NEW YORK » Actress Scarlett Johansson gives SodaStream some sex appeal in a controversial spot, Kia revives actor Laurence Fishburne’s "Matrix" character Morpheus in its commercial. And cute puppies and kids abound in ads for Cheerios to Anheuser-Busch.
Advertisers are planning to pull out the tools in their arsenal during Super Bowl time this Sunday, including celebrities, A-list rock bands and cinematic story lines.
Of course, there will still be ad surprises on Sunday with major brands like Chrysler and Coca-Cola staying mum on at least one of their ads. But the ones that are already out use a variety of tactics to draw viewers’ attention.
Overall, marketers are doing a better job getting their branding message across — while still entertaining — than previous years when a cheap joke or gag ruled supreme, says Kelly O’Keefe, professor of brand strategy at the Virginia Commonwealth University Brand Center.
"This year there’s much more focus on brand personality: the spot has to be both interesting and funny and link back to the core assets of the brand," he said. "I’m predicting a stronger Super Bowl than last year."
Advertisers are in the game to win. The Super Bowl is advertising’s biggest showcase, with more than 108 million people expected to tune into the game. And companies are paying an estimated $4 million to have their ads be a part of the action.
Here are 10 ads to watch for on Sunday.
1. Anheuser-Busch: The biggest Super Bowl advertiser’s ad in the fourth quarter shows an adorable Golden Labrador becoming enamored with one of the beermaker’s iconic Clydesdales to the tune of "Let Her Go" by Passenger.
2. General Mill’s Cheerios: The cereal maker brings back an interracial family that starred in a prior spot. This one shows a father telling his daughter that they’re going to have an addition to the family, a baby boy. Then, the little girl strongly suggests they also get a puppy. The ad airs during the first unscheduled time-out of the game.
3. Bank of America: The bank will promote its partnership with AIDS nonprofit (RED) by having music group U2 sing their new single "Invisible." between the first and second quarter. The song will be a free download on iTunes during the game and for the following 24 hours. Bank of America will donate $1 each time it is downloaded to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS.
4. SodaStream: The Israeli at-home soda maker company has stirred up controversy on two fronts. Their ad features "Her" actress Scarlett Johansson touting the health and environmental benefits of the soda maker and will run in the fourth quarter. The ad first made waves when the company said it would delete its last line, "Sorry, Coke and Pepsi," at a request by Fox. Then on Thursday, Johansson resigned her Oxfam ambassadorship. The nonprofit was unhappy she was linked with SodaStream, which operates in Israeli settlements in the West Bank of Palestine. Oxfam is opposed to that.
5. H&M: The clothing maker’s ad in the second quarter features nifty technology that will allow people with some Samsung Smart TVs to order soccer star David Beckham’s Bodywear products with their remote control in real time.
6. Nestle’s Butterfinger: A suggestive teaser ad showed a couple, "Chocolate" and "Peanut Butter," in ’70s-style couple’s therapy talking about the need for "change" and "excitement." The actual ad in the third quarter will have a related theme and Butterfinger is expected to introduce its Peanut Butter Cups with some tongue-in-cheek double entendres.
7. Beats Music: Ellen DeGeneres reimagines the Goldilocks and The Three Bears fairytale in this ad running in the third quarter that introduces Beats Music, a streaming music service.
8. Wonderful Pistachios: The snack producer showcases comedian Stephen Colbert running amok in two 15-second ads in the second quarter.
9. Kia: In the carmaker’s third-quarter ad to introduce its K900 luxury sedan, Laurence Fishburne reprises his "Matrix" role as Morpheus and displays some surprising operatic skills.
10. Chrysler: The automaker is bound to surprise. Always mum ahead of the game, Chrysler has produced some of the best loved and most remembered spots during the big game, from Eminem’s "Imported from Detroit" ad in 2011 to last year’s "Farmer" ad featuring scenes of American farmland and a voiceover by conservative radio broadcaster Paul Harvey. Look for another surprising spot or two this year.