.” You may have even missed the ad. But Reddit’s strategy here — an ad so brief that people feel compelled to rewind or look it up to see what they missed — was clever.

Bud Light delivered the ultimate blast from the past, and it was actually OK. Bud Light clearly didn’t pay attention to annual complaints about ads stuffed with forced celebrity cameos, as the brand gathered hundreds of actors from past ads to help a fallen Bud Light truck recover its payload. Cedric the Entertainer, the Bud Knight, Post Malone, the real Man of Genius Singer, and countless others all made cameos, but instead of contributing to celebrity ad fatigue or laziness, it worked. Just off nostalgia alone, this ad is a hit. The “I loved you, man” guy at the very end was the icing on the cake.

Squarespace flipped a Dolly Parton classic with unintentional irony.Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5” was retooled for this spot as “5 to 9” in order to make the case that Squarespace allows workers with side hustles to promote their extra-curricular gigs. The original song is a working-class anthem, so flipping it like this is begging for critiques about how brutal it is that many people now need these side hustles to survive. Still, it’s Dolly Parton, and that’s almost enough to take your mind off of the realities of the modern American economy.

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