4 Advertising Trends to Expect From Super Bowl LII

Brands will get political again, use real-time creative and more

84 Lumber tackled immigration in its 2017 Big Game spot. 84 Lumber

Last year’s Super Bowl saw advertisers get political, with brands tackling issues such as immigration, pay inequality and climate change.

That’s one trend viewers can expect to see continue in 2018, according to video ad tech company Unruly, which measured last year’s most “effective” ads.

“Last year was an interesting year, as we came out of a politically charged environment, and that definitely came through as you look at the landscape of Super Bowl commercials,” Unruly North America president Steven Sottile told Adweek, with brands such as Budweiser and 84 Lumber tackling the issue of immigration and Audi exploring female empowerment.

“In years past, it was a race to see who could create the most humorous creative around the Super Bowl,” Sottile said. “That still existed, but [last year] you had creative teams and brands sit down and find elements of which they wanted to align their product and their brand with and going all-in on statements.”

He added, “If you are going to make a statement and you are going to stand for something, it’s got to be authentic.”

Last year, Audi was criticized for its “Daughter” Super Bowl spot addressing equal pay when viewers pointed out that Audi’s own executive team included only two women. State Street, whose “Fearless Girl” statue by McCann New York was one of the most celebrated ads of 2017, faced similar backlash when news broke that the company agreed to a $5 million settlement payment in response to charges it underpaid female and minority employees.

“What we’ve seen in our research is that around 76 percent of consumers are actually turned off by brands whose creative does not appear to be authentic,” Sottile explained.

Despite the risks involved—a 4A’s survey last May found “more risk than benefit” for brands tackling social and political issues—brands continued to get political throughout 2017.

That’s something Super Bowl LII viewers can expect as well.

“I think again you’re going to see center stage this year politically charged statements around climate change, female empowerment and other issues,” Sottile said, citing the Trump administration’s controversial environmental policies and “a 2017 that was marred with sexual harassment scandals everywhere you turn.”

The predominance of issue-oriented ads also allows brands that do opt for a more humorous approach to “stick out” as they “go against the grain,” he said, adding that Avocados from Mexico, T-Mobile and Mr. Clean, which all utilized a humorous approach, popped up on Unruly’s list of last year’s most effective ads. “You can certainly have a positive impact when you are that refreshing piece of creative that is generating that smile and that humor … that moment to actually forget the politically charged environment we’re in,” Sottile said.

Viewers can also expect to see a lot of celebrities in this year’s Super Bowl ads. That’s a trend that has continued to grow in recent years, but Unruly expects there to be one key difference in 2018.

“We expect females to take center stage on the celeb endorsement and integration side,” Sottile said, with male celebrities “taking the back stage to a more female-centric [advertising].”

Last year saw brands such as Hyundai, Tide and Snickers experiment with real-time creative, something Unruly anticipates seeing even more of in 2018.

“I think the idea of real-time will take a couple steps forward,” Sottile said.

One new trend expected to pop up in 2018 is the emergence of six-second ads, which Fox Sports introduced in NFL broadcasts during the 2017 season. “It will be interesting to see how that plays into the Super Bowl … and how the combination of six-second and long form will create a story.”

Combining these trends into a cohesive experience could be a big win for a brand.

“There will be that brand that intricately uses six-second broadcast, a real-time moment and a big unveil to create a unique experience,” Sottile said.

@ErikDOster erik.oster@adweek.com Erik Oster is an agencies reporter for Adweek.