With Big Companies Sitting Out The Super Bowl, What Can Ads Say To Viewers?

It’s always about tone with the Super Bowl advertising.

No one wants to piss people off by saying the wrong thing. Like all people. Do you want to make fun of hard-core professional men in a position of power? How about a micromanaging housewife? What about grumpy kids?

These concerns have been around for a while. But it's gotten amped up recently -- as veteran Super Bowl advertisers are sitting out the big game, including Budweiser, Coke, Pepsi, Ford Motor, Hyundai and others.

An overarching hurdle: Marketers like to take the current pulse of U.S. citizens watching the big game. And that can be touchy this year.

Plenty of landmines for 2021 -- a polarizing election, a scary pandemic, and most recently, an eye-opening insurrection attack on the U.S. Capitol. Never mind the social unrest just a few months ago.

We have been through this before -- in part. In 2012, with the country still in the thick of a Great Recession. That’s when Clint Eastwood did a serious message for Chrysler during that year’s Super Bowl:



“It’s halftime,” Eastwood began the spot. “Both teams are in their locker room discussing what they can do to win this game in the second half. It’s halftime in America, too.”

It went on from there -- a cheerleading messaging effort ending with a (cheesy?) line: “The world is going to hear the roar of our engines.”

This isn’t to say one can’t thread the needle to find a marketer’s sweet spot. But such high-profile Super Bowl messaging almost always gets heavy Monday morning quarterbacking reviews.

Of the many Super Bowl spots already slotted to appear, two are taking a chance with a public-minded message: Michelob Ultra and Chipotle.

Michelob Ultra looks at all kinds of happy professional athletes and in a state of joy and excitement -- on and off the field. It then asks these questions:

“What if joy is the whole game -- not just the end game.”

“Are you happy because you win -- or do you win because you are happy?

For Chipolte, a young kid eating a burrito reflects on these questions, via his food: “What if this could change the world?” He thinks what it might mean for producing food, transporting food, making farmers “happier.”

The restaurant chain ends the spot with this message: “How we grow our food is how we change our future.”

OK. Perhaps these two are not the hardest-hitting spots. Perhaps there is a clearer bottom line. Will it sell burritos and beer? That’s always the fuzzy part. At $5.6 million for a 30-second spot, extra fuzz is not included.

1 comment about "With Big Companies Sitting Out The Super Bowl, What Can Ads Say To Viewers?".
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  1. John Luma from iLumaNation, January 28, 2021 at 2:18 p.m.

    There's a better way to make sure your Super Bowl ad cuts through and actually promotes purchase, than trying to show you have a social conscience or care deeply about the world. Just make the product or service look appealing, make the immediate  benefits clear, and then make the concept and production as memorable as possible. No memory = no sale.

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