WASHINGTON: Comedy is the dominant theme for Sunday’s (Monday in Manila) Super Bowl television commercials, with celebrities and cute animals trying to make record-setting American audiences laugh while bombarding them with advertising pitches.
A platoon of Hollywood celebrities, pop singers and at least one sports mega-star appear in the pricey ads, all trying to separate viewers from their money. Those commercials will face stiff competition from ads featuring singing sheep and dachshunds dressed as hot dogs.
“From the beginning of the creative process, we tried to find something simple, visual, and fun,” said Anselmo Ramos, founder of ad agency DAVID Miami, who made the “Weiner Stampede” hot dog commercial for Heinz condiments.
NFL championship spectacles such as Super Bowl 50 are the rare moments when Americans come together as a nation, with a record 114.4 million US viewers tuned in last year — the sixth record in seven years set by a Super Bowl.
At one point, more than 168 million viewers — more than half the US population — was tuned in to last year’s game.
Advertisers will be paying top dollar to showcase their wares to such a vast audience: it costs about $5 million for a 30-second Super Bowl spot, or around $166,666 a second.
Advertising Age Datacenter estimates that ad spending for the 2016 Super Bowl will reach a record $377 million.
The Datacenter estimates that over the past half century, a combined $4.5 billion has been spent on Super Bowl ads.
With that much money at stake, the TV commercials have movie-quality production values and are backed by internet campaigns. Many are released early in a bid to capture the cultural zeitgeist.
Car ads galore
Car ads have long been a staple of Superbowl commercials.
Ryan Reynolds, star of the upcoming action movie “Deadpool,” appears in a Hyundai car ad. Actor Christopher Walken pops up in a Kia commercial, while tennis superstar Serena Williams peddles Mini Coopers.
Audi offers a heart-tugging tribute to the late David Bowie – his 1972 song “Starman” in the background as a former astronaut regains a zest for life driving his son’s new car.
“It’s absolutely nerve-racking,” David Angelo, chairman of Kia-Walken producing ad agency David and Goliath, told the Los Angeles Times.
“When we’re working on a Super Bowl ad I tell our people to create something that will make you want to be able to stand in front of the TV set and tell everybody ‘Shut up, my spot is on.’”
Honda decided to skip actors — its pickup truck commercial features a flock of sheep singing rock group Queen’s song “Somebody to Love.”
Cars of course have no monopoly on Super Bowl ads.
Hollywood actor Willem Dafoe appears in a billowing white dress filming Marilyn Monroe’s iconic “subway grate” scene in “The Seven Year Itch” — until he bites into the candy bar and transforms back into the famed 1950s blonde starlet.
Actress Helen Mirren cautions against drunk driving for Budweiser, while comedians Seth Rogan and Amy Schumer play off the US presidential campaign for Bud Light.
Rapper Drake charms for the T-Mobile phone service, and rocker Steven Tyler promotes Skittles candies.
“It’s perfect for the Super Bowl,” Tom Peyton, Honda assistant vice president for marketing, told USA Today. “You are generally looking for spots on the lighter side.”
Manning, Newton are Super pitchmen
It doesn’t hurt that two of the NFL’s most popular pitchmen, Denver quarterback Peyton Manning and Carolina quarterback Cam Newton, are playing in Super Bowl 50.
Forbes magazine estimates that Manning makes $12 million as the NFL’s top endorser, hawking such products as pizza and insurance, while Newton’s $10 million includes headphones and yogurt commercials.
YouTube said that users spent 840 million minutes watching Super Bowl ads last year, up 127 percent from 2014, and 37 percent of that total came before the game.
B2C Research examined online searches for 2015 Super Bowl advertisers against a group of non-advertisers, and found 400 percent more engagement on game day.
It also found heightened levels of interest for the ads throughout February compared to non-Super Bowl advertisers, indicating long-term benefit for branding.