Jack Harlow to Metro Boomin: new Super Bowl ad stars are born. Will Gen Z find it cringe?
So far, Pringles, Budweiser and Doritos have confirmed that Gen Z-hip stars will front their Super Bowl LVII ads. But will young consumers connect? Marketing experts discuss.
Meghan Trainor films a TikTok in Pringles' Super Bowl teaser / Credit: Pringles
Jack Harlow, Meghan Trainor and Metro Boomin: these certainly aren’t your parents’ celebrity spokespeople.
Super Bowl advertisers are looking to aggressively target Gen Z with a new crop of celebrity cameos. Already announced are:
Budweiser, which tapped 29-year-old hip-hop producer Metro Boomin and up-and-coming rapper PineappleCITI
And Doritos, whose teaser spots reveal the appearances of Jack Harlow and Missy Elliott
Each partnership is an attempt to gain the attention of this hard-to-target demographic, aside from where they live: on social media. (Of course, overlays, like Doritos’ partnership with popular TikToker vibin.wit.tay will support).
By putting these artists in the Super Bowl spotlight, these brands aim to tap into the cultural zeitgeist. “Young people have always been arbiters of culture, and Gen Z is no different,“ says Nitin Dua, strategy director at Brooklyn-based creative agency Mojo Supermarket.
“They decide what’s cool, and specifically in the age of social, Gen Z decides what’s worth a like/comment/share… These specific big brands recognize that — these are brands that consistently work to be part of the culture and if they do their jobs right, young people, the arbiters of culture, like them and give them their vote as a cool brand.”
Of course, the marketers themselves are bullish on their approach. “Who better to show the world how relatable getting ‘stuck in’ with Pringles is than the iconic yet down-to-earth, Grammy award-winning artist and TikTok star who truly loves our food?“ says Pringles’ US marketing lead Mauricio Jenkins.
“Pringles was drawn to Meghan’s playful relatability and connection with her fans, especially on platforms we know audiences of all ages frequent, including Millennials and Gen Z.”
Old tricks, new cast, new audience
Picking pop stars to front a Super Bowl spot is not a new occurrence. Pepsi built its brand on being the “choice of the new generation,” tapping everyone from Michael Jackson to Britney Spears.
But Gen Z is well-versed in marketing and has strong opinions about it. “When there’s a disconnect between the brand and the artist's brand, they are quick to dismiss it and call it out as a ‘money grab,’” says Mat Bilodeau, marketing manager at Gen Z-focused sports platform Stadium Live.
“I personally think [this trend] is smart but very precarious. It’s really easy to come across as unauthentic or cringe to Gen Z if you’re not putting your best foot forward or finding the right artists for your brand and message.“
Brands’ money can be better spent elsewhere unless a well-executed idea necessitates the use of stardom, says Jeremy Davis, group strategy director at TBWA\Chiat\Day LA. “These kinds of tactics feel like cheap, and super expensive, strategy moves to buy their way into Gen Z relevance,“ says Davis.
“I’d like to see brands work harder to earn their way into culture through real, big ideas, not just a big talent budget ... Brands should look for real fans or fandoms to feature or figures who otherwise have a credible connection to the brand story they’re enlisted to tell. This will make the ad more memorable and build the brand’s brand and not just the talent’s.”
Rob Reilly, global chief creative officer at global holding company WPP agrees: ”It’s the brands that believe in a bold and well-crafted concept, featuring these artists, that always win ... Hopefully, investing in brave ideas will be the trend that never ends.”
Older talent provides equilibrium
Still, marketers are careful to strike a balance by sharing familiar faces for older generations. As tradition will have it, the Big Game’s commercial breaks will also boast comedy royalty. We’ve already seen a flurry of familiar stars trotted out including:
Even old-time rockers, like Black Sabbath frontman Ozzy Osbourne and Gen X icon Billy Idol, are dusting off their boots for Workday
Frito-Lay took the balance of the old and the new into careful consideration when selecting its stars, which range from Harlow to Elliott. “At Doritos, we seek to engage our fans in ways that can bridge generations by creating bold moments in culture,” says Stacy Taffet, senior vice-president of brand marketing at Frito-Lay North America. ”That’s why this year’s Super Bowl spot features talent that resonates with all of our audiences and encourages new conversations around the music industry.”
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