The Super Bowl is the American Idol of advertising. Between the game and the replays, for nearly an entire hour, ads play back-to-back as if participating in a national talent show of brand creativity. The biggest household names — Google, Coca Cola, Chevrolet, Budweiser — compete to win the hearts of the American people through humor and relatability.
In anticipation of the Big Game, here are three predictions about how Super Bowl advertising will be defined this Sunday, all across America’s living rooms.
Taken in as a whole — the sport, the ads, and the halftime show — the Super Bowl is quickly becoming the most integrated entertainment experience on TV, a real American Gesamtkunstwerk. And that means that more people with different tastes and backgrounds will be tuning in.
As in last year’s game, many advertisers are predicted to push beyond the standard 30-second spot. Why? Because their ads have never looked less like ads. They are dramas, documentaries, short comedies, and even public service announcements showcasing an unprecedented level of creativity and digital awareness.
In a time when broadcast TV competes with mobile and digital for ad dollars, it’s telling that the ads themselves are contributing to a more complete and integrated experience on TV, expanding the reach and appeal of the game.
On Tuesday, Google announced that it would return to the Super Bowl after 10 years with a 90-second love story. The lengthy ad, inspired by a company employee’s relative, revolves around an elderly man who uses the company’s search engine and its AI-powered Google Assistant to remember his dead wife. So far, the ad has received generally good responses — but it falls into a tricky category of emotional advertising that has the potential to be either impactful or…questionably executed.
What was considered the most brilliant advertising success of the Super Bowl only a week ago — Planters’ promise to hold a Super Bowl funeral ad for its iconic Mr. Peanut mascot, who was killed off in a teaser ahead of the game — has now become a major brand liability. Following the death of basketball star Kobe Bryant, the decision to use death as a marketing plot-point has come under scrutiny – especially since the news is bound to influence Super Bowl programming. Planters has followed up with conflicting messaging on whether they will be continuing or halting the campaign, and any viral success is bound to be quickly overshadowed by more serious conversations.
While on the topic of teasers and PR disasters, many have noticed the unique Super Bowl phenomenon of having “commercials for the commercials.” Brands have become increasingly invested in unleashing teasers for their Super Bowl spots earlier and earlier in the year, hoping they will generate the buzz needed to build anticipation for the final spot.
Accomplishing this reach on social and earned media, however, would be difficult without coordinated PR campaigns. Furthermore, while Super Bowl ads are much more than competitions over which brand can get the best celebrity endorsement, having a good spokesperson counts. In the second golden age of television, there’s no shortage of talent to tap into, partnerships to make, messaging to define, and audiences to reach.
As ads become more political and involved in sensitive and emotional messaging — and as the conversations surrounding them spill into social media — managing the reputations of brands, partners, and spokespeople is more important than ever. Not only has the format changed (ads can now be anything from short comedy sketches to extended “brand films”) but the teams behind them must keep up with the evolution of the Super Bowl as a critical brand showdown.
One thing is certain: with 30 seconds of prime time going for upwards of $5M, and ad space before and after the game still priced in the millions, the Super Bowl remains the ultimate advertising event of the year and the best test for the talents of advertisers and agencies.