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What’s in Store for Super Bowl LII?

We know that many viewers will tune in to the Super Bowl on February 4th out of loyalty to the Patriots or Eagles, but possibly even more will watch for the commercials. It’s the one time of year where advertisers don’t have to worry that viewers are changing channels or muting between the action. With 30-second spots hitting an all-time high of $5 million last year, the stakes are high for brands that rise to the occasion.

Betting Big on Digital
Per Kantar Media, 11 advertisers in 2017 spent more than 10% of their annual media budget on the Super Bowl. This year, three-time advertiser will be spending 0%. The web services company has decided to put its entire budget toward digital – not TV – and will be focusing on targeting new audiences through partnerships with model Karlie Kloss, YouTube influencer iJustine, and internet comedy duo Rhett and Link.

Marketers are also getting creative with social campaigns. Several brands have invested in 30-second online teasers to create advanced interest in their game day spots. Skittles, for example, is garnering buzz around its 60-second Super Bowl LII ad that will be shown to only one person. That teenage fan’s reaction will be recorded and streamed live on the Skittles Facebook page.

Social is a pretty good bet. A study from The Influence Central last year found that 78% of Super Bowl viewers engaged with social media during the game and that the leading activity was sharing thoughts about commercials (38%).

Spending Outside of the Game
Prime real estate for many years focused entirely on the game itself, but there is only so much airtime to sell. According to Kantar Media, overall ad spending reached a new high of $534 million in 2017 which was an increase of 20% over the previous year. One notable trend that emerged in 2017 was the boost in pregame and postgame ad spending. It was the first year to see triple digits ($115 million), a jump of $40 million from 2016.

Advertisers caught some flack last year for giving too much away before the game, but that hasn’t stopped Stella Artois, Groupon, Lexus, Pringles, Febreze and others from airing full ads already.

More Real-Time Ads
Coinciding with the rise in “live” video streaming on social platforms, Super Bowl LI saw the debut of seemingly risky real-time ads, including those by Snickers, Budweiser, and Hidden Valley. Hyundai surprised US troops stationed abroad with a virtual visit from their families in the States and aired it live in an ad that didn’t even feature any product placement. This year Hyundai has teased, via an ad on YouTube, that it has something bigger up its sleeve.

Socially Conscious Ads
In an era where NFL “take-a-knee” protests divide fans, politically-charged ads can be fraught. The NFL just rejected an American Veterans print ad with the tagline “Please Stand.”

Humorous and heartwarming ads (all the better if they involve animals) often play well, but do expect to see more serious ads like the one from Stella Artois that involves, Matt Damon’s clean water initiative in developing countries. Stella will donate money toward 12 months of clean water for every 12-pack bought between January 15th and April 15th. The Anheuser-Busch InBev brand that hasn’t advertised in the Super Bowl since 2011, debuted an ad online in mid January in anticipation of capturing beer sales for game day.

6-Second Ads
This is the wild card. Following YouTube’s lead, the 6-second ad format debuted on Fox in August 2017 during the Teen Choice awards and first appeared during an NFL game the next month. This will be the first Super Bowl where airing this abbreviated format will be a possibility. It’s been reported, however, that NBC has no plans to run these ads during the Super Bowl, opting instead to air them during the Winter Olympics.

Whatever the incentive for viewers to tune in on Feb 4th – support for their team or the ritual of the Super Bowl itself, or to get a look in real time at the uber-expensive brand ads – Sunday is going to be a big day for advertising. And however viewing habits and technology change and evolve over the next year, it’s safe to say that millions of us will be coming back for more next year.