The early line on Super Bowl LII (other than the Patriots’ quarterback having perfect hair under his helmet) is that advertising won’t steer clear of causes, much like last year. And like most years, the pricy ads—a 30-second spot is expected to go for $5 million-plus—will be heavy on star power, humor and tie-ins with other properties.
In a trend that has taken hold during recent years, advertisers are doing away with the secrecy over their spots. Instead of unveiling them at the big game, they are increasingly previewing the ads online and tying up with social media platforms to get the most bang for those $10-million-a-minute media buys.
While the Super Bowl tries to avoid controversy—and already has kicked off one by refusing an ad in the game program from a veterans’ group—it doesn’t shy away from charitable efforts. The National Football League often includes a spot at halftime promoting its charities, and at last year’s game, many advertisers included pitches related to immigrants, minorities and women. This year won’t be an exception.
ABInbev’s Anheuser-Busch has been a long-time advertiser in the big game and a frequent winner of the best-ad post-game polls. A-B often saves a few spots in its massive buy to promote causes it supports. This year, it will air a spot touting its charitable efforts that supply canned drinking water to disaster areas.
Stella Artois, another beer brand from ABInbev, doubled down with three Super Bowl trends: causes, tie-ins and stars. Its ad features Matt Damon supporting Stella’s partnership with the non-profit charity: water.
Another combo of star and cause is bound to be controversial the morning after. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals will air this spot featuring vegan Emmy winner James Cromwell in a shot at meat packers.
In a more light-hearted vein, Groupon enlisted comedian Tiffany Haddish to add some humor to its pitch in support of local small businesses.
Haddish won’t be the only recognizable face in game. Also on the star front, M&M’s is featuring actor Danny deVito assuming the role of a lifesize red M&M.
Amazon went all-in on an all-star ads where celebrities replace the voice of Alexa, including a Hannibal-like Anthony Hopkins and chef Gordon Ramsay hyperventilating through a grilled-cheese sandwich recipe.
Not all the celebrities in ads are actors. Persil Pro Clean recruited Bill Nye, the Science Guy to star in its return to Super Bowl advertising, after it aired its first game commercial last year. While cars, snacks and beer still dominate the game ads, other packaged-goods advertisers recognize the Super Bowl is one of the few true mass-audience broadcasts left on TV, and the viewers include a large number of women.
Given the cost of time on the game, advertisers want to leverage their spend in as many ways possible, either using their pricy platform to launch new brands and products or to amplify tie-ins with other brands and entertainment properties. Lexus will use its time to promote its tie-in with the new Marvel superhero franchise Black Panther.
PepsiCo is also multi-tasking by tying in two of its brands, Doritos and Mountain Dew, into one star-driven Super Bowl campaign, and overlaying a social media effort on top. The commercial will feature a lip-synch rap battle between Game of Thrones star Peter Dinklage and the voice of God, Morgan Freeman, with backing by Busta Rhymes and Missy Elliott. Fans can download a Snapchat lens that lets them record their own raps, or choose sides on Twitter and Instagram.
Humor is a safe bet when appealing to the last, most diverse worldwide TV audience. Risque jokes are not an unusual element in Super Bowl ads, but a bit of scatological humor can be a bit edgy during the game. This ad for Procter & Gamble Co.’s Febreze air freshener goes a bit literal with a popular saying.
Who stunk and who scored? Velocitize will be tweeting live during the commercial breaks on Sunday’s game. Join us @VelocitizePub and share your thoughts about this year’s ads!