As big events go, the Super Bowl is the ad industry’s … uh, Super Bowl. An enormous audience all watching the same screen(s), as brands pay eye-popping costs—$5 million for a 30-second spot—and agencies do their darnedest to make the ad everyone will be talking about the next day.
It’s a big deal! And even if you claim you hate the game or the ads, you’ll probably watch right along with the rest of us.
So what should you expect from this year’s broadcast of The Big Game? Here are a few of our favorite trends:
The sizzle reel for the hype video for the trailer for the promo
With agencies and brands vying to make their spots go viral, this year’s crop of Super Bowl ads is getting the superhero-movie treatment. Everyone from Tide to M&Ms to Skittles to Hyundai is dropping ads to promote their ads, offering multiple opportunities to grab consumers’ attention before, during, and after the game.
The strategy makes sense—if you’re going to pay $5 million for 30 seconds of airtime, you want to make the most memorable impression possible—and it shows that brands are thinking harder about what it takes to grab and hold consumers’ attention. The Super Bowl is perhaps the one time of year when people outside the ad industry don’t try to avoid ads, and while trailers and sneak peeks can keep a brand in consumers’ minds during the lead-up to the game, the real winners will be the brands that let consumers connect with expensive creative after it has aired. People already talk about the ads the day after the Big Game, and it’s up to smart brands to make it easy for consumers to turn those conversations into conversions.
A Black Mirror episode, except the episode watches you
Last year’s Super Bowl ads had a decidedly earnest tone to them (in some cases, problematically so), so it was perhaps inevitable that, a year later, the pendulum would swing hard the other way.
Some brands are going fully contrarian this time around—Amazon’s Alexa loses her voice in one spot, while Skittles is banking on the want-what-you-can’t-have appeal of an ad that will be shown to only one viewer with the hope that a knowing wink can create a memorable and authentic experience.
If it ain’t broke
While some brands use the Super Bowl to try something new and unique, others are here simply for the exposure guaranteed by the game’s massive audience. So it’s not surprising to see big-name celebrity cameos (Peter Dinklage and Morgan Freeman for Doritos and Mountain Dew; Keanu Reeves for Squarespace; Melissa McCarthy for Kia), ubiquitous-if-cringeworthy catchphrases (Bud Light’s “Dilly dilly!”) and straight reboots of ads that performed well in the past (Cindy Crawford’s remake of her 1992 ad for Pepsi) in the mix.
As in football, brilliant play calls can be undone by simple mistakes, while simplistic strategies can shine when they’re executed brilliantly. With brands moving away from last year’s let’s-win-an-Oscar-for-Best-Documentary-Short style, we’re predicting a return to the kind of silly and funny ads the Big Game has become known for. But even advertisers will have to watch the game to see how it all unfolds.