With 30-second spots costing $7 million, the pressure is on for advertisers. Some bet on nostalgia, others take a futuristic angle.
LOS ANGELES — Advertisers for this year’s Super Bowl want Americans to forget about the woes of the pandemic and focus on the future: electric vehicles, mind-reading Alexas, robots and cryptocurrency — and also to return to the nostalgic past of 90s films like “Austin Powers” and “The Cable Guy”.
The Los Angeles Rams take on the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl 56 on Sunday at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif. But for many, the big show of the evening will be the commercials.
Advertisers hope to deliver a dose of escapism with light-hearted humor and star-studded entertainment amid the pandemic, high inflation and tensions between Russia and Ukraine.
“Marketers are recognizing that Americans have been through a very fraught and difficult two years and are responding by bringing some good old-fashioned entertainment for the Super Bowl on Sunday,” said Kimberly Whitler, professor of marketing at the University. of Virginia.
NBC quickly sold its ad space and said an undisclosed number of 30-second spots fetched $7 million, a jump from the $6.5 million for ads last year.
Super Bowl viewership has been declining in recent years. Last year, 92 million people tuned in, according to Nielsen, the lowest viewership since 2007. But viewership for other major live events like the Grammys and Oscars has also fallen. Ratings for the Olympics — which NBC airs at the same time as the Super Bowl — are also down. The Super Bowl therefore remains the biggest night for advertisers.
“It’s the only game in town,” said Villanova marketing professor Charles Taylor.
This year’s ads will be fun and heartwarming, leading Kelly O’Keefe, CEO of brand consultancy Brand Federation, to dub this year the “Ted Lasso Super Bowl.” It’s not just because two of the stars of Apple+ sitcoms are featured in the ads – Jason Sudeikis for TurboTax and Hannah Waddingham for Rakuten.
That’s because the ads, like the sitcom, will be “nothing too heavy,” O’Keefe said. “It’s funny, positive and makes you happy – but doesn’t go overboard.”
What does the future look like? Electric, if automakers have anything to do with it. As automakers come back strong this Super Bowl, BMW shows Arnold Schwarzenegger as Zeus, the god of the sky (or in this commercial, the god of lightning) whose wife, Salma Hayek Pinault, gives him the EV BMW iX to spice up retirement.
Kia advertises the Kia EV6, the brand’s first battery-electric vehicle, along with an adorable “robot dog”. Nissan gives a nod to its all-electric 2023 Nissan Ariya.
First-time advertiser Wallbox features an actual survivor of being struck by lightning in its advertisement for its home electric vehicle charger.
Other advertisers are also looking to the future. Amazon’s spot shows real-life spouses living in a world where Amazon’s digital assistant, Alexa, can read your mind. In a regional ad, Samuel Adams shows Spot, Boston Dynamics’ dancing robot dog, getting into a fight with the brewer’s employees.
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Bud Light NEXT, a new extension of the carb-free Bud Light brand, features an NFT in its advertising. And Facebook is giving a glimpse of its vision for the Metaverse in a humorous ad that shows an abandoned animatronic dog reuniting with its pals in the Metaverse.
Among the 30 new advertisers are several cryptocurrency exchanges. Proponents of blockchain-based digital currencies that have attracted interest from investors and financial services firms also want to attract ordinary Americans. Exchanges Crypto.com, FTX and eToro have all announced Super Bowl advertising plans, and others have been rumored but unconfirmed.
While the Super Bowl can be a good place to launch a new brand or category into the public consciousness, there are risks of getting lost in the shuffle as new advertisers. And they have a big task with 30 seconds.
“They need to educate the public about what their product is, why it’s not risky and where they can access it,” Taylor of Villanova said.
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Pop culture nostalgia
Nostalgia is always a sure bet to win over viewers, and this year’s Super Bowl is no different.
In a teaser, Verizon hints that it’s bringing back Jim Carrey to reprise his disgusting “Cable Guy” persona from 1996 for their commercial. GM has enlisted Mike Myers for an “Austin Powers” themed ad that features a reprise of his role as Austin Powers nemesis Dr. Evil. Sidekicks played by Rob Lowe, Seth Green and Mindy Sterling also join.
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And some ad executives hope people will remember the iconic ad, too. ETrade hinted in a teaser that it would bring back the spokesperson who appeared in its Super Bowl ads from 2008 to 2014. A Hellmann ad shows Washington Commanders linebacker David Mayo attacking people without mistrust who waste food. The ad is a homage to a 2003 Reebok Super Bowl commercial featuring a fictional linebacker named Terry Tate who preyed on office workers who weren’t productive.
A well-liked celebrity usually adds goodwill to the brand message. So how about three to five of them? Super Bowl ads are always filled with celebrities, but this year many ads are overloaded with them.
“I’ve never seen anything like this number of A-List celebrities,” Taylor said of Villanova.
Uber Eats wanted to get the message across that you can order household and other miscellaneous items from its delivery service, not just food. So his ad features celebrities and other actors trying to eat everything from kitty litter to diapers. “If it was delivered by Uber Eats, does that mean I can ‘eat’ it?” asks White Lotus actress Jennifer Coolidge. Gwyneth Paltrow tries to eat a candle, Trevor Noah tries to eat a light bulb, and “Succession”‘s Nicholas Braun tries to eat dish soap.
In the Michelob Ultra commercial, a bowling alley run by Steve Buscemi brings together superstar athletes from all sports enjoying bowling in their spare time: tennis great Serena Williams, former NFL quarterback Peyton Manning, forward NBA star Miami Heat Jimmy Butler, WNBA star Nneka Ogwumike, top golfer Brooks Koepka and US women’s soccer star Alex Morgan.
The Planet Fitness commercial is narrated by William Shatner and shows Lindsay Lohan working out, winning Jeopardy against Dennis Rodman and dazzling Danny Trejo’s anklet.
And in the Nissan commercial, a straight-legged Eugene Levy turns into an action hero while driving a 2023 Nissan Z sports car, alongside stars Danai Gurira and Dave Bautista. Levy’s “Schitt’s Creek” co-star Catherine O’Hara appears in Nissan’s new Ariya electric car.
Most advertisers avoid sentiment.
“People avoid the deepest issues,” said Brand Federation’s O’Keefe. “People are not going to try to unite us or divide us or make us think deeply. Ads will be much more fun. But also very safe.
A few, however, deliver heartfelt messages.
The Budweiser brand, absent last year, returns with a spot centered on one of its Clydesdale mascots. After injuring himself jumping a barbed wire fence – a not-so-subtle reference to the United States and the coronavirus pandemic – another Budweiser mascot, a Labrador, stableman and veterinarian, helps the Clydesdale recover and gallop again. Budweiser wanted to return “with a message of strength and resilience,” said Daniel Blake, group vice president of Anheuser-Busch.
Google’s ad for the Pixel 6 features singer Lizzo and focuses on how the phone’s camera brings out darker skin tones. And the Toyota ad, which debuted during the Olympics but will also air during the Super Bowl, tells the story of the McKeever brothers, cross-country skiers who won 10 Paralympic medals together.