Super Bowl ads aim for the heart

Ripon Bulletin - - Nation -

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.

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