TV & Streaming

Brands are betting on mostly back-to-normal Super Bowl messages

But omicron has complicated sticking the landing.
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· 4 min read

We need each other. These challenges will pass. The very soil we stand on is common ground.

These are all lines from Super Bowl ads that ran in last year’s broadcast, when brands like Anheuser-Busch, Bass Pro Shops, and Jeep struck a serious tone in their messages to a weary public. This time around, though, marketers say they don’t expect to see many of those messages. Some are betting that viewers won’t want to be reminded of the past two years at all.

“Yeah, there’ll be serious ads again this year. But for the most part, marketers feel like the general public wants to try and put this behind them, or at least forget about it for a while,” Jeremy Carey, the managing director of Omnicom Media’s Optimum Sports, told Marketing Brew.

Last year’s Super Bowl presented a trifecta of messaging challenges, with the pandemic, the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, and economic uncertainty all casting a shadow over advertising decisions, said Prashant Malaviya, a professor of marketing at Georgetown University. Long-standing advertisers like Budweiser opted to sit out the game and reroute ad money to Covid-related causes, while others delivered messages of unity during the broadcast.

Even brands whose spots didn’t focus on the pandemic noted it, like Scotts Miracle-Gro. Its 2021 ad tipped its hat to the humble backyard, a backdrop for so many socially distant events, saying it “had quite a year.”

Carey remembers “a huge concern over tonality” from clients that dictated many creative decisions. “No one wanted to appear not sensitive to the current moment,” he said.

This year, it will be different. It’s already evident in teasers that have trickled out ahead of the game. Lighthearted humor leads in Guy Fieri’s Land of Loud Flavors for Bud Light Seltzer Hard Soda, as well as in Seth Rogen and Paul Rudd’s walk down memory lane for Lay’s. Other brands are choosing optimism, like one of Budweiser’s iconic Clydesdales recovering from an injury.

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“Advertisers will latch on to that innate and sort of subconscious desire that we wish [the pandemic] was gone and present to us scenarios that are more aspirational,” Malaviya said.

Lighten up

Saulo Rocha, the executive creative director and head of art at the agency David Madrid, agreed that more humor, more optimism, and more entertainment will be front and center during the game.

“Brands are slowly trying to get back to what their normal message is,” Rocha said. “They’re not denying what’s happening, but there are other things and priorities that we need to talk about.”

Some advertisers are seeking humor to make a splash, including the Barcelona-based electric vehicle charging company Wallbox, which is working with David Madrid for its inaugural Super Bowl ad. As a first-time advertiser, “it would be weird to be very serious and very preachy” about the circumstances, Rocha said.

Even long running advertisers are choosing to move past the pandemic. VaynerMedia, the agency behind Scotts Miracle-Gro’s spot, is working on three ads that will air during this year’s game, including a lighthearted campaign for Planter’s in which Ken Jeong and Joel McHale find themselves unable to agree on how best to eat mixed nuts.

VaynerMedia Chief Creative Officer Rob Lenois confirmed that themes of hope, resilience, and optimism—as well as plenty of humor—will reign, all signs that “reflect we’re coming out the other side,” he said. But the agency is leaving some wiggle room to make changes up to the last minute in case the nation’s mood changes.

“We’re still fine-tuning the end of one of ours to make sure that it’s right and that it really lands,” Lenois said. “No one wants to get it wrong.”

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