The 10 best celebrity ads of 2022
Revisiting the starriest spots of the year.
A famous face has long been seductive to advertisers, hefty costs be damned. And as the powers of fandom and social media virality have grown in value for brands, the business potential of a celebrity campaign has never been higher, sometimes pulling in results that far outweigh the price tag. It's what one might now call the Nicole Kidman effect after her AMC ad has remained a subject of cultural reverence over a year later (and a sequel is reportedly in the works for ‘23).
This year saw brand campaigns with some of Hollywood’s biggest stars—the ones that rose to the top being the most collaborative and representative of each iconic personality. Despite fierce competition—this reporter may start his own ‘Justice for Chloe Bailey and Ed Helms’ campaigns—Ad Age revisits the 10 best celebrity ads of the year:
Neve Campbell, one of horror’s revered scream queens for her starring role in the “Scream” franchise, appeared in this hilarious slasher satire for the American Red Cross as part of a push for increased donations during a blood shortage. While vignettes spoofing cliche horror scenarios decry the senseless waste of donatable blood, Campbell takes a stand against her potential killer—perhaps the closest audiences will get to seeing a continuation of Sidney Prescott, as the spot dropped at the same time Campbell revealed she wouldn’t be returning for the sixth “Scream” film, set for release in early 2023. The delightfully goofy spot, led by agency BBDO NY, was directed by Division7’s Matt Spicer ("Ingrid Goes West") with cinematography by Caleb Heymann ("Stranger Things").
Instacart snagged one of the year’s buzziest celebs for a candy-colored rundown of Lizzo’s favorite things. The fantastical spot, created by Instacart’s in-house marketing team in partnership with agencies Droga5 and Mayflower, careens through the musician’s go-to delivery order with the opportunity for shoppers to copy it via the app’s “carts” option that curates orders. Lizzo’s included vegan Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, Takis, Oreos, Impossible Burgers and Skittles—perfect for fans looking to make-believe a night hanging with the “About Damn Time” singer.
Rocket Mortgage topped the USA Today Super Bowl Ad Meter with its timely Barbie Dreamhouse spoof starring Anna Kendrick. While the spot, via agency Highdive, reminds this reporter more of the grim state of the housing market rather than the brand’s loan offerings, its quick switch from fairy tale to reality is a clever twist nonetheless, guided by Kendrick’s Type A persona á la her roles in “Up in the Air” or “A Simple Favor.” Also a celebrity honorable mention to “The Haunting of Hill House” star Violet McGraw for her showstopping performance as “Better Offer Betty.”
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Katy Perry’s collaboration with U.K. delivery service Just Eat was a perfect match as the songstress had a pre-existing penchant for food-adorned costumes and over-the-top goofery. The hyper-stylized and vibrant video, featuring custom lyrics co-written by Perry, is not only incredibly fun but would fit unquestioningly into a marathon of the artist's music videos, thanks both to the clear hand the star had in its creation as well as the utilization of “Swish Swish” and “Firework” director Dave Meyers. Additional kudos for the sheer impressiveness of the production, which includes animated sequences, puppetry and gorgeous set and costume design.
Sometimes even stone-faced assassins need to bust a move! Belvedere Vodka recruited an all-star team for a recent campaign, presented by the brand as a look at Daniel Craig “as you’ve never seen him before.” The spot, directed by Oscar winner Taika Waititi with original music by Rita Ora and Giggs, finds Craig swapping artillery and tuxedos for a casual tank top and a swoon-worthy groove sequence. Paired with the actor’s buzzy release “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery,” the spot took a decent lap as a trending topic on social media. Topping off the spot’s top-10-worthiness is its blooper finale. Everyone loves bloopers.
Another intimate spot, this time for its heart, was Jeff Bridges’ collaboration with AstraZeneca. While this year marked a gray area between pandemic and post-pandemic for many, Bridges joined the pharma company to discuss his difficult experiences with chemotherapy and COVID, emphasizing the delicate path to recovery for immunocompromised people. The unbranded PSA, created by agency Edelman, featured immense input from Bridges, including the shoot location, his own guitar, script input from his wife and recruiting the creative team from his film “Crazy Heart.”
Rainn Wilson, popular for portraying Dwight Schrute in “The Office,” returned to the mockumentary format for a hilarious and touching campaign from small pets brand Kaytee. The short film, from Droga5, tells the fictional story of Wilson’s attempts to enter guinea pig Kenneth into the prestigious Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. But the dog show only accepts dogs. So the man/pig duo champion a show for small pets, giving the little furry creatures their turn in the spotlight and perhaps producing a tear or two from viewers. The faux show was given an IRL social media contest with equally delightful results.
Nike revived the famous Spike Lee character Mars Blackmon, a fixture of the sportswear brand’s advertising in the ‘80s, for its 50th anniversary in a spot directed by Lee and created with agency Wieden+Kennedy. The famed filmmaker conjured instant nostalgia stepping back into the mile-a-minute Blackmon persona, careening through quick cuts of sports history. This time around, however, Blackmon is joined over a game of chess by a representative of the future—a new character, Zimmie, played by actress Indigo Hubbard-Salk—who counters Blackmon’s longing for history with enthusiasm for the future. Zimmie’s victory in the chess match respins the classic Nike/Blackmon narrative with a gleeful, future-forward outlook.
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Jennifer Coolidge. Gwyneth Paltrow. Trevor Noah. Nicholas Braun. Tracy Morgan. Zach Cherry. Sarah Silverman. Julia Fox. Uber’s work this year for its delivery offerings Uber Eats and Uber One has featured so many celebrities that it simply can’t be denied a rank on this list. Both campaigns were created by agency Special Group U.S. Months later, they still hold up on the giggle scale.
Revisiting the giggle scale, the No. 1 campaign on this list is off the charts. A campaign for banking app Lunar utilizes Will Ferrell’s extraordinary talent for creating memorable characters and achieving extreme levels of silliness. The spot, via agency Akestam Holst, finds Ferrell communing with hawks atop mountain peaks, speaking to viewers telepathically and punching people’s heads off as a fictional “world happiness guru” with giant hands. The spot perfectly harnesses Ferrell’s star power as it feels like a scene pulled straight from his fan-favorite comedies “Talladega Nights” or “Blades of Glory.” Ferrell had another close contender for this year's list in U.K. retailer Asda's resurrection of his character Buddy the Elf for a holiday ad.
Parker Herren is Ad Age’s TV reporter. He was previously a freelance journalist and podcaster covering pop culture and entertainment as well as a Pilates instructor and a professional dancer. His passions include cats, the “Scream” franchise and Halloween costumes.