Meta’s Super Bowl commercial is true to the new name of the company that owns Facebook, because the spot is meta. The ad is self-referential, with a story about an ageing hangout—similar to a ShowBiz Pizza or Chuck E. Cheese—but maybe it’s a metaphor for Facebook.
On Thursday, Meta released a 90-second version of the Super Bowl spot, which it teased last week. The commercial called “Old Friends, New Fun” is meant to introduce the public to Meta Quest 2 devices, and shows off how Meta is moving from an old-school social media brand to a more futuristic platform in the metaverse. Meta Quest VR goggles can transport players to Horizon Worlds and other apps and games in the metaverse.
A 60-second version of the commercial, produced with the help of ad agency Anomaly LA, will run in the first quarter of the game. Audiences will determine if one minute of a Big Game commercial break is enough time to explain what Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s new vision is. The spot opens with a fictional pizza-and-games chain called Questy’s, with an animatronic house band called The Cometeers rocking to the new wave song “Don’t You (Forget About Me).”
The choice of the Simple Minds song can’t help but seem like a plea from Meta, which is going through one of the toughest periods in its history. Last year, Facebook changed its name to Meta, a rebrand to focus on the metaverse, a concept that Zuckerberg hopes is the future of the platform. Facebook’s current social media services have been criticized for contributing to societal ills, and the company is beset on all sides.
There are regulators who are investigating Facebook as an alleged monopoly in social media. Platform rival Apple has made policy changes that strike at the heart of Facebook’s digital advertising practices. Apple has implemented data-sharing restrictions on iPhones, targeted to dismantle how Facebook and others collect information on consumers to tailor ads.
Meanwhile, Chinese-owned TikTok is changing how younger consumers interact on social media. The competition is getting to Facebook, and last quarter the number of global daily active users slipped ever so slightly. Facebook went from 1.93 billion daily users to 1.929 billion. Some industry watchers have started to write the obituary on social media, and perhaps that’s where the new Super Bowl commercial comes in.
Questy’s and The Cometeers are shown in fast-forward mode, transforming over the years from a raucous hangout to a bankrupt brand, where all the parts are sold off. The animatronic band is split up as the characters get removed. The Questy’s neon sign goes dark outside, replaced by a “closing forever” banner.
The spot then follows the lead animatronic character, an oversized shaggy hound named Harry, which is moved from pawnshop to karaoke bar to being discarded on the side of the road. Then a second life comes as it gets reclaimed, and put on display in the “Bosworth Space Center,” a nod to Andrew Bosworth, head of Reality Labs at Meta.
The space exhibit in the commercial offers a tour of space through Quest VR goggles. When the exhibit closes at night, the Questy’s front dog is left with the goggles, and opens its eyes to enter the metaverse.
Meta’s marketing team said one of the goals of the ad was to show what’s available now in VR, versus what’s still years or even decades away as the internet moves from 2D phone screens to 3D interactivity. Still, the commercial has a disclaimer: “Screen images simulated and not representative of our current product. User experience will vary.”
In Meta’s Horizon Worlds, users can build their own spaces and games. Some of the avatars in the Super Bowl commercial come from real users in the VR world. Meta built a VR version of Questy’s, describing it as the first Super Bowl commercial viewers can actually enter. The VR Questy’s opened on Thursday.
“One of the behaviors that we saw in Horizon Worlds, which is our new social sandbox,” Dave Kaufman, global director of marketing for Meta Quest and metaverse, told Ad Age last week, “is that we saw people building the places from their past.”
Meta also announced that after the game on Sunday, The Foo Fighters will perform in the metaverse at Horizon Venues. First, The Cometeers get their turn in the Super Bowl spot. The commercial ends with the group reuniting from their remote locations to perform at a rebuilt Questy’s in virtual reality.
“It's clear that a ton of brands are jumping on to the metaverse train, but we know that vision is still a ways away,” Meta said in its announcement about the ad's debut. “VR technology is a foundational step towards the metaverse and this spot showcases the incredible ways people are connecting right now with Quest 2, and what it could look like down the road for the metaverse.”