The 8 Biggest Advertising Trends of Super Bowl 54

Nostalgia, new product launches and space take center stage

collage of super bowl ads
Brands heavily tapped into nostalgia and outer space during their Super Bowl ads.
Getty Images, Audi, Hyundai, JEEP, Doritos, Mountain Dew

Celebrities dominated Super Bowl ads this year, with brands tapping big names like Martin Scorsese, Rainn Wilson, Busy Philipps (twice!), Chris Evans, Ellen DeGeneres, Chrissy Teigen and so many more to star in a wide variety of ads throughout the night. In total, brands spent an estimated $435 million on Super Bowl commercials, according to Kantar Media, with some common threads emerging from the creative direction of their ads to their media buys.

Here are some of the most noteworthy advertising trends that appeared during Super Bowl 54.

Brands went long—really long

Super Bowl ads have been increasing in length for a number of years, but this trend hit a high point Sunday night as the number of ads that went 60 seconds or longer equaled the total number of 30-second spots in the game. Brands aired 26 half-minute ads, 24 one-minute ads and two 90-second ads. Analysts explained that brands want to dive deeper into storytelling when they have such a broad audience. That’s tough to do in 30 seconds, but telling a compelling story in 60 or 90 seconds is far easier. Read more on why brands went long in Super Bowl 54.

Super Bowl 54 felt like a night at the movie theater

Speaking of telling stories in a short timeframe, one way brands can maximize their time, especially in a 30-second spot, is to play on borrowed interest. Why create a new world to tell a story in when a brand can lean on a cultural institution that most of the audience is already familiar with? That concept is one of the driving forces behind the explosion in ads Sunday night that featured movie references. From the night’s top ad, Jeep’s Groundhog Day remake starring Bill Murray, to Mountain Dew’s The Shining homage featuring Bryan Cranston and Tracee Ellis Ross, brands tapped into beloved movies to make an impact. Read more on why brands were obsessed with movies.

Big time spenders

For some brands, one spot was clearly not enough. Conglomerates like Anheuser-Busch InBev, PepsiCo, P&G and Hyundai each likely spent at least $30 million. AB-InBev snagged four minutes of ads, PepsiCo grabbed three minutes of ads, P&G scored nearly three minutes of ads and Hyundai dropped three minutes of ads across its portfolio. On an industry level, the automotive sector dominated the game with over seven minutes of ad time, which translated to about $80 million of ad spend. Read more on the game’s biggest advertisers.

Kobe Bryant’s death impacts Super Bowl ads

Following the passing of NBA legend Kobe Bryant, a number of brands edited or altered their Super Bowl ads and campaigns to avoid appearing insensitive. Planters paused all of its pregame promotions, which showed the death of its beloved mascot, Mr. Peanut. Planters eventually pulled its pregame ad and moved up its Big Game commercial. Other spots featured helicopters or other scenes that brands ultimately decided may be considered insensitive—Genesis, Toyota and Hard Rock International all fell into this category. But did the alterations matter? Brand experts thought some brands were overcorrecting, unintentionally inserting themselves into the Kobe conversation. Read more on whether experts thought the changes were necessary.

Let’s go to space!

Incredibly, four brands channeled the final frontier for their Super Bowl ads. Walmart, Olay, SodaStream and Turkish Airlines referenced space or made space the main setting of their spots. There’s a couple reasons for this trend: First, in a climate where consumers are seemingly divided over everything, space represents a neutral territory that brands can navigate. Second, the space race of the 1960s sparked a sentiment that brands would love to continue to tap into in the 2020s. Read more on why four brands chose to go out of this world for Super Bowl 54.

Putting new products in the spotlight

What better way to launch a new product than in front of 100 million sets of eyeballs? A number of brands employed that strategy to debut new offerings like Cheetos Popcorn, Pop-Tarts Pretzel, Coke Energy, Mtn Dew Zero Sugar and Bud Light Seltzer. To cut through the clutter of crowded market spaces, those brands attached themselves to the biggest cultural stage in the country to make a big splash. Read more about brands’ strategies for introducing a new product during the Super Bowl.

Hello, new advertisers

In the realm of new things in the Super Bowl, a number of brands made their first appearance in the game as advertisers. Many had one thing in common: celebrating something new. Hard Rock International opened a new hotel and Pop-Tarts debuted a new flavor, while Little Caesars and Walmart touted new delivery and pickup options. Read more about the strategies of first-time advertisers, which also included Facebook.

Welcome back, old friends

Some Super Bowl advertisers felt like first-time entrants to the game, but were in fact returning after years away. Notable returns included New York Life (absent since 1990), Porsche (absent since 1997) and Cheetos (absent since 2009). Why did they return? Like the first-time advertisers, some had a new product to launch, like Porsche’s 2020 Taycan and Cheetos Popcorn. Read more about why some other brands like Discover and Heinz returned after lengthy hiatuses.

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