Several advertisers took on more serious topics, using their time to offer socially conscious messages rather than directly promote products. Theadvocacy group No More, which works to combat sexual assault and domestic violence, returned to the Super Bowl with a spot that showed a text message exchange between friends hinting at possible signs of domestic violence. As it did last year, the National Football League donated 30 seconds of airtime for the ad.
Colgate, a first-time Super Bowl advertiser, had a 30-second spot intended to encourage people to save water by turning off the faucet when they brush their teeth. Another Budweiser ad featuring the actress Helen Mirren urged people not to drive drunk. "Don't be a pillock," she says, using a British insult. The spot was Budweiser's first anti-drunken-driving spot during the Super Bowl since 2005.
"There's still a very strong theme — with a little bit of a twist this year — of purpose, mission ideas, whatever you want to call it," said Jim Stengel, a business consultant who previously worked as chief marketing officer at Procter & Gamble. "I think brands and commercials that are embracing this idea of a higher purpose and a higher idea are getting smarter about it."
Even as advertising dollars shift online, commercial time during live events like the Super Bowl still commands a steep price. Many advertisers release online teasers and other promotions in the weeks before the game in an effort to get the most out of the money they spend.
"The value of the game itself is not just that 30-second spot anymore," said Jeremy Carey, managing director at Omnicom's Optimum Sports media and marketing agency.
Of course, Super Bowl ads also invite scrutiny, particularly when viewers can watch many online in the days before the big game. The financial services start-up SoFi, a first-time advertiser, received negative feedbackon its ad, which identified people as "great" or not great and ended with the line, "Find out if you're great at SoFi.com; you're probably not." SoFi removed the last part, evidently deciding that telling potential consumers they were not great was a bad idea.
"We want Brandon, our great member, to be the ad's focus," a spokesman wrote in an email, referring to one person in the ad. "Anything that takes away from him just seemed like a distraction."