With 110 million viewers expected to tune into the Super Bowl – and the Patriots' quest for a sixth title – a lot of eyes will be judging more than football. This is the biggest stage for brands brave enough and rich enough to play on the biggest stage. As is the case every year there is no shortage of storylines with pre-released ads and whispers about something up an advertiser’s sleeve.
Personally, I think brands that build up to the Super Bowl with some momentum have the advantage. It becomes a continuation of a story your audience already knows, as opposed to those using it as a one-and-done spot drowned out by the crowd at your party. In either case you better have some compelling digital extension and maybe some offline engagement ideas if you're going to get your money's worth. Dilly, Dilly!
We posed the question to a panel from across the agency: What are you expecting this year?
- "I'm intrigued by the length of the ads this year. We’re supposed see more spots longer than 30 seconds than we’ve seen in any Super Bowl, following a season where FOX unveiled 6-second ads in NFL games. It makes me wonder whether the future is taking us toward a dynamic where video advertising becomes like the movie experience: short ads (e.g., 6-seconds) playing the role of trailers, directing you to longer length ads or short-form videos that play the role of the movie itself. Good advertising should embrace the intricacies and benefits of different platforms to tell stories seamlessly across them. M&Ms did a little bit of this with a short teaser of its Danny DeVito spot that we’ll see in the game." - Todd Graff, SVP, PR and Social
- "Last year was a bit somber and political, reflecting the mood of the country. But some felt marketers were asking viewers to take sides. And while our political landscape may not have shifted all that much, this game feels like it will be a return to the past days of showmanship, brilliant creativity and pure brand plays. Budweiser, for instance, will not tell an immigrant story, but instead focus on a story around disaster relief. I don’t see a Lumber 84 message in this year’s batch. I expect more diversion, smiles, laughs and far less controversy." - Grant Pace, Executive Creative Director
- "I’m excited to see Budweiser highlight cause marketing. While I’ll miss the Clydesdales, it’s the right time and platform for the brand to illustrate how a company can do good when good is needed (seems like all the time lately) by turning out drinking water from their breweries for people affected by natural disasters. Not political—human." - Majja Dennis
- "This might be the first year I’m not as interested in the ads as I am in what happens live. Given the divisiveness of our political discourse, the tribal mentality that’s taken over, and the fact that there’s no better place to make a big statement than live TV with 110+ million people watching, I have to believe we’re going to see some interesting, non-network-sanctioned messaging somewhere along the way. I’m sure NBC and the NFL are anticipating this and taking great pains to head it off. So the key to making anything stick will be creativity, which is what great branding is all about." - Steve Angel, VP, Strategic Development
- "Given the recent #MeToo movement, I expect to see some brands bring light to the issue beyond Hollywood. I'd love to see a major brand take a genuine HR angle vs. a product sales angle: maybe something showcasing women within their organization that make stuff happen or emphasizing how they respect women within the organization, value their opinions and pay them well." - Yeliza Centeio, Associate Media Director
- "The ads that have been pre-released seem to be a return to form for Super Bowl commercials. Heavy up on celebrities like Morgan Freeman, Peter Dinklage and Keanu Reeves. No more User Generated commercials. No more Go online to see how this story ends. No more political statements. It would be good to see a brand get behind the surging women's movement (Dove?) but I haven’t seen anything yet. There does seem to be a conscious effort to move away from blatant objectification of women in Super Bowl ads this year (yeah, you, Go Daddy, Carl's Jr.). So the real news here may not only exist in the statements that brands make explicitly, but also in the statements they make through omission." - Kevin Redmond, VP, Director Digital
- "An easy win for big brands is to invest $5M in a 30-second spot to gain mass reach and industry buzz during the biggest viewing program of the year. At least it once was that easy. The challenge today is authentically connecting with a digitally savvy audience of millennials as they prefer to not be marketed to through a typical one-dimensional broadcast ad. So brands will need to break through the clutter by extending the reach of a Super Bowl ad beyond the TV screen. We expect to see marketers take some risks by involving their biggest fans in the ad, finding unique ways to keep the media relevant and alive beyond the cost of a single spot. They will ask their consumers to take action, to have a voice. Engagement will include user generated content, amplification into social channels, contests with opt-in data capture and a 2-way conversation with the end goal of creating life long brand ambassadors." - Paula Serafino, VP, Media Director
- "I expect (and hope) there’s support of the women’s movement and #metoo. Though I hope brands woke up after the Kendall Jenner / Pepsi debacle and understand the difference between being supportive and using their platform for good, vs. jumping on the bandwagon. I’m also tired of quirky commercials that are weird for the sake of being weird. Puppy monkey baby by Mountain Dew was waaay too much in my opinion. Doritos does this fairly well. I want funny, memorable, quotable - not weird, nonsense. I’m really excited for the Alexa spot! Jeff Bezos is in the teaser, and looks like they’ve enlisted celebrities like Rebel Wilson, Leslie Jones and Cardi B who have all posted continuations of the teaser on their Instagram and Twitter channels. And Alexa is in on it too - ask her questions like “Did you lose your voice” or “What happened to your voice” to see how. It’s big, and it’s fully integrated and I haven’t seen that before. ." - Alaina Muniz, Associate Digital Director
- "I'm excited for both sides of the spectrum. One, the good old-fashioned “we-wrote-an-awesome-script-Willem-Defoe-is-in-it-and-there’s-gonna-be-some-goosebumps-with-epic-music" type of classic Super Bowl Spot. But I also love to see brands use the platform to shift the user's attention to digital spaces in exciting new ways before, after and during the game. Hulu offering classic Super Bowl commercials via a Gameday email blast, Jeep airing a UGC commercial in 2016, or this year's awesome gem by Tostitos." - Will Claflin, Digital Storyteller
- "Last year with all going on in the world, a lot of brands decided to focus more on serious ads that support certain causes or themes, some were even anti-Trump. With all the craziness that we’ve seen in the last six months, I have a feeling we’ll see more of those serious, cause-related themes like Budweister, which focused on its water initiative for Hurricane relief. I think it's a really powerful ad. But I am equally hopeful that we’ll see more humor this year because the world needs to laugh a little." - Lauren Kimball, Director of Account Management