Super Bowl LVII is almost here, and even if you don't follow the NFL, that's become remarkably obvious. Ben Affleck is serving up coffee at Dunkin Donuts, Maya Rudolph is the new face of M&M's, and Rob Gronkowski is training to kick a field goal so that people can get millions in free bets. Yes, the soft announcements of upcoming Super Bowl ads are back, and dammit, I'm outraged.
I consider myself a modern man who accepts that change is the only constant. With that said, I'm sick and tired of companies knee-capping their own expensive Super Bowl ads with soft announcements, pre-releases and other stunts ahead of the big game. It wasn't always like this, and I think there's definitely a reason to revert back to the old ways. At the risk of becoming the internet's old man screaming at a cloud, let's talk about the way things were and how the modern trend of pre-releasing Super Bowl ads is ruining one of the best parts of the event.
Why I Care So Much About Super Bowl Ads
The Super Bowl is one of the largest viewed live events in the United States, and that's evident by the massive effort taken in making sure audiences are entertained each and every minute of it. In a perfect scenario, the game is competitive, the halftime show is entertaining and the ads are great enough to get people talking the following morning at the water cooler. Granted, there's never a guarantee that all three will happen, but when it does, man, it is a great time to be alive.
At any other time, let's be honest about watching ads: the DVR has been the greatest modern invention for television because it took away ads between viewing our favorite shows. Unfortunately, there are no skipping ads during a live event, but people typically wouldn't do that during the Super Bowl anyway. Brands do their absolute best to make the best quality commercials for the big game, and if they succeed, those ads will live on in consumers' minds for a long time.
Best Super Bowl Commercials Of 2022
Remember the iguanas feuding with the Budweiser frogs? Remember young Michael Jordan vs. older Michael Jordan? Terry Tate, Office Linebacker? These classic moments are ingrained in my mind to this day, in addition to that depressing robot GM ad that got pulled. While that's a tad disturbing, I have an emotional connection to them. Those moments are as tied to my memory of the Super Bowl for me as some of the most iconic halftime performances, but the current trend of soft announcements is ruining it.
How The Modern Ad Strategy For Super Bowl Ads Is Ruining That
The glory days of waiting until the Super Bowl to be surprised by what ads may air are over. As I mentioned previously, companies are in the habit of releasing trailers, press releases or even deceptive announcements that seem like actual news to drum up reactions ahead of their big ad reveals.
In the past, even in my line of work, the easy workaround to this was to simply not watch. I could just opt not to view the pre-released trailer of Danny Devito as an M&M before the big game, and it was fine. That was five years ago, and since then, M&M has seemingly realized it could capitalize on the outrage of social media and make its upcoming Super Bowl ad a trending topic rife with political discourse, anger,and bizarre memes. There was no escaping it this year, even if I wanted to.
Super Bowl ads are fun, quippy and, most importantly, self-contained. Well, at least they used to be. Now there are folks arguing back and forth online over a commercial. I think it's that realization that has somewhat ruined the magic of Super Bowl ads for me. That's because I'm accepting that at the end of the day, as cool as these beloved ad spots are to me, they're still commercials.
And because they're commercials designed to get people talking about the brand and making as big of a splash as possible, companies aren't going to stop soft-launching their Super Bowl ads anytime soon. All the fun you have watching their commercial feels secondary to whether or not as many people as possible are talking about it. If an online Twitter war or celebrity handing out fast food is more effective than a quippy ad, which one might a business lean towards?
The Best Super Bowl Ads Are A Surprise
I'm not an ad man, but I did watch a lot of Mad Men. Don Draper once said "Make it simple, but significant," and there are few things more simple than just running a high-quality ad with no previews the night of the Super Bowl. In fact, there are plenty of companies that have done that over the years, and many of them have created ads that have stuck with us.
As I mentioned before, Super Bowl ads are really just ads at the end of the day. What makes them special is that in-the-moment shock when something surprising happens. Remember when The Mountain murdered the Bud Knight in that bizarre Bud Light and Game of Thrones ad? You could never run that ad regularly, but it was so shocking and well-executed that it has lived on in my mind all these years later.
The element of surprise can be a powerful thing, especially during the Super Bowl. Hell, it made me watch The Cloverfield Paradox with my Netflix subscription right when it launched, and I think many would agree, outside of CinemaBlend's own Mike Reyes, that I could've waited. I still give the streaming service all the credit in the world for that stunt though, even if the movie wasn't quite up to the hype manifested. The surprise was enough to get me talking, and surprises along those lines can still be effective if companies would revert back to them!
There's No Real Reason To Preview Any Super Bowl Content In 2023
The Super Bowl is consistently the most-watched live event program in the United States yearly. Companies have the largest television audience of the year not only watching the big game, but also tuning in for their commercials. They don't need to further hype their ads since people will be watching either way.
If by some freak chance someone happens to miss their big ad, that same ad is often immediately searchable on the internet afterward. A friend can pull it up on their phone, and they can share a laugh and relive the moment as often as they so choose. There is no reason, absolutely none, to be previewing a commercial for a Super Bowl ad in 2023, and that's a hill I'm willing to die on.
I'd even go so far as to say this applies to major tentpole franchises as well. Keep the upcoming Star Wars and Marvel project trailers under wraps, and then smack me in the face with it right after I see that catchy Burger King jingle for the umpteenth time. San Diego Comic-Con understands the value of surprising fans with unexpected footage. Why can't this apply to the NFL's ad buyers?
Just bring back surprises in Super Bowl advertising, and let me have some of the magic back. If not for me, do it for the non-sports fans who begrudgingly turn on the event to be a part of the conversation the next day, or maybe because it's just the right thing to do.
Super Bowl LVII kicks off on Fox Sunday, February 12th, at 6:30 p.m. ET, and of course there are options for those who wish to join in via streaming. As mentioned, the ads have started well before that, but hopefully there will still be some holdouts keeping their big reveals until after kickoff.