Column: Super Bowl ads cause as much buzz, conflict as game

Megan Ivey, Staff Reporter

The Superbowl is three days away, and I’m going to be honest, I had to Google who was playing. Yes, I am one of those people who only watch for the ads (after the Puppy Bowl on Animal Planet, of course). There are times when I wait until the day after to watch a compilation video of all of the commercials. I know, football fans are already booing me.

But I love this time of year. These couple of weeks have a special place for advertising lovers. It’s about the only time where ads are considered entertainment and not something to skip.

In recent years, the feeling of advertisements being entertainment has expanded beyond the game. The week leading up to and the week after the game is just as important. Brands and agencies know to release teasers for the ad or carry out the advertisement’s message after the game to create and/or continue buzz.

In an article discussing the previews of Super Bowl 51 ads, The Chicago Tribune quoted Tim Calkins, a Northwestern University marketing professor. He said the Super Bowl used to be about creating the ad. Now, it’s about creating an entire marketing campaign around the same quality advertisement.

The more people talking about it on social media, the better.

The airtime is not cheaper because of the additional social media avenues. Multiple news sources have reported that this year’s 30-second ad will cost approximately $5 million.

There’s so much to watch, including the conflicts going on behind the screen. There are a couple brand conflicts I’m keeping tabs on this year.

First, GNC’s commercial was banned by the NFL. In my advertising class, I was exposed to a new segment of Super Bowl ads. Some purposefully create risque or questionable commercials to have them banned from airing. Some ads are too bold for family viewing, but it causes curiosity, and the consumer seeks out the advertisement themselves.

This year, however, the ad is not a result of obscenity. According to USA Today, the NFL rejected the GNC ad because of the possible associations between sports and banned supplements. GNC sells supplements that are not allowed by the NFL.

GNC announced they would be placing an ad in the Super Bowl on Twitter in December and was told about the rejection Monday.

I personally do not think that the NFL would be associated with banned substances solely on the advertisement. Athletes are not supposed to abuse the use of alcohol and look at how many advertisements you’ll see from Anheuser-Busch Sunday.

Which brings me to the next power struggle in the Super Bowl. I never realized this, but Fortune reported Anheuser-Busch owns all rights to alcohol-related commercials, meaning no other brands have advertised in decades.

Yellow Tail Wine found a loophole to advertise during the game. The company purchased 70 local ad spots, expecting to reach 85 percent of viewers, according to Fortune. The purchasing process took eight months and cost more than a national ad.

This is a brilliant strategy, and I wonder if any contracts will change in upcoming years to include the loophole.

In a YouTube video unrelated to the Super Bowl, someone created a conspiracy theory about Starbucks.

The narrator shows misspelled coffee cups and suggests the baristas purposefully butcher customers’ names. Why? Because customers think the misspelled name is comical and post it on social media, creating more attention for the brand.

We won’t always know the exact reasoning or strategy behind advertising campaigns. Did GNC know the NFL would likely ban their commercial? Did Yellow Tail Wine spend more time and money than it was worth purchasing local ad space? Whether they meant to or not, both are receiving isolated attention for their products, and maybe that is the ultimate goal.

I know I’ll be on the lookout Sunday for a Yellow Tail kangaroo, wondering if my viewing market is included in the 85 percent.


Megan Ivey is a senior journalism major. She can be reached at 518-2812 or [email protected].