Super Bowl

Super Bowl May Return to Days of Spectacular '1984' Ad

More Sponsors Buying Longer Berths; A Push Toward 'Storytelling'

By Published on . 7

More long-form ads should mean more storytelling, although matching the epic '1984' remains a tall order.
More long-form ads should mean more storytelling, although matching the epic '1984' remains a tall order.

Often accustomed to making a short handoff in 30 seconds, some Super Bowl advertisers are considering a longer pass.

Perhaps inspired by the two-minute 2011 Super Bowl ad from Chrysler, in which the automaker boasted that its vehicle were "Imported from Detroit" while rapper Eminem toasted in the background, a handful of the sponsors for Super Bowl XLVI have bought time for commercials longer than the standard 30 seconds.

"One of the things you'll see this year is an incredibly great amount of longer-form commercials," said Seth Winter, senior VP-sales and marketing at NBC Sports Group, overseeing ad sales for NBC's Feb. 5 broadcast of the event. "You're going to see the art form of storytelling take on a greater role in the Super Bowl."

To date, only Volkswagen has said it is running something longer than 30 seconds. The automaker, which must work hard to beat its popular kid-as-Darth-Vader spot, which launched during the 2011 Super Bowl, has said that it will run a 60-second spot.

Once known as a haven for so-called spectacular advertising -- commercials so attention-grabbing and cinematic that they could stop a roomful of partying viewers in their tracks -- the Super Bowl has come to rely more on commercials designed for easy laughs from drunks at the back of the bar. Crotch-biting dogs (Bud Light), scantily-clad women (GoDaddy), entreaties from Ed McMahon and M.C. Hammer (Cash4Gold.com) and ads-on-the cheap resembling YouTube clips (Doritos) have been the recent fare.

Some marketers have tried to emulate what is often viewed as the best Super Bowl commercial of all time: Apple and TBWA/Chiat/Day's 60-second "1984," which introduced the Macintosh computer and invited viewers to cast off the yoke placed on them by tech conglomerates such as IBM.

In 2000, tech company EDS, now part of Hewlett-Packard, raised eyebrows with a 60-second spot from Fallon that parodied a Western, with cowboys trying to herd hyperactive cats. In 2008, Coca-Cola likewise offered up a visually stunning ad from Wieden & Kennedy showing Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons fighting over a can of the soda.

The 2011 Super Bowl included 60-second spots from marketers that included Motorola, Kia North America, Anheuser-Busch InBev and Coca-Cola. But those were the exceptions.

Technological change may be encouraging more companies to go for a show-stopper. Giant but affordable TV screens provide a more appropriate canvas for epic ads and a better chance to catch the eye of audience members who tend not to pay attention during commercial breaks. Marketers may also be more motivated to invest time and resources into spots they know will live on YouTube and Hulu long after the game is over.

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