Lots of men, kicks in the groin and beer, beer, beer; Super Bowl LII advertising looks like any other year. And that's likely very strategic.
For the most part, this year is turning into the "Boring Bowl." Predictability will likely dominate, with few surprises in the big game.
Here's a look at the ad trends you can expect come Super Bowl Sunday.
While there will certainly be an advertiser or two that takes to the Super Bowl to make a political or social statement, for the most part, this year's crop of big-game spots will avoid it.
So it's unlikely we'll see the same overt attacks on President Trump like last year's 84 Lumber ad, which took the perspective of Mexican immigrants coming to America (although an edit with a reference to the proposed border wall was rejected), and It's a 10 Haircare, which poked fun at Trump's coiffe.
There's an undeniable fear running through this year's game. After spending $5 million on a 30-second spot, the last thing a marketer wants to do is alienate a subset of their consumers—and political alienation is alrady running high. Budweiser was taken more politically than it meant to be last year with its spot telling the story of how the company's creator immigrated from Germany. It just so happened the beer giant released the ad in the days following strong comments by Trump on refugees. And Audi received pushback on its spot promoting equal pay in the workforce, with critics saying the spot was contrived and the company doesn't practice what it preaches.
Even those that do try to promote social equality, will do so in a more subdued way. Coca-Cola's 60-second spot this year, called "The Wonder of Us," positions the beverage as suitable for everyone no matter their race, gender or age. It's more tame than Coke's 2014 "It's Beautiful" spot, which featured "America the Beautiful" sung in a variety of languages including Spanish, Hindi and French. The responses included a bit of the ugly in America, with some critics arguing that in America, we speak English.
Going for laughs
To avoid incidents like this, most advertisers will instead lean on humor, with light-hearted sports relying on predictable punch-lines. From Danny DeVito getting hit by a bus in M&M's spot to an inconsiderate businessman getting kicked in the groin in Groupon's ad starring Tiffany Haddish, slapstick humor will continue to have a place in the big game. There's even some potty humor with Febreze's "The Only Man Whose Bleep Don't Stink," about a man who—well, you get it. Nobody's going to find this sort of stuff out of place at the Super Bowl.
Some brands will tout their philanthropic efforts during the big game. Hyundai is using its 60-second spot to plug an organization dedicated to fighting childhood cancer. And Anheuser-Busch InBev is dedicating two of its spots to water: Budweiser will tout the brewer's Red Cross-affiliated program donating canned water to areas hit by natural disasters, while Stella Artois will air a spot starring Matt Damon promoting its work with Water.org, which invests in clean water initiatives for developing countries.
There's a drastic decrease in the number of newcomers to the Super Bowl this year. Thus far, there are just four brands confirmed that will air their first-ever Super Bowl ads on Sunday. That compares to 21 last year. What's especially interesting about this year's newcomers is most of them are actually part of parent companies who have advertised in the Super Bowl before—like Pringles, whose parent Kellogg has advertised Corn Flakes and Frosted Flakes; Intuit, whose ran ads for its TurboTax and QickBooks brands; and Amazon Prime Video, whose parent has previously advertised Amazon Alexa. So far, the only exception to this is Monster Products. Last year's newcomers included big-name brands like Wendy's, Nintendo and Netflix along with lesser-known players like mobile games company Top Games and It's a 10 Haircare. It's unclear why there are fewer newcomers than in previous years. In 2016, there were at least 13 brands buying in for the first time. In 2015, there were about 10.
But if you look back historically from 2001 to 2014, it was unusual to see the number of first-timers hit double digits, according to data from Kantar Media. In 2011 there were as few as 4 new Super Bowl brands.
Where are the cars?
There are five auto brands confirmed to run a total of 11 spots so far. These include Hyundai, Kia, Toyota, Toyota-owned Lexus and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. While the number of auto spots will slightly surpass last year, when 10 car ads ran, there is a slight decline in the number of automakers buying in. Last year eight automakers ran a total of 10 ads. This year, five of the 11 ads will come from Fiat Chrysler. A group of auto advertisers from last year, including Audi, Honda, Buick, Mercedes-Benz and Ford, have all confirmed they have no plans to return to the game this year.
According to Kantar Media, auto manufacturers had their smallest footprint in the game last year since 2010, with a total ad time of seven minutes, down from nine minutes in 2016.