5 Emerging Super Bowl 2015 Advertising Themes

Brands hope to win over con­sumers with pup­pies, dads, and inspir­ing tales.

Lisa Lacy By Lisa Lacy. Join the discussion » 0 comments

Five themes that emerged in 2014 Super Bowl adver­tis­ing and/or were suc­cess­ful for brands are play­ing expand­ed roles in big game adver­tis­ing in 2015. And it is per­haps no sur­prise that at the cul­mi­na­tion of a sea­son that has includ­ed its fair share of scan­dals and dis­trac­tions, this includes con­tent that con­tin­ues to tug at America’s col­lec­tive heart­strings, like cud­dly pets, depend­able dads, and tales of tri­umph over adver­si­ty.

Puppies & Kittens

With 55 mil­lion views and count­ing, it is per­haps no sur­prise that after scor­ing big with Pup­py Love in 2014, Bud­weis­er is return­ing to the pup­py well in a spot called “Lost Dog,” which the brand says “will fea­ture the world-famous Bud­weis­er Clydes­dales and their favorite com­pan­ion” and “tell an emo­tion­al sto­ry and help a pup­py who has lost his way learn the true mean­ing of friend­ship.”

Lead­ing up to the game, the brand has also released a series of GIFs, includ­ing a sad pup­py alone in the rain and Bud­weis­er is using the hash­tag #Best­Buds to push relat­ed con­tent on its social chan­nels while also ask­ing fans to help find the dog for a chance to win Super Bowl tick­ets.

‘Pup­py Love’ was such a huge suc­cess last year on Face­book and every­where else and this year with ‘Lost Dog,’ it’s adorable, but it’s real­ly a depar­ture from the past, so I’m curi­ous to see how it will res­onate and they have a lot of mon­ey rid­ing on how cute­ness con­nects with con­sumers,” says Kristin Kovn­er, pres­i­dent of K‑Squared Strate­gies.

And con­sumers def­i­nite­ly still care about ani­mals, as inter­net domain reg­is­trar GoDad­dy learned on Jan­u­ary 27. The brand was also plan­ning to use a pup­py in its “Jour­ney Home” spot with more of a tongue-in-cheek spin on the Bud­weis­er for­mu­la that, in the end, the brand said “[spoke] to how GoDad­dy helps make busi­ness own­ers’ lives bet­ter by way of easy-to-use tech­nol­o­gy,” CMO Barb Rechter­man said in a press release. How­ev­er, after pre­view­ing the spot, the brand announced that it would not air dur­ing the Super Bowl because of neg­a­tive con­sumer reac­tion to the pup­py being sold online.

Cat food brand Friskies, how­ev­er, seems to have struck a chord as a result of a part­ner­ship with Buz­zFeed for its first game day spot, which the brand says is the “next chap­ter in the pop­u­lar Dear Kit­ten series,” a video series in which an old­er cat explains the ways of the world to a kit­ten. In this par­tic­u­lar Friskies spot, Cat pro­vides Kit­ten with a “sur­vival guide” for the Super Bowl. And, as of Jan­u­ary 27, it has 1.7 mil­lion views.

Accord­ing to the brand, a 60-sec­ond com­mer­cial will be “kit­ten-sized,” mean­ing it will air on NBC affil­i­ates in “three select cat-themed mar­kets”: Kit­ty Hawk, N.C., Los Gatos, Calif. and Pawnee, Neb.

Honoring Dads

Bud­weis­er is cer­tain­ly not the only brand to attempt to make Amer­i­ca weepy.

Auto man­u­fac­tur­er Hyundai tipped its hat to dads last year in its Dad’s Sixth Sense spot and, after a sea­son of domes­tic vio­lence scan­dals and off-the-field dis­trac­tions, quite a few oth­er brands are fol­low­ing suit in 2015 and it seems to be res­onat­ing with con­sumers already.

Toy­ota is “hon­or­ing the rela­tion­ship between dads and their chil­dren” in one of its Super Bowl spots, To Be a Dad, which has 1.8 mil­lion views so far.

The cre­ative focus­es on dads—both promi­nent and unknown, but equal­ly extraordinary—who have con­tributed to their fam­i­lies’ lives in bold ways,” the brand says.

In addi­tion, Unilever men’s per­son­al care brand Dove Men+Care is going the dad route and “[cel­e­brat­ing] an evolved vision of masculinity…and car­ing char­ac­ter of today’s men, rec­og­niz­ing how care makes them stronger,” the brand says in a press release.

Dove’s spot, #Real­Strength, has about 660,000 views.

We know that men today are embrac­ing their car­ing roles more than ever, and that these expe­ri­ences are ful­fill­ing and strength­en­ing them,” said Jen­nifer Brem­n­er, Unilever direc­tor of mar­ket­ing, in a state­ment. “This inspired us to share a film that shows what strength tru­ly looks like today. Espe­cial­ly at a time when fans are over­whelm­ing­ly hear­ing about phys­i­cal feats on the foot­ball field, we want­ed men (and women) to hear at least one voice say­ing, ‘Care Makes a Man Stronger.’”

Automak­er Nis­san, which is not releas­ing or teas­ing its game day spot pri­or to Feb­ru­ary 1, has instead enlist­ed “pop­u­lar YouTube con­tent cre­ators who have estab­lished audi­ences to cre­ate spe­cial pieces of con­tent that speak to the theme of #with­dad,” which it says is the over­ar­ch­ing theme of its first Super Bowl spot in near­ly 20 years.

Nis­san says the cam­paign “cel­e­brates the jour­ney that not only dads – but also moms and chil­dren – face in try­ing to make fam­i­ly a pri­or­i­ty while striv­ing to bal­ance work.”

The con­tent is curat­ed on Nissan’s YouTube chan­nel and includes Dude Perfect’s Dad Edi­tion, which has 1.3 mil­lion views to date, as well as Roman Atwood’s well-pub­li­cized Ball Prank, which has 153,000 views.

Emotional And Inspirational Stories

Microsoft show­cased an inspi­ra­tional spot last year with for­mer New Orleans Saints play­er Steve Glea­son and how tech­nol­o­gy helps him live with ALS in its Empow­er­ing spot. It has near­ly 4 mil­lion views to date.

And this is anoth­er theme many oth­er brands are touch­ing upon in 2015 as well.

In addi­tion to To Be a Dad, Toy­ota also has a pregame spot, How Great I Am, which includes Par­a­lympic medal­ist and Danc­ing with the Stars final­ist Amy Pur­dy, as well as the voice of Muham­mad Ali, and it has 1.3 mil­lion views to date. And car floor­mat com­pa­ny WeatherTech’s Amer­i­ca at Work spot cel­e­brates Amer­i­can work­ers who help the coun­try build and grow. It has 122,000 views.

For its part, Coca-Cola is tak­ing a stand against cyber­bul­lies in its #MakeI­tHap­py Super Bowl effort, which includes teas­er videos with mes­sag­ing that, “The Inter­net may nev­er be the same,” as well as thoughts on how to #MakeI­tHap­py from Kid Pres­i­dent and Dan­i­ca Patrick.

Emo­tion and inspi­ra­tion are going to be a big theme for Super Bowl ads this year, and while some might con­sid­er this play­ing it safe, it’s an accu­rate reflec­tion of the pub­lic’s attrac­tion to feel-good con­tent,” says Tes­sa Wegert, com­mu­ni­ca­tions direc­tor at Enlight­en. “Con­sid­er­ing the suc­cess of the ALS Buck­et Chal­lenge and the #Mon­tyTheP­en­guin hol­i­day spot last year, Super Bowl adver­tis­ers are smart to take the less com­pet­i­tive route and aim to pro­duce the most heart­warm­ing — rather than the fun­ni­est — ad of the bunch.”

Female Celebrities

Until this week, quick ser­vice chain Carl’s Jr. was the only brand so far to go the more tra­di­tion­al route in its sug­ges­tive spot with Char­lotte McK­in­ney, a mod­el some are tout­ing as the next Kate Upton. Although, in less than a week, the spot earned more than 5 mil­lion views on YouTube, indi­cat­ing there’s still a healthy appetite for such con­tent.

How­ev­er, Victoria’s Secret, a brand that no doubt has stronger ties to sug­ges­tive con­tent, instead teased two spots with its mod­els in head to toe foot­ball gear – includ­ing one in which the only explic­it con­tent was a reminder about Valentine’s Day – before releas­ing a more tra­di­tion­al spot with a bevy of scant­i­ly clad beau­ties.

And, rather than break­ing the Inter­net again, a (most­ly) ful­ly clothed ver­sion of “famous per­son” Kim Kar­dashi­an is schilling for T‑Mobile in a self-ref­er­en­tial spot about her own propen­si­ty for self­ies with near­ly 2.3 mil­lion views to date.

And then there’s actress, come­di­an and writer Mindy Kaling, who is mak­ing her debut for Nation­wide Insur­ance in a spot teased as #Invis­i­ble­Mindy that draws a par­al­lel between con­sumers feel­ing invis­i­ble to insur­ance com­pa­nies and Kaling’s own feel­ings of being ignored, which has about 500,000 views.

I think half of the audi­ence is women and women don’t brands to just shrink it and pink it,” Kovn­er says. “Brands that want to reach women dur­ing this game will have to be more authen­tic in the ways they do so and they can’t sim­ply rely on the old tac­tics of over-the-top emo­tion or some of the oth­er tac­tics that we would have seen in the past with the male-ori­ent­ed game because of the trou­ble in the fall.”

Wegert also notes that the Super Bowl ad audi­ence is evolv­ing.

With the spots now dis­trib­uted online through chan­nels like YouTube AdBlitz and NBC’s Super Bowl Tum­blr, it behooves brands to think about diver­si­fy­ing ad themes to appeal not just to the Super Bowl demo­graph­ic but a greater and pos­si­bly more dis­cern­ing audi­ence,” she adds.

Creating Brand Awareness

In 2014, GoDad­dy, which was his­tor­i­cal­ly known for its sala­cious spots, began piv­ot­ing away and show­cas­ing dif­fer­ent con­tent more focused on small busi­ness own­ers.

One of GoDaddy’s 2014 spots, Pup­pet Mas­ter, fea­tured a woman who quit her job live dur­ing the Super Bowl in order to launch a small busi­ness with a GoDad­dy web­site.

And, as not­ed, that theme of small busi­ness was one GoDad­dy planned to con­tin­ue in 2015 with Jour­ney Home and its gold­en retriev­er pup­py, Bud­dy.

In the ear­ly years our strat­e­gy was all about real­ly brand aware­ness. I have to tell you, the Super Bowl offers an incred­i­ble plat­form in both the size of the audi­ence – 111 mil­lion peo­ple that will watch the Super Bowl – so the vol­ume you can reach with that ad is great, but the beau­ti­ful part is that they watch it for the ads and take time to watch the ads, so it’s a plat­form that real­ly works for us and the ear­ly ads as I men­tioned were more about build­ing aware­ness,” Rechter­man says. “When we entered the Super Bowl, we were a lit­tle com­pa­ny going into the Super Bowl and try­ing to sep­a­rate our­selves a bit from Bud­weis­er, who had mul­ti­ple ads and Pep­si, etc., and his­tor­i­cal­ly the ads were real­ly more about brand aware­ness.”

But, start­ing in 2014, the brand shift­ed to “more about what we do for small busi­ness own­ers,” Rechter­man says. And the 2015 spot was intend­ed “to reflect the jour­ney of the small busi­ness own­er as they build and grow it.”

While the GoDad­dy spot will not air, anoth­er effort high­light­ing small busi­ness­es from New­cas­tle Brown Ale – Band of Brands – will air, at least in the Palm Springs, Cal­i­for­nia mar­ket.

New­cas­tle asked small­er brands to join it in a crowd­fund­ed effort to get Super Bowl air time. The brand ulti­mate­ly attract­ed 37 small­er brands, which, per a press release, include: AmeriMerch.com, AprilUmbrellas.com, Arm­strong Floor­ing and Ceil­ings, Bean­i­tos Chips, Blet­tner Engi­neer­ing, Boost Mobile, Brawny Paper Tow­els , Charis­ma, Detroit Beard Col­lec­tive, Dis­trict 78, Dix­ie, East End Leisure Co., Glad­i­a­tor Garage­Works, Hel­lo Prod­ucts Oral Care, Hunt’s Toma­toes, Jack­Threads, Jock­ey, Kern Group Secu­ri­ty, Kibo Active + Leisure Wear, Krave Jerky, Las Vegas, Lee Jeans, Match.com, McClure’s Pick­les, Mr. Cheese O’s, Pol­ished Den­tal, Quilt­ed North­ern, Quinn Pop­corn, Rosari­ta Beans, RO*TEL, Sec­ond Chance Cus­tom, Sharp­er Image, Tessemae’s All-Nat­ur­al Dress­ings, The Ross Farm, Van­i­ty Fair Nap­kins, YP.com and Zen­dure Bat­ter­ies.

As of Jan­u­ary 27, the spot has about 25,000 views.

What themes do you see emerg­ing as most impact­ful in 2015?

Lisa Lacy

Written by Lisa Lacy

Lisa is a senior features writer for Inked. She also previously covered digital marketing for Incisive Media. Her background includes editorial positions at Dow Jones, the Financial Times, the Huffington Post, AOL, Amazon, Hearst, Martha Stewart Living and the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.

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