Netflix’s Big Mistake; The Most Inclusive Super Bowl in History: Wednesday’s First Things First

Plus, what we know about the ominously named political tech company that complicated the Iowa caucus

Members of the LGBTQ community headlined numerous ads in Super Bowl 54. - Credit by Pop-Tarts, Microsoft, Olay
Headshot of Jess Zafarris

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Media Buyers to Netflix: Take Our Money!

Despite a continued slowdown in domestic subscribers, Netflix has remained unwavering in its vow not to pursue ad-supported content, a stance that CEO Reed Hastings reiterated during the company’s most recent investor video last week. But in the marketing community, that business model is a continued point of frustration. Eager to capture eyeballs and advertise against premium programming, marketers, media buyers and consultants have made the case for an ad-supported tier that the streaming service could offer at a lower cost. Competitor Hulu offers both ad-supported and ad-free tiers, and NBCUniversal’s Peacock and WarnerMedia’s HBO Max are following suit with cheap or free ad-supported tiers of their own.

Read more: Learn why the streaming service is so resistant to advertising—and why marketers think that could be a huge mistake.

LGBTQ+ Stars Take Center Stage in This Year’s Super Bowl Ads

Although tonally most brands opted for statement-free messaging filled with humor and nostalgia, the stars of the ads themselves made a notable stride this year. Members of the LGBTQ community and their allies made their presence known at this year’s Super Bowl, appearing in ads across industries for everything from Sabra hummus to Olay skin-care and Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant. All told, at least 11 LGBTQ-inclusive ads aired during the game, according to GLAAD, a media advocacy organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. These roles made for what is likely the most diverse lineup of ads in the Big Game’s history, a milestone reinforced by the presence of 49ers offensive assistant coach Katie Sowers, the first female and gay coach to help bring an NFL team to the Super Bowl (who was also the focus of a Microsoft ad), and the national anthem performance by Demi Lovato, who openly identifies as bisexual.

Read more: See which brands aired LGBTQ-inclusive ads and the stars who appeared in them.

Here’s What We Know About the Political Tech Company Behind the Iowa Caucus Snafu

Iowa’s caucus system is typically confusing, but a new mobile app made things significantly more complicated—so much so that Iowa’s first-in-the-nation results had to be manually checked by officials. On Monday night, the Iowa Democratic Party found reporting inconsistencies with the app which caucus officials were supposed to use to calculate and report results from their respective precincts. Users reportedly had trouble logging in and using the app, as well as trouble with cell phone service in certain parts of the state. Behind the troubled app, which was supposed to be used in the Nevada caucuses later this month, is the ominously named Shadow Inc., a Denver-based for-profit company affiliated with the Democratic nonprofit ACRONYM. Evidently Shadow’s app was slapped together over the last couple of months with a serious lack of large-scale testing.

Read more: Leading up to the caucus, the Iowa Democratic Party maintained a head-scratching secrecy surrounding the app—and they’re not the only election-related entity to have paid shadow for services.

How Brands Leveraged Audio Marketing in Super Bowl Spots

Being the top marketing event in terms of ad spend and amount of viewers, the Big Game offers a snapshot of how brands choose to present themselves to the eyes—and especially the ears—of the public. Audio has become a regular masthead in the latest trend predictions, and some brands took the opportunity to amp up their ads in this space. “The things we hear (or don’t hear) shape our perception of the brand profoundly,” writes Mikko Matikka of audio branding company Audiodraft. “Fostering relevance and familiarity is of the utmost importance.” Classic brand sound elements such as audio logos and theme songs seem to have dropped in popularity, while fuller soundscapes made more of an appearance.

Read more: Explore the trend—and turn up the volume—to discover how several brands leveraged the potential of audio in these Super Bowl spots.

Best of the Rest: Today’s Top News and Insights, Plus More Super Bowl Insights

Ad of the Day: No Logo. No Images. But You Know Exactly What These Ads Are For

How many brands could pull this off? McDonald’s, whose marketing has been tilting increasingly toward minimalism in Europe, has launched an outdoor campaign that’s both subtle and loaded with swagger. The ads from Leo Burnett London don’t mention the fast food brand by name, show its logo or include any pictures of the products. See more of the ads from the campaign.

Leo Burnett London

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@JessZafarris jessica.farris@adweek.com Jess Zafarris (née Jessica Farris) is an audience engagement editor at Adweek.
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