When the Packers played the Chiefs in 1967, the first Super Bowl was pretty much just a football game. When Apple released the Ridley Scott directed 1984 spot, the golden age of the Super Bowl advertising unofficially kicked into high gear. Since then, we’ve witnessed the world’s biggest brands spend unknown billions on production, media and celebrities…all hyper-focused on one day a year.

Last Sunday we saw the Super Bowl morph for a third time as we crossed, awkwardly perhaps, into the metaverse. What happens in years to come is hard to predict. What is certain is that there will be no turning back.

We have become uncomfortably numb to “The Commercial”.

As with any activity that rockets our dopamine levels to new highs, we eventually become numb to the stimulus and seek a more intense experience to feel the glow. Looking at the crop of 2022 Super Bowl commercials–and the lackluster reaction they’ve garnered– we’ve arguably hit some kind of peak. Can the celebrities get any more famous? Can the production budgets get any larger? Can the special effects become any more amazing? Do the agencies and production companies who create the spots have any juice left in the squeeze? The answer to all these questions is, sadly, “probably not.”

Like millions of Americans, the consumer in me watched last Sunday’s parade of ads subconsciously hoping that the next commercial to appear would “be the one” that took the genre to the next level. “The one” that brought back that familiar dopamine rush. “The one” that we’d all be talking about on Monday morning. That commercial never appeared.

The advertising person in me was uncharacteristically more forgiving; understanding the degree of difficulty makes one naturally sympathetic. But at the end of the day, I was consumed by an uneasy feeling that I’d just witnessed an end of an era.

Metaverse to the rescue!

To be honest, traditional TV commercials as we know them have been running on fumes for the past few Super Bowls. Marketers, desperate for the “next new thing,” would likely be experiencing unprecedented anxiety levels were it not for the fact that the next new thing made its debut last Sunday. And the next new thing is big…really big.

One could easily argue that the metaverse offerings of Super Bowl LVI were a complete disaster. The Miller Lite Meta Lite bar on Decentraland was widely panned as graphically underwhelming, contextually confusing and difficult to navigate. The Facebook/Meta Oculus Quest 2 commercial titled “Old friends, New Fun” was a brain-breaking, slit-your-wrist depressing confirmation of everything we collectively fear about the metaverse. And the Foo Fighters concert was by all accounts a complete clusterfuck Fail. Fail. And fail.

And yet there is a palpable optimism. Don’t you feel it? Optimism not based on what we “saw,” but based on the potential of what “could be.”

To be fair, we are in the early days of metaverse production. The experiences will get more real. The bigger problem is that they may become “too” real.

A fast and furious course correct.

And so, we now embark on what is being coined Super Bowl 3.0. The week following Super Bowl is always a time of reflection for marketers. This week it’s reflection on steroids.  Inside agencies across the country, creative departments are convening to spool up fast on the both the technology and the opportunity. In marketing boardrooms, the same brand managers who’ve for decades championed commercial extravaganzas are strategizing how they can jump on the metaverse bandwagon… ASAP!

Of course, the traditional :30 and :60 TV commercial format won’t disappear overnight. But don’t fall for the narrative that metaverse adoption is a decade out. Facebook’s announcement in October that it was “all in” on the metaverse and rebranding itself as Meta added nitro to the metaverse fuel tank. You’ll be shopping for a headset sooner than you think.

A world where crypto is king

Perhaps the most powerful argument for the lightning-fast adoption of the metaverse is its symbiotic relationship with cryptocurrency. At this point it’s hard to know which is the tail and which is the dog. But they are vibrating wildly together like a cultural EMP headed directly for your “reality-based” world. If you fall into the slow adopter category, it’s probably smart to find something steady to hold on to as you are about to be rocked.

What happens in the metaverse won’t stay in the metaverse

It’s hard to predict where the metaverse takes us. And how fast. Legal gambling will be yet another driving force. There could be a Super Bowl in your near future where you watch the game from a Draft Kings luxury box and are transported immediately to Vegas for a big game afterparty.  But buyer beware, in the metaverse anything resembling privacy is a thing of the past.

A Super Bowl with no :30 commercials? Really?

Hard to believe. But it will happen. And sooner than you think. Of course, just because the medium will change doesn’t mean marketing won’t become even more “all consuming.” And as far as the future for those who plan and create Super Bowl marketing experiences in the metaverse… your future’s so bright you’ll have to wear shades…I mean headsets.