These Aren’t Your Father’s Super Bowl Ads: The Evolution of TV Spots in the Digital Age
With Super Bowl XLIX behind us, there were some clear winners and losers both on the field and during the insanely-priced TV spots that aired during the commercial breaks. While Snickers, Doritos, Dove Men+Care and NASCAR had memorable and thoroughly enjoyable ads that resonated, others such as Nationwide’s spot featuring a deceased child, garnered attention for all of the wrong reasons.
Beyond the individual commercials and the products behind them, one thing stood out above all else: Super Bowl ads have taken on a life of their own. From promoting ads ahead of time to using the world stage to take a stand on a complicated issue, we’ve seen an incredible evolution in how companies are reaching their target audiences. Here are some of our top themes and takeaways from this year’s crop:
The ‘Sneak Peek’
With anticipation for Super Bowl spots continuing to grow, you no longer need to wait for the big game to get a taste of the ads slated to run. This year we saw several spots “leak” well before kickoff and it’s no surprise that many of these ads ended up on top. Some brands chose to air a preview or teaser of their commercial, hoping to push people to tune in during the game. Here are some examples:
- Snickers: During Super Bowl 49, make sure to tune in for a very special episode of The Brady Bunch, starring Danny Trejo. Yes, this really happened.
- Budweiser: Released a teaser for this year’s “Lost Dog” as which was a “sequel” to 2014’s “Puppy Love”. ADWEEK referred to this heartbreaking puppy GIF as the perfect teaser for Budweiser’s Super Bowl ad.
- Avocados From Mexico: An unlikely superstar in this year’s Brand Bowl. In this teaser, Jerry Rice and Doug Flutie get ready for the “First Draft Ever”. The brand further created buzz for its ad by announcing that it would be airing after the first quarter of the game and using the hashtag #FirstDraftEver
The ‘Social’ Spot
As social media continues to account for a bigger piece of the marketing pie, we’ve seen the lines between different types of media continue to intersect. This year, social media played a bigger role than ever in promoting and sharing ads, giving commercials a whole new life.
- Victoria’s Secret was perhaps the best example of a company effectively using social media to promote its brand. The company posted clips and teasers for its commercial on various channels for weeks leading up to the event, even creating multiple commercials to promote its TV spot:
Some of the social media giants took part in self-promotion during the game as well, with Facebook and Twitter offering an enhanced platform on Super Bowl Sunday. Facebook estimated that more than 50 million people joined the conversation during the Super Bowl in 2014, so this year the platform introduced a new Super Bowl experience to give fans a place to connect in real time.
As it has done with other big games, Twitter used a curated timeline with the hashtag #SB49 for users to follow the conversation. The NFL tweeted video highlights immediately following big plays, like it did during the playoffs. Twitter’s social reach has changed the way fans interact to the game itself and the ads that air during the game.
Ads That Make a Statement
One of the biggest trends we saw this year was companies developing ads with a more serious, even somber tone. Nationwide’s “Make Safe Happen” campaign generated a lot of buzz and elicited such a negative reaction that Nationwide issued a statement stating that the ad was meant to start a conversation, not sell insurance.
The NFL continued to speak out against domestic violence following a horrendous year for the league off the field, donating a 30 second spot to the anti-domestic violence group NO MORE. The commercial featured a real 911 call from a woman pretending to order a pizza with the dispatcher realizing that she was in fact calling for help. While many skeptics have said that the ad was not enough to make up for the leagues’ troubles this season, the message was a powerful one and brought a great deal of attention to the issue.
With highly anticipated commercials leaking online and social media channels giving them new legs, it’s clear that the viewer experience is continuing to expand well beyond the four-hour window that the game is actually on. The web and all that it has to offer have shifted the way we make buying decisions and we’re seeing companies reaching their audiences in new and refreshing ways.