NEW YORK – Actress Scarlett Johansson gives SodaStream some sex appeal in a controversial spot; Kia revives actor Laurence Fishburne’s Matrix character Morpheus in its commercial. And cute puppies and kids abound in ads for products ranging from Cheerios to Anheuser-Busch.
Advertisers are bringing out their arsenals for Super Bowl time this Sunday, including celebrities, A-list rock bands and cinematic story lines.
Of course, there will still be ad surprises on Sunday, with major brands including Chrysler and Coca-Cola staying mum on at least one of their ads.
But the ones already out use a variety of tactics to draw viewers’ attention.
Overall, marketers are doing a better job getting their branding message across – while still entertaining – than in previous years when a cheap joke or gag ruled supreme, says Kelly O’Keefe, professor of brand strategy at the Virginia Commonwealth University Brand Center.
This year, there’s much more focus on brand personality: The spot has to be both interesting and funny and link back to the core assets of the brand, he said. I’m predicting a stronger Super Bowl than last year.
Advertisers are in the game to win. The Super Bowl is advertising’s biggest showcase, with more than 108 million people expected to tune into the game. Companies are paying about $4 million per 30-second ad to be a part of the action.
Here are 10 ads to watch for Sunday.
1. Anheuser-Busch: The biggest Super Bowl advertiser’s ad in the fourth quarter shows an adorable golden Labrador becoming enamored with one of the beer-maker’s iconic Clydesdales to the tune of Let Her Go by Passenger. http://on.jg.net/1lqtC71
2. General Mill’s Cheerios: The cereal-maker brings back an interracial family who starred in a prior spot. This one shows a father telling his daughter that they’re going to have an addition to the family, a baby boy. Then the little girl strongly suggests they also get a puppy. The ad airs during the first unscheduled time-out of the game. http://on.jg.net/1bJjHzr
3. Bank of America: The bank will promote its partnership with Red, a nonprofit AIDS charity, with the band U2 singing its new single, Invisible, between the first and second quarters. The song will be a free download on iTunes during the game and for the following 24 hours. For each download, Bank of America will donate $1 to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS.
4. SodaStream: The Israeli company’s at-home soda-maker ad, featuring actress Scarlett Johansson touting the product’s health and environmental benefits, will run in the fourth quarter. The ad first made waves when the company said it would delete its last line, Sorry, Coke and Pepsi, at a request by Fox. http://on.jg.net/1emII7X
5. H&M: The clothing-maker’s ad in the second quarter features nifty technology that will let people order David Beckham’s Bodywear products using their remote control – if they have the right Samsung Smart TV. http://on.jg.net/1fG0kdD
6. Nestle’s Butterfinger: A suggestive teaser ad showed Chocolate and Peanut Butter in ’70s-style couples therapy, talking about the need for change and excitement. The actual ad in the third quarter will have a related theme, and Butterfinger is expected to introduce its Peanut Butter Cups with some tongue-in-cheek double-entendres. http://on.jg.net/1gz0qs9
7. Beats Music: Ellen DeGeneres reimagines the Goldilocks and The Three Bears fairy tale in this ad running in the third quarter that introduces Beats Music, a streaming music service. http://on.jg.net/1ftysdF
8. Wonderful Pistachios: The snack producer showcases comedian Stephen Colbert running amok in two 15-second ads in the second quarter. http://on.jg.net/1gz1oVr
9. Kia: In the carmaker’s third-quarter ad to introduce its K900 luxury sedan, Laurence Fishburne reprises his Matrix role as Morpheus and displays some surprising operatic skills. http://on.jg.net/1fuRRvu
10. Chrysler: The automaker is bound to surprise. Always mum ahead of the game, Chrysler has produced some of the best-loved and most-remembered spots during the big game, from Eminem’s Imported from Detroit ad in 2011 to last year’s Farmer ad featuring scenes of American farmland and a voiceover by conservative radio broadcaster Paul Harvey. Look for another surprising spot or two this year.