In a nutshell: I predict that 2018 won’t be a breakout year for Super Bowl advertising.
The ratio of great spots and "meh" spots is going to stay the same as in years passed, based on what’s been pre-released and teased so far. I anticipate, in this charged political atmosphere, there will be very few risk-takers. Add that to the rising price tag, the level of scrutiny and the rubber-stamping necessary to get a Super Bowl spot out the door, and most CMOs probably won’t have the stomach to push the envelope too far. In fact, Mountain Dew, who birthed "Puppymonkeybaby" in Super Bowl 50, this year opted for film stars to shill Dew and Doritos (granted, Peter Dinklage’s lip-syncing is epic).
I expect to see a few brands go the cause-based, issue-related route and try to wring a few tears out of America’s eyeballs. I (personally) think it’s never been more necessary for brands to speak from the heart, but in a country that’s never been more polarized and tribal, it’s like performing a high-wire act over an electrified fence, next to an alligator pond. Obviously, the stakes are considerably lower when it’s Hyundai championing childhood cancer or Anheuser-Busch promoting disaster relief, but my guess is there are going to be brands that tackle sensitive issues like the widening cultural divide, DACA and #MeToo.
Whatever the issue is, I hope that whatever they concepted four to five months ago is still topical. And that it doesn’t feel tone-deaf or off-brand. The reward is considerably higher when the issue is more controversial. I hope the gamble pays off for someone.
I expect more brands are going to opt for the broadcast 60-second spot versus just doing an extended version online. I think the craft of storytelling demands it. But I expect to see plenty of brands break ranks and look for alternative creative doorways. Skittles has already received several days of earned media attention for their "ad for one person" idea featuring creepy David Schwimmer teasers. And that might be the smart approach to around-the-game ads, considering social media will once again be swarming with brands come game day, with Twitter likely seeing the bulk of the activity considering the financial incentive they’re offering to the brand that generates the most engagement.
And while we’re still seeing brands like Kraft and Hyundai continuing to gamble with technical real-time production wizardry, I’m not certain we’ll see any technological stunts at this year’s Super Bowl. Might we see Alexa get some love? Or an AR or VR tie-in?
(Shakes Magic 8-Ball and produces: ALL SIGNS POINT TO NO)
Lastly, I expect there to be a handful of winners and more than 50 that might not get the return on investment they hoped for. But hey, those are the stakes at the baccarat table of advertising.