Over 100 million viewers; 9 slots in the 10 most-watched American television programs of all time; these are the stats that decorate the United States' beloved and highly anticipated annual football event - The Super Bowl. It makes this day as special for advertising as it is for football fans. The ads which are not seen as interruptions are actually integral to the experience of the game - this is backed by the social media chatter that is awash with commentary about the game as well as the ads.
The average cost of a 30-second spot for the Super Bowl has crept up to $5 million (USD) in the last couple of years and despite this, brands believe it is their best opportunity to reach a huge audience and they are known to go for spectacle-type showcases. Globally too, there is a keen sense of anticipation to see just what interesting and creative work advertisers will roll out each season.
"It's interesting how the hype and hoopla for the Super Bowl ad has moved from the 'slot' to the 'pre'," says Amer Jaleel, chairman and chief creative officer, Mullen Lintas, adding that the packaging around the event has smartly used the history and legacy of this traditional property to convert it into a contemporary property largely for the digital medium.
Jaleel adds, "There are huge learnings for media marketing professionals here; having said that, this media opportunity was created by attaching a huge premium to the slots long ago. And that galvanised the ad industry to produce work that was showcase."
As of now, Jaleel isn't sure if the IPL can repeat this model. "With the high costs that are attached to ownership of IPL these days it would be a huge media risk to keep fewer slots at huge premiums. We'll have to wait and see how Star Sports plays it out," he explains.
Meanwhile here are this year's buzz-generating Super Bowl ads:
Saatchi & Saatchi and Procter and Gamble can take credit for what was the most popular ad of the night. It has David Harbour (star of Netflix's Stranger Things) starting off driving a car but is soon jumping into a series of 'templated commercials' spoofing the likes of Old Spice, Mr. Clean and Amazon's Alexa. Throughout the video, Harbour points out exactly what the commercial-like scenes all had in common - clean clothes and then declares that they were all, inadvertently, ads for Tide.
2. Doritos + Mountain Dew
PepsiCo brings together its snack product Doritos and its fizzy drink Mountain Dew, in an epic and rare joint ad. Munching on Doritos Blaze, Game of Thrones star Peter Dinklage lip-syncs to his version of Busta Rhymes' 'Look at me now' as he walks through a burning room. While, on the other, cooler side, actor Morgan Freeman sips on Mountain Dew Ice as he lip-syncs, with his own take, to Missy Elliot's 'Get your freak on' with everything freezing-over as he walks by. The 'Fire and Ice' battle has fans re-igniting their GOT theories.
Automaker Toyota had three ads of which the buzziest was an inspirational video called 'Good Odds'. It portrays the journey of Canadian Paralympic gold medallist skier Lauren Woolstencroft from infancy to adulthood. The spot depicts her odds declining as she perseveres through training. The campaign, a dual effort by Saatchi & Saatchi (US) and Dentsu Tokyo, aims to highlight Toyota's transition into a 'mobility company'. This particular ad, in a first for Toyota, does not feature a single car.
One brand that's really known for its Super Bowl commercials is Budweiser. This time it used the pricey airtime to promote its water initiative instead of the signature beer.
Anheuser-Busch, the parent company, made an emotional ad that focused on a brewery which was converted into a water-canning facility to send relief to disaster-affected areas.
5. Bud Light
For their Bud Light entry, however, the company did use humour going with a medieval battle-themed ad that ultimately features the 'Bud Knight' traipsing through a battlefield to pick up a case of Bud Light from a convenience store (?). He rather reluctantly invites some of the participants to share in his beer... if they survive the battle, of course.
Insurance company ETrade's commercial features a bunch of octogenarians still working because they didn't save up for their retirement. Between performing surgery, delivering packages, flying aeroplanes, and going shirtless as a lifeguard from Baywatch, the ad tries to home in on that serious message about starting to save earlier in life, albeit with funny visuals.
7. Amazon Alexa
This one had Amazon's founder, Jeff Bezos himself, displaying his acting chops and he's supported by folks like Chef Gordon Ramsay and actor Anthony Hopkins. Titled 'Alexa loses her voice' the ad, created by London agency Lucky Generals, has different celebs trying to fill in for Alexa - whose voice conks off at the start of the video. Each one reacts, in their own hilarious way, to various user commands. The ad ranked high among most of the popularity polls.
8. National Football League (NFL)
While it won't be that difficult to imagine IPL players swaying to a Bollywood number, this creative by Grey New York for the NFL itself, aimed to delight by flipping common notions. Two players of the New York Giants recreate key moments of the cult film - Dirty Dancing - and its famous finale. Tagged 'To all the Touchdowns to come', it was a shout out to the NFL lifting its ban on dancing post scoring a touchdown.
For its flagship drink, PepsiCo went retro and revisited its old ads, coolly reminding viewers that it has had some serious celeb endorsers over the years. While Cindy Crawford appears in a recreation of her famous ad, Michael Jackson and Britney Spears are also thrown into the mix. Voiced by talk show host Jimmy Fallon, the spot was created by Pepsi's in-house agency, Creative League.
10. Tourism Australia
In the week prior to the Super Bowl, a series of ads styled like film trailers, starring famous Aussie actors, led viewers to believe that there was a new Crocodile Dundee (a 1986 Australian classic) movie with American comedian, Danny McBride, releasing this year. But, in a spot closest to the game's half-time (a high profile slot in the schedule), the whole exercise was revealed to be a Tourism Australia campaign meant to woo American audiences to take a trip down under. At a budget of about 38 million Aussie dollars, this one was quite a pitch for those travellers.
While Pepsi focused on nostalgia, Coca-Cola opted for its favourite theme - diversity. Its spot titled "The Wonder of Us", aimed to celebrate LGBTQ diversity down to the use of gender-nonconforming pronouns. "There's a Coke for he, and she, and her, and me and them," say different voices at the start of the ad. Also, this year Diet Coke made its first Super Bowl appearance since 1997 with this spot, originally meant for social media.
And then there's the one that went for just plain strange. Confectionery brand Skittles, known for its surreal humour, created four teasers (featuring Friends star, David Schwimmer), one of which is part of an actual ad that 'only one person will ever see'. That person is Marco Menendez, a 17-year-old, who, in a Facebook post, is found watching and reacting to the ad (still not revealed to the viewer). Apart from the teasers, there was one more spot to 'explain' the tactic.
13. Ram Trucks
Did someone just use Martin Luther King Jr. to sell trucks? This spot by Ram Trucks (a division of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) uses an MLK sermon telling listeners that "You don't have to know about Pluto and Aristotle to serve - you only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love". The ad ends with Ram's slogan, "Built to Serve." It received some flak online from netizens who felt Dr King was off-limits for such endeavours.
14. Kia Motors
In a spot tagged 'Feel Something Again' created by David & Goliath, Kia Motors shows rock band Aerosmith's front-runner, Steven Tyler, travelling back in time as he pushes pedal to metal, in reverse, on a dusty racetrack in a Kia Stinger. At the end of the ad that plays to the band's 'Dream On' track, a 40-year younger CGI-enhanced Tyler emerges from the car, welcomed by screaming fans. Incidentally Kia Motors - the world's eighth largest automaker has just entered India.
Action heroes and sports cars are a potent mix. In a link-up with Marvel Studios' 2018 movie - Black Panther, the Japanese manufacturer, Lexus, promotes their new four-door sports car with the tag "Luxury performance that takes the crown". Here we have the car pairing up with actor Chadwick Boseman as King T'Challa a.k.a Black Panther, in a speedy crime-fighting action sequence.