Super Bowl XLIX will be played Sunday at the end of a season in which the NFL was pounded with reports of abuse against women, children and even footballs. Maybe not coincidentally, this year’s Super Bowl advertising is expected to be a lot less snarky and more mom-ified — lighter on the testosterone and heavier on the uplifting.
Characterizing this year’s crop of ads in advance of the game is tougher than in years past, what with more companies holding back their spots to unveil during the actual game. This gave birth to a new trend this year: the Super Bowl Ad Tease. After a couple years in which almost all the ads were released online in advance of the game, Reporters Who Cover Advertising are giving this year’s “less information” strategy high marks, only now confessing that last year they were sick and tired of the ads by Super Bowl Sunday.
In a major break from years past, fathers aren’t dolts this year — in Super Bowl ads, anyway. At least three ads, from Dove, Nissan and Toyota, celebrate dad-dom.
Puppies, though, have a death grip on this year’s Super Bowl advertising. GoDaddy.com’s attempt to snark puppies blew up in its face this week — unless you subscribe to the theory the pulling of its ad over viewer outrage is just Step 1 of an elaborate hoax that will play out on the air Sunday. GoDaddy’s ad, “Journey Home,” mocked the highly anticipated Budweiser “Lost Dog” Super Bowl ad, a sequel to its wildly popular 2014 Big Game ad “Puppy Love,” which is regarded by most advertising navel lint gazers as last year’s most successful Super Bowl spot.
In GoDaddy’s pulled ad, an adorable golden retriever puppy named Buddy is separated from his family and makes a long, dangerous trek home — only to be packed into a truck because his owner had sold him on a website she set up using GoDaddy.com. Not long after it was unveiled online, the ad’s YouTube clip had more than 800 comments, mostly trashing it; #godaddypuppy became a thing on Twitter, tens of thousands had signed a Change.org petition to kill the ad, animal rescue orgs expressed contempt, and GoDaddy had pulled down the ad, promised not to air it during Sunday’s game and posted an apology from its top-dog on its website:
“We hoped our ad would increase awareness of that cause,” GoDaddy chief Blake Irving said in a post on the site. “However, we underestimated the emotional response. And we heard that loud and clear.”
Hollywood celebrities continue to play a big role in Super Bowl ads — and not just in movie trailers — though maybe not as big a role as last year, when Scarlett Johansson, James Franco, Jerry Seinfeld, Ben Kingsley, Tom Hiddleston, Stephen Colbert, Mark Strong and many others hawked this and that. Pierce Brosnan’s even seen in a Kia ad this year, gently mocking the whole genre:
With this year’s game airing on NBC, loads of NBCU stars are going to appear in ads and promos. E! star Kim Kardashian West — nee Kim Kardashian — already has unveiled and made at least one late-night appearance to plug her T-Mobile ad that’s scheduled to air during the first quarter.
And some Reporters Who Cover Advertising, not realizing their Naughty Super Bowl Ads playbook was out of date this year, attempted to push watchdog groups’ buttons over a shot of Mindy Kaling “completely naked” in her ad for Nationwide. In the ad, she is seen putting to the test her idea that, after years of being overlooked by people, she might actually be invisible. Kaling’s first Super Bowl spot debuts during the second quarter of the game; Kaling’s NBCUniversal-produced comedy series, The Mindy Project, returns to Fox just two days later.
And former NBC stars Bryant Gumbel and Katie Couric are reunited in one of this year’s most amusing spots, which also is BMW’s first Super Bowl ad in four years. Unfortunately for NBC, watching a clip of the two from their early pairing on the network’s morning program and their interaction while driving BMW’s all-electric vehicle reminds viewers what Today chemistry no longer looks like.
But maybe this year’s most talked-about spot is the NFL’s PSA about domestic abuse. Bad news for all those football fans Al Michaels said would “love to forget” the “issues” surrounding the NFL during Sunday’s game: The Super Bowl will include a public service announcement featuring a woman calling 911 who pretends to order pizza while actually conveying to the dispatcher she is a victim of domestic violence and needs help ASAP. The PSA is intended to help the NFL repair its image, after a string of abuse charges were leveled at players, including former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice clocking his then-fiancée and a child-abuse case involving Minnesota Vikings star running back Adrian Peterson.
In this case, rather than running a shorter “tease” version of the spot, the NFL released a version that’s actually longer than the one viewers will see on Sunday afternoon. The PSA released in advance runs a full minute; the PSA that will air at some point in the game is half that long. Which will make it either more powerful – or not.