Super Bowl Ads Highlight the Changing Nature of Advertising
The Patriots’ Malcolm Butler came from virtual anonymity to catch Super Bowl XLIX’s game-winning interception, while many of this year’s commercials garnered attention before they even aired. Avocados, cars and a Kardashian were just a few of the themes that colored this year’s advertisements.
Our very own Gavin Johnston, group planning director, along with Amy Winger, chief strategy officer at VML, and Dr. Anthony Snorgrass, associate professor of communication, advertising, branding and strategic media at Avila University, did some Monday-morning quarterbacking of their own when they gathered to discuss Sunday’s commercials and the changing role of TV in advertising on KCUR’s Central Standard segment.
It’s no secret: Super Bowl commercials draw just as much intrigue as the game itself. With each 30-second spot costing around $4.5 million, these ads are visibly different from the day-to-day commercials we see throughout the year.
“Super bowl ads aren’t like other ads. The ads, in a way, are as much about advertising the agency that built them as they are about the product they feature,” said Johnston. “It doesn’t surprise me that no one remembers [all of the ads], because I would argue it’s really not the point.”
While distinguishing a product from its commercial can be difficult, Super Bowl spots often reflect on our culture, sparking dialogue on humor, nostalgia and societal issues in conjunction with common brands — and this year was no different. From an anthropological perspective, Johnston says they showed we are very serious. With ads intending to educate, empower and create emotional impact, viewers were presented with a strong dose of somber messages this year.
The Super Bowl is a holiday of sorts in the advertising world. Rather than fast forwarding through the commercials with their DVRs, people anticipate and pay attention to them. This isn’t the case year-round. So, one question stands: what is the future of TV in advertising?
“You have to think of it in an ecosystem mentality. The 30-second spot will always be important, and it will always capture attention,” said Johnston. “The question is … [is it] beer cans dancing across the street, or is it the Newcastle ad where they get people excited about engaging online instead of taking things passively?” This integration of channels is further evidenced in the fact that many of the ads are now prereleased online well before the big game, extending their reach. (In the case of GoDaddy’s commercial, the prerelease was likely a good decision: backlash against the original content convinced them to pull their ad before it aired during the game. Perhaps Nationwide should have done the same.)
Johnston, Winger and Snorgrass’ discussion of the Super Bowl and the relevance of TV was a touchdown. The takeaway? Consumption is changing. As advertising and technology continue to evolve, marketers need to adapt their messages and provide an integrated, multichannel approach to connecting with their target audiences.