Couch potato's guide to Super Bowl commercials
Feb. 1, 2013 at 8:28 PM ET
Settle into your favorite couch groove, pour yourself a big frosty, saddle up a sidecar's worth of chips, and get ready for the Super Bowl bombardment. Not of bone-crunching tackles, daredevil runs, and hold-your-breath long bomb passes, but of ads, ads, ads!
Even in this hashtag-saturated era, Super Bowl air time is still the ultimate national stage for blockbuster commercials. With 30 seconds selling for an average of $3.7 million this year, the pressure is on to get the most bang for the buck.
That means going big: big ideas, big names, big laughs -- and big sex appeal.
"Watching and rating Super Bowl ads has become sport in itself," said Shawn Wood, creative director at on ideas, a creative brand agency. "What’s at risk, even in such a high-profile placement, is spending $4 million per spot and still not being remembered 24 hours later."
To hedge those bets, advertisers in 2013 tried to ramp up their online pre-game buzz more than ever before. They uploaded to YouTube pieces of their ad -- or even the entire ad itself. Others ran web-only videos using the celebrities and themes from their Sunday ad, but in edgier ways, primed for viral pickup.
In essence, they're ads for the ad.
"Sharing spots ahead of the Super Bowl is a bit like wearing your wedding dress to the bridal shower," said Adam Albrecht, Chief Creative Officer at the Engauge marketing agency. "It ruins the surprise but improves ROI [return on investment]."
Even though you most likely will have seen a bunch of the ads online already, there's still plenty to tune in for this Sunday. Some advertisers are deliberately keeping the surprise until the Big Game, just to run counter to the trend. To help you keep track of all the Super Bowl ad action, here's a playbook of what to look for in the breaks between the 49ers and Ravens action. By no means exhaustive, we've identified themes and picked what are, in our opinion, the best examples. Plan your bathroom runs accordingly.
But don't worry if you miss something. If advertisers' 2013 Super Bowl dreams comes true, you'll be seeing all of these ads online for years to come.
The epics (60- to120-second ads)
- Samsung Mobile's ad, with comedians Paul Rudd, Seth Rogen, Bob Odenkirk, and directed by Jon Favreau, runs a whopping two minutes. But judging by the online leak, it's going to be hilarious.
- Mercedes-Benz's 60-second, "at $29K, you don't have to sign away your soul to get into a Benz" ad features Kate Upton (in a dress, not shampoo suds, as was teased online), Usher and Willem Dafoe as, of course, the Devil.
- Watch for Audi's mini-movie of a kid going stag to the prom in his dad's new Audi and getting to kiss the prom queen and get decked by the prom king. Audi uploaded it online last week and let fans vote to choose from one of three punchlines to be used on Sunday.
- All-State reprises their "Mayhem" character, acted by Dean Winters, known for playing a similar skeeze-ball as Dennis Duffy in "30 Rock."He unleashes mayhem through the ages, from the Garden of Eden, to Napoleon, and beyond. Best moment: Mayhem says "Moo," then knocks over a lantern, unleashing the Chicago Fire of 1871.
- Tracy Morgan ("30 Rock") is the unpredictable spokesman for MiO water enhancer. Based on the teaser, it's trying to be a censored bleep-fest full of "Did he just say that?!" moments.
- Amy Poehler ("Parks and Recreation") will ask a lot of annoying, yet funny and endearing, questions of a Best Buy employee.
- Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson appears in a spot from the "Got Milk" folks, directed by Peter Berg ("Friday Night Lights.")
- Kaley Cuoco ("Big Bang Theory") is a purple power suit-wearing, wish-granting genie for Toyota.
'Shocked' they were banned
Begging to be retweeted
- Speed Stick's ad "Laundry" was inspired by an idea submitted over social media, the deodorant maker said. Before, during and after the Super Bowl ad airs, they're hoping people will tweet sweat-inducing occasions where you need to keep your cool using #handleit.
- Budweiser ran a social media campaign to get people to name the newest foal to be part of the stable of Clydesdales in their long-running series of ads showcasing the steeds.
- Coca Cola's "Mirage" ad has three quirky groups racing across the desert. Viewers can vote with hashtags #CokeShowgirls, #CokeCowboys or #CokeBadlanders for which one will be shown winning in the spot airing directly after the game.
- Wonderful Pistachios has Psy cracking nuts "Gangnam style" and encouraging viewers to submit their pictures of themselves doing the same. The prize is a 12-month lease of the same Benz driven in his music video.
Salacious, sexy, unseemly
- Calvin Klein will feature model Matthew Terry flexing his muscles while wearing new CK flexible underwear. Enough said.
- Relatively unknown Canadian shirt-maker Gildan is vying to change that status with their ad showing a guy hunting for his favorite tee after a night of kinky sex.
- As previously mentioned in the "Shocked they were banned category," GoDaddy.
Built by social media
- Doritos, for the seventh year, will do a "Crash the Super Bowl" spot, letting fans submit videos online. Truth is, it's not stale. Two spots will air, one chosen by fan votes, the other by Doritos. You'll likely see the finalists "Fashionista Daddy" and "Express Checkout."
- Automaker Lincoln crowd-sourced its script via Jimmy Fallon's Twitter followers and built an ad around five tweets. Plus some alpacas.
- Pepsi's ad includes photos of consumers they're soliciting before game day. Also, in what is either an homage or ploy to catch a viral ride off the YouTube "Milking" challenge meme, the Pepsi Next "Epic Party" ad has an extended shot of a guy pouring a gallon of milk over his head.
- Coincidentally, three different ads will star baby-faced astronauts. Kia's and E-trade's feature actual babies, while Axe Apollo's teaser ad has a gangly teen boy astronaut getting chosen by a bikini babe over a lifeguard (the game-day ad stars the decidedly non-baby-faced Buzz Aldrin). The body-spray ad ties in with their contest to launch 22 people into space in a suborbital Lynx space plane. For real. To get attention this year, advertisers are willing to leave the planet.