Betting on the Super Bowl: Which ads will win?

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Newcastle Brown Ale "Band of Brands" by Droga5 New York.
Newcastle Brown Ale "Band of Brands" by Droga5 New York.

DDB New York's ECD and CDO sizes up the competition on a field of play that includes multiple screens and a media-savvy audience

Writing an article predicting what to expect in terms of ads during the 2015 Super Bowl feels a bit like cheating: It’s just days before the Big Game, and most brands have already spoiled the surprise when it comes to what we’ll see this Sunday.

Nevertheless — looking at the field of contenders, it seems the very nature of the work is influenced by growing self-awareness and consciousness of new audience experiences.

Much of this can be attributed to the fact that we’ve now had two years where the novelty of co-viewing on mobile and tablet has become table stakes. Meanwhile, the symbol formerly known as the "pound sign" has blossomed into the hashtag that adorns the endframes of all TV spots … whether it has a purpose or not. We’ve also grown accustomed to the hidden camera-based social experiments put forth by brands and the bevy of crowdsourced, user-generated commercials, originally pioneered by Doritos, which now seem anything but original.

The unexpected has become the expected. The brands that best succeed during the most hallowed advertising showcase of the year will be the ones that embrace this self-awareness as a reinforcement, not as a distraction.

Below are my top three picks for standout brands in this year’s Big Game, each for very different reasons.

Newcastle Brown Ale,  "Band of Brands." The brand has done a really nice job of building off the Anna Kendrick work done last year, maintaining the attitude and upping the ante by engaging both consumers and, for that matter, other brands. Initiating a meaningful dialogue and call to action well in advance of this Sunday’s media placement has given the brand an extended window and runway not only to develop a Super Bowl spot but — if done well — a Super Bowl campaign. The attitude and daring nature of the messaging also serves to reinforce the challenger positioning of this brand.

Wix.com, "#ItsThatEasy." Wix is an online service that lets people create their own customized websites. While the brand, like a slew of others, has made the seemingly dubious decision to release its commercial in advance of the Super Bowl, it is quite purposeful and serves to open the viewer up to a deep bench of entertaining content that works hard to sell Wix’s business proposition. In years past, similarly unique and previously unknown businesses like GoDaddy relied on the buzz and once-a-year penetration that the Super Bowl brings to increase awareness for the brand. Here, Wix is pre-seeding a wealth of fun and relevant content that contextualizes its offerings. It also sets up the game-day spot to work harder for the service by bolstering actual consideration and even trial for the product.

Budweiser, "Lost Dog." I’d be remiss if I didn’t make mention of an old favorite, Budweiser. While Bud Light’s continuation of last year’s campaign feels a bit redundant, Budweiser’s adherence to a straight-up legacy of anthemic TV spots at the Super Bowl is actually quite refreshing. In a torrent of companies clamoring to out-hashtag one another or be anything but advertising, Budweiser knows who it is: one of the most iconic brands in one of the most iconic 30-second media slots of the year. That may seem antithetical to everything I have outlined in my previous assertions — but self-awareness sometimes is just as much about what you don’t do in order to highlight what it is you do. Budweiser knows it has the credibility and tradition that few brands have to be a storyteller, so with the audience and stage that the Super Bowl brings, I hope the purity of this narrative will speak for itself.

Then again, what the hell do I know? I’m just another ad guy.

Joe Cianciotto is executive creative director and chief digital officer of DDB New York.

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