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Arts & Culture

Super Bowl Ads Superlatives

Marketing Experts Pick Favorites, Duds From Star-Studded Slate

By Sala Levin ’10

Arnold Schwarzenegger, Beyoncé and Jennifer Aniston

Arnold Schwarzenegger, Beyoncé and Jennifer Aniston all starred in Super Bowl ads last night, during an evening that featured a cavalcade of celebrities pitching products—and themselves.

Commercial stills courtesy of State Farm, Verizon and Uber Eats

Super Bowl? Celebrity was the real name of the game Sunday night. In the stands, Taylor Swift brought Blake Lively, Ice Spice and Lana Del Rey to watch her boyfriend, Kansas City Chiefs’ tight end Travis Kelce, win his second consecutive championship title. Lady Gaga observed from behind a bejeweled eye mask. And Christopher Walken, Quinta Brunson, Tina Fey, Martin Scorsese and an eye-popping array of other A-listers made the commercials the equivalent of a red-carpet event.

But which commercials were the standouts? University of Maryland experts Henry C. Boyd, clinical professor of marketing, Idil Yaveroglu, associate clinical professor of marketing, and Mary Beth Furst, clinical professor of marketing, offered some Monday morning quarterbacking.

Ben Affleck with arms wide open in front of a DunKings sign

Most Boston: “The DunKings

Has Ben Affleck found his best role as the thirsty, Dunkin’-obsessed husband of Jennifer Lopez? Maybe! He and Lopez continued the storyline of their 2023 Super Bowl ad, in which Affleck—famously a real-life Dunkin’ devotee—took on a shift at one of the restaurant’s drive-throughs. This time, Affleck dropped in on J.Lo in the recording studio, bringing along Patriots great Tom Brady as a deejay and Affleck’s bestie, Matt Damon, as a new boy band, the DunKings. “After ‘Good Will Hunting,’ those two are so synonymous with Boston,” as is Dunkin’, said Boyd. Damon brought some self-awareness to the spot, adapting his famous “Good Will Hunting” to “How do you like them … donuts? I’m so sorry.”

Arnold Schwarzenegger yelling in a helicopter

Best Synergy of Accent and Tagline: “Like a Good Neighbaaa

State Farm capitalized on Arnold Schwarzenegger’s instantly recognizable Austrian accent by asking him to say its slogan—ovaaa and ovaaa and ovaaa again. “The fun factor of keeping on going back to that tagline was very memorable,” said Yaveroglu. The spot made viewers laugh while never forgetting that they were watching a commercial for State Farm, she noted. Plus, the ad reunited Schwarzenegger with his “Twins” and “Junior” co-star Danny DeVito, who delivered the slogan with his trademark Jersey accent.

Jennifer Aniston holding a bag of flowers

Least Forgettable: “Don’t Forget Uber Eats

Jennifer Aniston anchored this spot for the food delivery service, in which she told viewers that in order to remember that Uber Eats delivers more than just food, all you have to do is forget something else. If you’re an average office worker, that might be how to sit, or to wear pants. If you’re David and Victoria Beckham, that might be the name of the girl group Victoria was part of in the ’90s. (“Pepper Ladies? Cinnamon Sisters?”) Or if you’re Aniston, it might be that David Schwimmer played your iconic on-again, off-again boyfriend in a beloved sitcom for a decade. “It was familiar and very clever,” said Furst.

Beyonce carrying a bat behind her head in front of a sign that says Lemonade

Best Self-Promotion: “Can’t B Broken

Sure, it was a commercial for Verizon 5G internet, which is portrayed as so powerful that even Beyoncé can’t break it. But really, it was an announcement for the Queen herself—that a new album is coming next month, and, even more immediately, that she was dropping two singles later Sunday night. Boyd noted the inspired casting: Tony Hale, known for playing the obsequious body man to Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ vice president Selina Meyer in “Veep,” played Beyoncé’s right-hand man. “To have him there as, ‘I’m your assistant, and you didn’t break the internet, but you broke me’” added to the humor, Boyd said.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. with signs that say Kennedy for President

Worst Use of a Last Name: Ad for Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s presidential campaign

A super PAC supporting independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s campaign ran a commercial that played off the 1960 campaign of his uncle, John F. Kennedy, using the same jingle and cartoons—and even superimposing Robert’s face onto JFK’s body. “My initial reaction was, how dare you do that? That’s your uncle. You don’t mess with that,” said Boyd. After the ad aired, members of the Kennedy family condemned it, and Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who’s known for his strident anti-vaccine and conspiratorial views, apologized and said he hadn’t been involved in its creation.

Maryland Today is produced by the Office of Marketing and Communications for the University of Maryland community on weekdays during the academic year, except for university holidays.