Play­ing it safer this year

Su­per Bowl ad­ver­tis­ers seem to be stay­ing out of pol­i­tics

Hawaii Tribune Herald - - NEWS - By MAE AN­DER­SON

NEW YORK — Af­ter a year of po­lit­i­cal and cul­tural up­heaval, Su­per Bowl ad­ver­tis­ers ap­pear to be pulling back from themes of unity in fa­vor of in-game stunts and ads that aim for the heart — and in some cases even lower.

The stakes are high since a 30-sec­ond spot costs more than $5 mil­lion for air­time alone. The goal is to cap­ture the at­ten­tion of the more than 110 mil­lion view­ers ex­pected to tune in to the big game Sun­day (Feb. 4) — ideally by strik­ing an emo­tional chord with the game au­di­ence that will rub off on brands.

Next best: Sim­ply draw­ing at­ten­tion, even if an ad of­fends some peo­ple. Worst of all? Be­ing for­got­ten im­me­di­ately.

“More peo­ple will see me in this than they have in the last three movies I’ve made,” ac­tor and co­me­dian Bill Hader (“Train­wreck”) muses in a teaser for Pringles’ first Su­per Bowl spot.


Each year, Su­per Bowl ads of­fer a snap­shot of the na­tional psy­che. Last year, just af­ter Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump took of­fice, ads of­fered themes of in­clu­sion.

Airbnb showed faces of dif­fer­ent eth­nic­i­ties with the copy “We all be­long,” and Coke re-ran an ad fea­tur­ing “Amer­ica the Beau­ti­ful” sung in dif­fer­ent lan­guages.

This year, fol­low­ing a year of heated de­bate about im­mi­gra­tion, NFL play­ers tak­ing a knee dur­ing the na­tional an­them and the #MeToo move­ment high­light­ing sex­ual mis­con­duct, many Su­per Bowl ad­ver­tis­ers are play­ing it safer by show­cas­ing fa­mous faces, fo­cus­ing on in­of­fen­sive causes and try­ing to stand out with silly hu­mor and stunts.

Of course, a few are go­ing di­rectly for what­ever will grab at­ten­tion.


It wouldn’t be a Su­per Bowl with­out celebri­ties chug­ging sug­ary drinks and hawk­ing junk food. Cindy Craw­ford will reprise an iconic 1992 Su­per Bowl spot for Pepsi. The bev­er­age maker also will fea­ture Peter Din­klage and Mor­gan Free­man in linked ads for new ver­sions of Dori­tos and Moun­tain Dew.

In a Pringles ad, Bill Hader has a snack on set and in­tro­duces a made-up prac­tice dubbed “fla­vor stack­ing,” in which the ac­tor stacks to­gether dif­fer­ent Pringles va­ri­eties. M&Ms re­leased a teaser show­ing Danny DeVito dressed as an M&M be­ing dunked in choco­late.

For a non-snack­ing celebrity ap­pear­ance, Squares­pace hired a bearded Keanu Reeves and sat him by a camp­fire to tout its web host­ing ser­vices.


Other ad­ver­tis­ers are aim­ing di­rectly for warm and fuzzy, fig­ur­ing it’s best to bet on “things that are uni­ver­sally liked,” said Kelly O’Keefe, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Vir­ginia Com­mon­wealth Univer­sity’s Brand­cen­ter.

NBC cre­ated five cine­matic 60-sec­ond ads show­cas­ing Olympic ath­letes to drum up ex­cite­ment for the Win­ter Olympics, which start air­ing four days af­ter the Su­per Bowl. The ads show­case Amer­i­can ath­letes such as skier Lind­sey Vonn and fig­ure skater Nathan Chen.

An An­heuser-Busch ad shows a Bud­weiser brew­ery pro­duc­ing cans of wa­ter in­stead of beer, high­light­ing the brewer’s do­na­tion of drink­ing wa­ter to places in need.

Its Stella Ar­tois brand also teamed with Matt Da­mon to sell a lim­ited edi­tion beer glass, with pro­ceeds also tar­geted at pro­vid­ing ac­cess to wa­ter.

Lexus is pro­mot­ing its new LS 500 lux­ury sedan, which it is aim­ing at a 45-to-55-yearold de­mo­graphic, with an ac­tion spot star­ring the Black Pan­ther, a Marvel su­per­hero.


Re­cent Su­per Bowl ad stunts yielded mixed re­sults. Snick­ers isn’t re­turn­ing to the game this year af­ter a live spot last year fell flat. But mar­keters aren’t giv­ing up.

Tide, which last year did a fake-out ad with Terry Brad­shaw that ap­peared to be com­men­tary dur­ing the game, will be back with Brad­shaw this year.

Photo cour­tesy of AN­HEUSER-BUSCH via AP

Ac­tor Chris Pratt is pic­tured in a scene from a Mich­e­lob Ul­tra com­mer­cial. Pratt, the star of the “Juras­sic World” and “Guardians of the Galaxy” film fran­chises, will make his ad­ver­tis­ing de­but Su­per Bowl Sun­day in a pair of com­mer­cials for the light beer.

ROB KALMBACH/Pringles via AP

A scene from a Pringles Su­per Bowl spot, fea­tur­ing ac­tors Bill Hader, left, and Sky Elo­bar.

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