Reading the Super Bowl Ad Tea Leaves

February 15, 2022

Advertisers have always known us better than we know ourselves – that is doubly true in the age of social media and big data.
I posted yesterday on the visibility of Electric Vehicles in Super Bowl ads on Sunday – now some more prognosticating in Time magazine.


Toyota debuted its hybrid Prius for the first time at the Super Bowl in 2005, calling it “good news for planet Earth.” In 2006, there were two Super Bowl ads for new hybrids: one for Toyota’s Camry hybrid, and one ad for Fords’ new Escape hybrid in which Kermit the Frog concluded that maybe it was easy being green, after all. But it’s taken 17 years and over 900 total adsfor climate change to finally break through at the Super Bowl.

The Super Bowl is the most watched TV event in the U.S. and this year nearly 100 million people were estimated to have tuned in. For companies hoping to get their product in front of this captive audience for just 30 seconds, it meant spending an average $6.5 million. And in 2022, there were the most climate-related advertisements of any Super Bowl ever, most of them focused on electric vehicles, as well as an ad for electric charging technology.

The majority of all green-focused Super Bowl ads over the years have been for cars—a trend that’s been increasing recently. In past years, such ads were more typical car-marketing fare, touting clean diesel and fuel efficiency, or throwing “and it’s a hybrid/electric” in at the end. See, for example, this Kia Optima ad from 2012.

Today, they tend to be loud, star-studded stories that put sustainability front and center. Last year, for example, in an ad for General Motors, Will Ferrelltried to rally America to beat Norway in the EV race. And this year, also for GM, Mike Myers reprised his role as Dr. Evil in an ad in which the character became consumed with the idea that if he took over General Motors’ headquarters, he could save the planet with an all-electric vehicle fleet—perhaps the first time the words “carbon footprint” had been mentioned in such a prominent TV ad.

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