Bruce Springsteen and Babies Star in Pandemic-Year Super Bowl Ads

The Four Percent

The longtime ad executive Donny Deutsch, who usually hosts a watch party with as many as 40 people but took in the game this year with a group of six, said that being in the Super Bowl usually ensured a quick jolt of attention. But companies also risk the half-absorbed audience remembering aspects of an ad, but forgetting who produced it.

“The Super Bowl is such a cluttered environment for people taking in ads,” he said. “You can have an effective ad, but it may not register for your brand, especially if the brand awareness going in is not there.”

Pandemic filming constraints led many companies to rely on stock footage, voice-overs and remote filming. Those hurdles were largely hidden from view, with many ad makers managing to include location changes and special effects, said Margaret Johnson, the chief creative officer at the ad agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, which worked on the 2021 Super Bowl commercials from Cheetos, Doritos and others.

Filming constraints meant there were few big crowd scenes, usually a staple of the extravagant ads shown during the big game. Oatly, an oat-milk company, showed its chief executive Toni Petersson standing at a keyboard in the middle of a field.

“Wow! Wow!” he sang. “No cow!”

The commercial grabbed plenty of social-media attention, both good and bad. Immediately after the ad was shown, the Oatly website started offering a T-shirt that said across the front: “I totally hated that Oatly commercial.”

Many other ads featured just one or two characters, “which is the safest thing to do,” said Daniel Lobaton, chief creative officer of Saatchi & Saatchi NY.

Huggies, the diaper company, broadcast a commercial in the second quarter that was novel in its use of remote filming. It included scenes shot on Super Bowl Sunday interspersed with footage that had already been filmed. The ad featured eight infants born since midnight in scenes recorded by willing parents, who were compensated by the company. A team of 25 people working on the commercial hustled to get the commercial ready in time, the company said.

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