On Feb. 2, most of America will seat itself in front of the television to watch Super Bowl XLVIII. For football fans, the Big Game promises plenty of excitement, as a new champion will be crowned in the NFL. For everybody else, though? It's the commercials.
At $4 million for a 30 second spot, few companies can afford to break into the pantheon of the classic ads paired with America's most-watched television program. But the early insights we have about this year's crop, without yet having seen them air, serves to illustrate some of the trends in advertising.
Sticking a finger in the wind, here's what we can deduce so far.
Jaguar: The Bad Guy Is In
The British carmaker will make its Super Bowl debut this year. Its angle will reportedly speak to a major trend not just in advertising but storytelling at large in recent years; Jaguar will embrace the role of a villain, positioning "itself as the British Bad Boy shaking up American car competitors," according to Ad Age.
The idea of positioning one's brand as the bad guy might not seem intuitive. But consider the increasingly complex villains we've seen in pop culture of late serving as protagonists in programs like The Sopranos and Breaking Bad. Under the right circumstances, people are willing to cheer for the bad guy--so don't totally write off the idea of playing it.
Kia: Bring Back the '90s
The Matrix, the Keanu Reeves sci-fi film revered for its heavyhanded philosophical themes and then-groundbreaking special effects, hit theaters a full 15 years ago. That's not stopping Kia from reportedly basing its Super Bowl ad on the movie, even featuring the character Morpheus (Lawrence Fishburn) in the spot. AdWeek reports: "The thematic connection is that, like the movie, the vehicle will force you to question what you thought to be true--this time, on the topic of luxury cars."
While The Matrix has some cultural endurance, I'd posit the re-emergence of the film on Super Bowl Sunday speaks more to a nostalgia for the '90s. This is mirrored by a proliferation of 1990s nostalgia articles and websites all over the Internet. As millennials continue to move into the workforce and start making some money, it only makes sense for companies to align themselves with the icons they grew up with.
GoDaddy: Let's Get Down to Business
Death, taxes, and an annual racy Super Bowl ad from GoDaddy. The web hosting service is perhaps better known for its ads, which tend to focus on scantily-clad women and sexual situations, than its services. That probably has something to do with the fact that the company's ads never really seem to mention its services.
No more, according to SuperBowl-Commercials.org. Call it a two-touchdown swing, but the company's ad this year will reportedly not be overtly sexual, and it will focus on better explaining GoDaddy's services. There are probably two things at play here. First, the overt objectification of women in front of the entire country just doesn't fly anymore. But secondly, the company obviously thinks it is better served spending its $4 million to explain what it is, beyond an annual purveyor of softcore porn.
Intuit: Love for the Little Guys
It is quite true that few small businesses can afford a Super Bowl spot. But one small business won't have to worry. Intuit, the company that makes QuickBooks, is paying to air one small business's ad across the land. You can see the four finalists at Intuit's Small Business, Big Game website.
While this is obviously great for the competition winner (and, really, still great for the finalists, who are being heavily promoted at the above link all the same), it might be even better for Intuit. This competition helps cement the company's brand as a friend of small business. And in economic times that so heavily value small and local businesses, that only serves to strengthen Intuit in the B2B realm.