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POSTED BY: Pat Dugan

3 advertising trends to watch for (and learn from) during Super Bowl 50


Consumers have more choice then ever when it comes to what to watch on TV—and how to watch it. However, the Super Bowl remains the perennial exception to the rule. Still a true cultural event, every year it draws in hard-to-reach consumers spanning generations and demographics that might otherwise zip through commercials.

Indeed, no other single TV broadcast delivers millions of viewers to advertisers at once. This year, to secure a spot in front of the 189 million forecasted game watchers, brands are spending a cool $5 million dollars on 30-second spot. Gulp.

So how do brands make sure they’re getting the most bang for their, well, millions of bucks? Here are a few trends that may help provide a clue.

1. More integrated campaigns. No doubt Super Bowl 50 advertisers will pull out their best creative to fill the 30- or 60-second spots. But they’re not stopping there. To further their messages, nearly all are implementing integrated digital and social media marketing campaigns which began weeks in advance of the game, and will likely continue long after. Some, like Butterfinger, are even extending their integrated campaigns into the experiential space.

For example, the brand announced its return to the Super Bowl and its “Bolder than Bold” campaign with a skydiving stunt that aired on Periscope a few weeks ago. Since then, the brand has released teasers featuring its “bold” spokespeople Terrell Owens and comedian Billy Eichner. It has even promised to pay up to $50,000 in fines for players that get too “bold” during touchdown celebrations.

In integrating their strategy, brands are using TV advertising during the Super Bowl as a launching pad to get the word out. But it appears they are using social media to sustain buzz about their brands to encourage engagement and action.

Take the targeted autoplay ads on Instagram and Facebook this year. Even when fans ditch the game for their cell phones during the TV commercials, there will still be a chance that they will see those spots in their feeds. The risk, however, is whether Instagram users will see this move as too intrusive . . .since up until now they’ve resisted seeing traditional commercials and adplay in their photo feeds.

2. More emotion. Advertisers learned a big lesson last year thanks to Nationwide. People don’t want Debbie Downers at their Super Bowl parties. So it should be interesting to see how the more serious commercials are greeted, like Colgate’s “Every Drop Counts” campaign and SunTrust’s “Hold your Breath.” If they’re too hard-hitting or preachy, they could turn people off.

However, funny may not be the right play either. Over the past few years, The Super Bowl spots with the most impact haven’t been funny. They’ve been emotional . . . whether that meant proud (Dodge’s “God Made a Farmer” commercial, Chrysler’s “Imported From Detroit” spot with Eminem) or sweet and sappy (Budweiser’s “Lost Puppy” commercial). The thing to remember is that funny ads get instant laughs, but emotional ads stand out, hit harder and, more importantly, have a longer lasting impact.

3. More multi-screen engagement. Thanks to consumers’ propensity for multi-screen viewing, and their desire to engage and interact with others around shared experiences, brands will be omnipresent on small screens during the game—and more agile.

As in the past, we’ll see advertisers, particularly through social media, attempt to entertain and engage with consumers in “real-time.” For example, new advertising platforms, like Google’s Real Time Ads, gives brands the opportunity to anticipate and react to key moments—distributing pre-made content via YouTube and on Google’s ad network in minutes.

During the game, brands like Budweiser are hoping to tap mobile/tablet users to share a social responsibility message geared at drunk driving. Users can visit a dedicated microsite,, to find local ride services and take a pledge to share on social media instantly.

It’s important to note that some big brands are not even advertising on TV during the Super Bowl 50. Some are leveraging this huge event to promote their brands only through digital and social outlets. Which strategy wins? Well, that remains to be seen.

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Pat Dugan
Executive Creative Director
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