The future is uncertain. The present is complex. But the past? That’s pretty safe terrain for Super Bowl advertisers.
This year — yet again — advertisers have reached into the cultural vaults of decades past. Several spots in Sunday’s game feature stars from, and references to, hits from the 1980s and 1990s.
“It’s just comfortable,” said Brad Adgate, a veteran media analyst. “You’re there to relax and enjoy the game and watch the ads. This type of strategy works.”
A Super Bowl ad for Michelob Ultra included a star-studded reference to “Caddyshack,” the 1980 comedy about mischief at a country club. In the spot, Brian Cox of the TV show “Succession” tees off against Serena Williams. The professional athletes Nneka Ogwumike, Jimmy Butler, Alex Morgan, Canelo Álvarez and Rickie Fowler, along with the sports commentator Tony Romo, watch and taunt the competitors.
In another plaid-forward throwback, Alicia Silverstone, who starred in the role of Cher Horowitz in the 1995 romantic comedy “Clueless,” wore her character’s iconic yellow suit look for Rakuten, the Japanese e-commerce giant.
“We’re tapping into that ’90s nostalgia to educate consumers about how they can shop smarter and save with Rakuten through Cher’s familiar beloved voice,” said Dana Marineau, the chief marketing officer of Rakuten. She added that the ad was geared toward millennial women.
An ad for the workplace software company Workday, a newcomer this year, features old-school rockers including Joan Jett and Ozzy Osbourne (as well as the contemporary artist Gary Clark Jr.). Jokes about corporate “rock stars” ensue.
“People have a really emotional connection to the music they listen to growing up,” said Pete Schlampp, the brand’s chief marketing and strategy officer. Workday’s buyers are “commonly from a more senior generation,” he said, adding that the ad aims to appeal to all ages.
“I tested early versions of this ad on my 15-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son,” Mr. Schlampp said. “They were laughing, and they knew who these people were.”