Super Bowl ads are game changers

  • Article by: BILL WARD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 3, 2012 - 11:53 PM

Super Bowl ads have become so popular that they now have "teasers" -- and also serve as multimedia platforms.

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Award-winning actor Matthew Broderick plays himself taking a cue from his celebrated role as Ferris Bueller to promote the all-new 2012 Honda CR-V.

Photo: , Associated Press

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On Monday, tens of millions of people will gather around water coolers and discuss the epic competition from the night before.

The Super Bowl? Madonna's halftime performance? Nah.

"When people get together the next day, the commercials are all they talk about," said Trina Wood, who works at a Minneapolis law office. Topics include "the ones where you get something funny and unexpected, the ones that are trying too hard, the ones that actually make you think."

Since Sunday's game (5:25 p.m., KARE-Ch. 11) will find 100 million-plus Americans gathered around flat-screens, it's no wonder companies put so much effort into the hour's worth of commercials that will air. About $3.5 million a pop, to be exact.

But the game is changing, at least for Madison Avenue. Take the most recent YouTube sensation, "The Bark Side," in which dogs bark the "Star Wars" theme. It's not an ad but a sneak preview of a delightful Super Bowl ad for Volkswagen, a worthy successor to last year's little kid-as-Darth Vader spot.

The teaser and ad are part of an "integrated marketing platform."

"We're moving from a spoon-fed media environment to one that's fully engaging," said Heath Rudduck, chief creative officer at the Minneapolis ad agency Campbell Mithun. "It's this liquid environment we live in now."

Translation: The teaser video includes a link to a Volkswagen website page that prompts visitors to issue an "Intergalactic Invitation" to a Super Bowl party -- in "Star Wars" yellow title crawl complete with product plugs.

"It's a mad-libs-type structure where ... you become part of the 'Star Wars' continuum, and Volkswagen becomes part of your Super Bowl day," said Rudduck.

Other entities are embracing the multi-platform route, figuring that millions of viewers will be fiddling with second screens -- laptops, tablets and smartphones -- during the game.

Coca-Cola's polar bears, for example, not only will appear in ads but also will provide "commentary" to game action and even other commercials on a video stream at CokePolarBowl.com, a Facebook-affiliated site. They also will tweet.

Chevrolet is giving away 20 cars to those whose Chevy Game Time app's code matches the license-plate number in one of three Chevy ads.

Meanwhile, Skechers, Lexus, TaxAct, Bridgestone and Audi are among the other marketers that have posted online teasers (many viewable at here on youtube), and Kia actually has been airing its Super Bowl ad in movie theaters.

Sex, violence and promos

The game itself is a rematch from four years ago, and the breaks in the action will showcase familiar names, as well. Besides Chevy and Coke, big-game regulars Bridgestone, Doritos, Hyundai, Bud Light and Budweiser will be running at least two ads each.

The themes might provide déjà vu, too. A lot of violence will unfold even when the New York Giants and New England Patriots aren't on the field. Cars crash in summer-movie trailers and insurance ads.

"It's like people trying to scream loud in a loud hall," Rudduck said of the commercial-break mayhem, adding that one of his favorite spots ever was the "office enforcer" who hammered workplace miscreants. "It was hilarious because everyone's wanted to do that in the office. That juxtaposition worked."

Salaciousness, of course, will have its day. Supermodel Adriana Lima will appear in ads for Kia and Victoria's Secret. Go Daddy will air its usual bawdy bit, but with a 2012 twist: the Super Bowl's first QR code, which smartphone-wielding users can scan to go to godaddy.com.

And, naturally, NBC will deluge us with promos for its programming. Prediction: We will see enough ads for "Smash" that we might not even need to watch the pilot episode.

Toning it down

The goal for Sunday's three dozen advertisers is first, to get noticed, but it's just as important to be remembered. A common scenario on the day after finds us raving about a particular ad but ... what was that product again? Rudduck recalls a frequent refrain: "I have no idea who did that thing. It was bank X or car Y."

Standing out often means being quiet amid the din, droll amid the buffoonery. Last year's Darth Vader spot featured no dialogue (unless a brief dog bark counts). Same with Budweiser's frog and Clydesdale spots.

Rudduck said the ads that become iconic often are "drawing something from pop culture or delivering something into pop culture ... fitting into some sort of pop-culture fissure that's waiting to be filled."

That's how phrases such as "Where's the Beef?" and "Whasssuuuppp?" became part of our lexicon, and why companies will be trotting out celebrities real (Jerry Seinfeld) and fictional (the eTrade baby) to fill the airwaves Sunday.

Which helps explain the Bueller buzz. Honda has persuaded Matthew Broderick to revisit the themes of his title role in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" for a Super Sunday showcase.

Now whether that's the real ad or just a teaser is anyone's guess.

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