Super Bowl ads aim for the heart
NEW YORK (AP) — 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 on 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 over immigration, NFL players taking a knee during the national anthem and the #Me Too 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 straight for whatever will grab attention.
Most people remember the 2004 Super Bowl for the infamous “wardrobe malfunction” when Justin Timberlake ripped off part of Janet Jackson’s shirt during the halftime performance. But it also featured an unusually large number of tasteless ads, including crotch and fart jokes by Sierra Mist, Budweiser and Bud Light and the now-famous Cialis ad that warned about erections lasting longer than four hours.
Advertisers largely dialed it back afterward, excepting a 2009 Doritos ad that included a snowglobe-in-the-crotch joke. But this year, Justin Timberlake returns to the Super Bowl ... and so does sock-it-to-the-lowerbody humor.
Groupon’s ad, for instance, stars Tiffany Had-dish asking people to support local businesses — then cuts to a wealthy man who plots to crush small businesses, only to double over after players nail him with a kicked football.
Groupon insists the man isn’t hit in the groin, although the ad video is ambiguous. “The crotch hit is the lowest thing in the book,” Advertising Age columnist Barbara Lippert said in a phone interview. “I was hoping it was retired forever.”
The Groupon ad is also notable for its distinctly anti-1 percenter tone. “We think the vast majority of consumers will appreciate the over-the-top comeuppance our ‘villain’ receives,” said Jon Wild, Groupon’s head of marketing for North America.
An ad for Febreze air freshener goes all in for toilet humor. It presents a pseudo-documentary about a boy whose “bleep doesn’t stink,” alluding to a profane phrase that commonly refers to people who are full of ... themselves.
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.