MONEY Advertising

5 Ways This Year’s Super Bowl Ads Will Be Like No Other

Victoria's Secret Angels Superbowl ad
Victoria’s Secret Angels Super Bowl Commercial Michael Seto

This year, a Super Bowl ad costs roughly $4.5 million for 30 seconds of air time, up $500,000 from 2014. Price isn't the only way this year's ads will be different.

In a few ways, come Sunday, February 1, Super Bowl viewers can expect some of the same-old, same-old during breaks in the game. Unsurprisingly, there will be ads selling beer and tearjerkers featuring lost puppies (one does both at the same time), and there will be at least one commercial flashing a nearly naked woman walking in public, thanks to perennial provocateur Carl’s Jr. Still, in a few interesting ways this year’s Super Bowl commercials make a break from the past.

There won’t be many car ads.
Auto brands are usually big players in the Super Bowl ad games. Not so much this year. As the Detroit News pointed out, 11 automakers aired commercials during the 2014 Super Bowl. This year, only a handful will be paying up for Super Bowl ad time, with Ford, Lincoln, Hyundai, Honda, Acura, General Motors, and Volkswagen among the regular Super Bowl advertisers who aren’t bothering this year.

The latter is known for some of the best and most shared Super Bowl ads ever (everybody remembers the kid Darth Vader from 2011), yet the automaker released a statement explaining, “For 2015, we have opted to not participate due to other priorities and initiatives across all platforms. We hope to rejoin the Super Bowl when we feel it is appropriate for our brand.”

Analysts have also theorized that automakers are skipping Super Bowl ads this year because the timing doesn’t match up with new vehicle launches, and simply because they’ve blown so much money on these commercials in the past. Over the last decade, automakers have dropped $514.6 million on Super Bowl commercials, nearly 25% of the grand total.

Some other big advertisers are passing too.
Like Dannon, which isn’t advertising even though it’s the Official Yogurt Sponsor of the NFL, and even though it’s developed a reputation for memorable Super Bowl ads like last year’s “Full House” reunion spot. Even for brands that seek close ties with the NFL, the thinking can be that advertising in the Super Bowl simply costs too much, and might not provide enough bang for the buck over the long haul.

“The Super Bowl has a huge audience—but with a huge price tag,” Dannon senior director of public relations Michael Neuwirth said in an interview. “We looked at the most efficient way to build awareness and interest in the product across a longer period of time.”

There will be a bunch of brands you never heard of.
Chances are you’ve never heard of Wix.com (a website building company), Loctite (super glue), or Mophie (smartphone cases), and if you are familiar with the likes of Buzzfeed and The Verge, you probably don’t think of them as Super Bowl advertisers. Nonetheless, all of the above have commercials airing during the Super Bowl, the latter two with regional rather than national ads, but impressive and expensive nonetheless.

When a commercial featuring a fairly obscure brand is shown during the most expensive, most watched TV event of the year, it’s going to cause some puzzlement on the behalf of viewers. And that’s why this strategy might be effective and help a brand make an extra big splash.

In a Wall Street Journal article about the roughly 15 companies advertising for the first time in the Super Bowl this year, Chris Lawrence, director of account management at Fallon, the agency that created the Loctite Super Bowl ad, said, “The fact that there is scrutiny and people paying attention is exactly the point … It’s a chance to make a lot of friends very quickly.”

On the other hand, it’s also a chance to alienate and anger millions of viewers. See the ill-conceived effort by first-time Super Bowl advertiser Groupon in 2011, when the coupon site thought it would be funny to mock environmental and political tragedies around the globe.

The ads won’t only be limited to TV screens.
Five years ago, Pepsi skipped the Super Bowl even though ad time started then at $2.5 million—cheap compared with the $4+ million a 30-second slot runs this year. And the reason Pepsi gave in 2010 for not advertising was a decision to focus instead on a social media campaign.

Was the campaign successful? Well, let’s just say that Pepsi is not only advertising in the 2015 Super Bowl, it’s the official sponsor of the halftime show featuring Katy Perry and Lenny Kravitz.

Nonetheless, big brands commit so much time and energy to social media during the game that it’s tantamount to its own parallel category of Super Bowl advertising. Remember Oreo’s memorable Tweet during the 2013 Super Bowl at the New Orleans Super Dome, when the masses were reminded, “You can still dunk in the dark”? That extremely timely and effective message kicked up social media efforts to the next level.

This year, the off-TV battle for eyeballs includes a special live-streamed halftime show on YouTube, in addition to YouTube hosting Ad Blitz, where people can view and vote for their favorite ads that actually did air during the Super Bowl. (Last year’s Ad Blitz resulted in 379 million views on YouTube, according to Businessweek.)

Then there’s Facebook, which is “trying to get Super Bowl money even without the Super Bowl,” Horizon Media vice president Brad Adgate said to AdAge, by selling ads to companies that would be shown to Facebook users who post game-related material. “I think it’s part of their strategy to siphon off as many dollars from television as possible.”

Oh, and the network broadcasting the game on TV, NBC, is also allowing everyone to stream the entire Super Bowl online for free, which will perhaps keep some web surfers away from YouTube and Facebook.

Women will (mostly) keep their clothes on.
Super Bowl commercials have a long history of offending women and being declared downright sexist. And yes, the planned Carl’s Jr. ad featuring a seemingly naked Charlotte McKinney is perhaps one of the raciest and most juvenile Super Bowl ads ever.

But the Carl’s Jr. “all natural” commercial, which will only air in the western U.S. during the Super Bowl, is already getting bashed in certain circles. “It’s like porn meets American Pastime,” branding consultant Erika Napoletano said to USA Today. “It makes NFL cheerleaders—underpaid and underclothed—look like nuns in comparison.”

What’s more, in light of nearly half of Super Bowl viewers being women, it seems to be growing more apparent that advertisers should try to appeal to (rather than offend) the ladies. That’s part of why we’ll see ads featuring Mindy Kaling and paralympian Amy Purdy during the game. Heck, even in the Victoria’s Secret Super Bowl commercial encouraging men to buy lingerie for Valentine’s Day, the models are fully clothed (in football uniforms) rather than showing off skin in bikinis or underwear. Have a look here:

MONEY Advertising

Judge Upholds Your Right to Skip TV Commercials

You can also watch TV by sending signals from your TV to a remote device, according to a ruling in Dish-21st Century Fox court case.

TIME Aviation

Why Airlines Don’t Talk About Safety In Their Ads

Airport
People stand in the main terminal at Washington Dulles International Airport is shown October 2, 2014 in Dulles, Virginia. Mark Wilson—Getty Images

Fliers don't want to be reminded of the risk

Looking around at modern airlines’ slogans, you might notice a common trend: Few of them stress safety. Not Delta’s “Keep Climbing,” not American Airlines’ “The new American is arriving,” not JetBlue’s “You Above All.”

There was a time when this wasn’t the case. Safety was often mentioned in air travel ads when the aviation industry was still nascent in the 1920s and 1930s — back then, airlines had the tricky task of convincing travelers to try a then-unproven means of getting about.

The trend lasted until the late 1980s, when Pan Am launched reassuring ads amidst terrorist threats targeting American airliners flying across the Atlantic. Those threats, however, eventually took form as that year’s fatal bombing of Pan Am Flight 1o3, which claimed 270 lives in the air and on the ground.

The Pan Am attack, says aviation security expert Glen Winn, is ultimately what convinced airlines to quit bragging about safety.

“Leading up the destruction of Pan Am 103, [Pan Am] had advertised themselves as not only the safest, but also the most secure,” Winn said. “Airlines since then have been really careful how they say what they say.”

Safety has since all but disappeared from airlines’ advertisements. And when airlines are required to discuss safety during on-board safety demonstrations, major brands are trying to make them more fun, revamping their in-flight safety videos to transform mandatory prepare-for-the-worst briefings into informative musicals and short films.

Why the shift? Yes, Worldwide commercial aviation deaths per year have declined. But no airline can guarantee passengers total immunity from harm. And several high-profile disasters over the past few months, like Malaysia Airlines Flights 370 and 17 as well as AirAsia Flight 8501, have put travelers especially on edge. Putting the “S-Word” in slogans or commercials, airlines have found, doesn’t reassure passengers — it just reminds them of the random chance of danger their next trip might bring, however slight it may be.

“When you talk about safety, you bring up a bad taste in people’s mouths,” said Andy Trinchero, executive director of marketing at aviation marketing firm. “It’s something that people don’t even want to hear about, really.”

TIME Opinion

Dove Really, Really Wants These Little Girls to Accept Their Curls

Hair acceptance is the new body acceptance

Dove has moved on from curve-acceptance to curl-acceptance.

The beauty company’s newest campaign continues its body-positive messaging by focusing on curly-haired girls who wish they had straight hair. The little girls in this new ad are sad because they only see straight hair in advertisements and commercials! Dove claims research shows only 4 in 10 girls with curly hair think their hair is beautiful. And nobody with un-beautiful hair could possibly have a shred of happiness in their lonely little lives.

Until… they get pulled outside by their curly-haired mommies (who are dancing in public, ugh STOP IT mo-om!) and taken to a top-secret location where they have to cover their eyes for a surprise. No, there’s not a pony in there. Or a private Taylor Swift concert. Instead, when they open their eyes, every single curly-haired person they’ve ever met shouts at them: “We all love our curls!”

MORE: Hey Dove, Don’t ‘Redefine Beauty,’ Just Stop Talking About It

Instead of shrieking in terror, the girls join in and it becomes a big dance party where everybody’s curls are bouncing with a special spring that says “empowerment,” and “acceptance” and “buy Dove products.”

TIME Advertising

Here’s Why Companies Can’t Say ‘Super Bowl’ in Their Super Bowl Ads

Super Bowl Trademark Copyright
Jermaine Kearse #15 of the Seattle Seahawks catches a 35 yard game-winning touchdown in overtime against the Green Bay Packers during the 2015 NFC Championship game at CenturyLink Field on Jan. 18, 2015 in Seattle, Wash. Tom Pennington—Getty Images

And how they work around it

By now, you’ve seen plenty of commercials advertising February’s Super Bowl XLIX between the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks. But there’s a second kind of Super Bowl ad you might have seen, too: the kind that isn’t allowed to say “Super Bowl.”

The National Football League, which has trademarked the term “Super Bowl,” isn’t afraid to send cease-and-desist letters to anybody using the term without permission, according to SB Nation. That means brands that aren’t willing to pay the big bucks to use the term have to come up with sometimes strange alternatives instead.

The tight regulations are part of the reason why the NFL’s ad space for the game is so lucrative: In 2010, Budweiser signed a six-year Super Bowl sponsorship deal worth over $1 billion, while 30-second Super Bowl ads — which reach over 100 million viewers — regularly sell for $4 million a pop.

In the past, the rules have led to awkward workarounds like Stephen Colbert’s “Superb Owl,” a tongue-in-cheek joke poking fun at the NFL’s habit of tightly guarding the Super Bowl trademark:

Here’s how some brands are working around the restriction this year:

TIME Research

Here’s What Alcohol Advertising Does To Kids

alcohol
Getty Images

Booze ads reach kids far younger than the legal drinking age

Alcohol advertising that reaches children and young adults helps lead them to drink for the first time—or, if they’re experienced underage drinkers, to drink more, according to a study in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

“It’s very strong evidence that underage drinkers are not only exposed to the television advertising, but they also assimilate the messages,” says James D. Sargent, MD, study author and professor of pediatrics at Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine. “That process moves them forward in their drinking behavior.”

The study found that young people were only slightly less likely than their older counterparts to have seen an alcohol ad. While 26% of young adults between the ages of 21 and 23 had seen a given alcohol advertisement, 23% of 15 to 17 year olds said they’d seen the same one. Researchers also found that young people who could accurately identify alcoholic products and who said they liked the ads were more likely to try drinking or to drink more.

Based on the findings, Sargent says that alcohol manufacturers should self-regulate more to limit the number of children they reach. The tobacco industry, which has volunteered not to buy television ads or billboards, could serve as model for alcohol manufacturers, he says.

“Alcohol is responsible for deaths of people during adolescence and during young adulthood,” says Sargent. “It seems to me that the industry should be at least as restrictive as the tobacco industry.”

“The spirits industry is committed to responsible advertising directed to adults and adheres to a rigorous advertising and marketing code,” said Lisa Hawkins, vice president of Public affairs at the Distilled Spirits Council, in a statement. The Distilled Spirits Council is a trade association that represents alcoholic beverage companies.
TIME Advertising

This One Number Shows How Advertisers Are Wrong About Social Media

MySpace
The "Myspace" logo is seen on a tablet screen on December 4, 2012 in Paris. Lionel Bonaventure—AFP/Getty Images

MySpace still gets 50 million monthly active users

Companies like McDonalds, Apple, and Ford all have something in common: They make and sell physical stuff, be it Big Macs, computers or cars. So if you’re considering investing in one of those companies, the first thing you might look at is how much stuff it’s been selling recently — an easily-determined metric that’s a decent representation of a company’s success.

But social media companies like Facebook, Twitter or Snapchat don’t make their money by selling physical stuff. Instead, they make it by selling space to advertisers.

As with all advertisements, digital ad space is more valuable the more it gets seen. And one of the key metrics advertisers use to determine how much they’re willing to spend on a social media company’s ad space is Monthly Active Users, or MAUs.

MAUs are simple enough: Every time you log on to Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and so on at least once a month, that platform gets one MAU.

That interest in MAUs has extended to Wall Street, where investors have come to view them as the be-all, end-all metric for judging a social media company’s potential to make money. MAUs are popular with investors and other market-watchers because they’re easy to calculate, digest and compare.

But a number emerged this week that should make us all question the MAU as the holy grail of social media metrics: 50 million. That’s the number of MAUs racked up last year by MySpace, a social media network you probably haven’t used since you signed up for Facebook. While MySpace used to be a reliable presence in ComScore’s annual list of the 50 most popular sites on the web, it hasn’t made an appearance there since 2012, when it ranked 46th.

Sure, MySpace’s 50 million figure doesn’t touch the numbers boasted by its onetime rivals: Facebook has 1.27 billion MAUs, Instagram 300 million, Twitter 284 million. But it’s still doubtful that figure is truly representative of MySpace’s shrunken userbase, even if the site still has a small but thriving community thanks to its efforts in music and video.

What explains MySpace’s probably oversized MAU count? CEO Tim Vanderhook gave us a clue in an interview with the Wall Street Journal published Wednesday: People are logging in to grab content for Throwback Thursday, a weekly social media ritual in which users post old photos of themselves with the hashtag #TBT.

“. . . We still see a lot of people coming back to access old photos,” Vanderhook told the Journal. “They may not visit every day, but they come back once a week or once a month.”

So even though some people are coming back to MySpace only weekly or monthly, that still counts as a MAU for the site. But is that the kind of user that’s truly valuable to advertisers, and, by extension, investors? If people are just treating MySpace like a nostalgia storage service, they’re not stopping to smell the roses — or pay attention to the ads.

MAUs have come under fire from other angles recently, too. Instagram last month announced it hit 300 million MAUs, 16 million more than Twitter. That generated headlines in the tech press—and on TIME.com—along the lines of “Instagram Beats Twitter.” But the backlash wasn’t far behind, with several observers arguing that Instagram and Twitter are too different to compare solely on MAUs.

Here’s Will Oremus in Slate, summing up the counter-narrative:

Instagram is indeed larger than Twitter if you look solely at monthly active users, of whom Twitter has 284 million at last count. MAUs, as they’re called, are one useful metric of a social network’s size. But they aren’t the only one. Others might include the amount of time users spend on the network, the amount of content they post, and the number of people who see that content. Look at those, and it quickly becomes impossible to say whether Instagram or Twitter is larger.

So what could replace the MAU? Ev Williams, former Chairman and CEO of Twitter and now CEO at publishing site Medium, is among those championing Time On Site, which does exactly what it sounds like. The advantage, Williams says, is that it’s a better representation of the kinds of content that users are actually finding valuable. And from an advertiser’s perspective, the more time a user spends on a site, the more likely it is they’ll interact with ad content.

“We pay more attention to time spent reading than number of visitors at Medium because, in a world of infinite content — where there are a million shiny attention-grabbing objects a touch away and notifications coming in constantly — it’s meaningful when someone is actually spending time,” wrote Williams in the wake of Instagram’s 300 million MAU announcement.

“After all, for a currency to be valuable, it has to be scarce. And while the amount of attention people are willing to give to media and the Internet in general has skyrocketed — largely due to having a screen and connection with them everywhere — it eventually is finite.”

MONEY Food & Drink

How Coke Convinced Us to Pay More … for Less Soda

A 7.5-ounce can of Coca-cola, right, is posed next to a 12-ounce can for comparison.
A 7.5-ounce can of Coca-Cola, right, is posed next to its big brother, the traditional 12-ouncer. Matt Rourke—AP

Talk about a brilliant sales concept!

Soda sales may be in a slump, but one sliver of the soft drink market—the segment that comes in smaller than usual sizes, including those adorably tiny 7.5-ounce cans—is booming. What’s especially curious about the trend is that sales have been taking off even though the smaller packages offer far worse value to consumers.

This week, the Associated Press explored this odd scenario, in which consumers are clamoring to buy Coke, Pepsi, and other sodas in unconventionally smaller sized packaging, notably the 7.5-ounce mini can that’s generally sold in eight-packs in stores.

Previously, the Wall Street Journal reported that sales of smaller Coca-Cola packages—including the mini cans, as well as 8-ounce glass bottles and 1.25-liter plastic bottles—were up 9% through the first 10 months of 2014. During the same time period, sales of regular old 12-ounce cans and 2-liter bottles were as flat as a bottle of week-old Coke.

Beyond their nontraditional size, what all of the smaller soda items have in common is that they’re “premium-priced packages.” Yes, the value proposition in the trendy category is that you not only get less product, but you get to pay more for the privilege. Coca-Cola estimates that consumers typically pay 31¢ for each traditional 12-ounce Coke purchased in a 12- or 24-pack at the supermarket. By contrast, the average price per 7.5-ounce mini can breaks down to 40¢ a pop.

And remember, you’re getting a lot less soda in the smaller cans. Tally up all of the soda in one of these eight-packs and it comes to 60 ounces, which is slightly less than the contents of one Double Gulp before 7-Eleven downsized it from 64 ounces to a mere 50. On a per-ounce basis, consumers are effectively paying double for the smaller packages: 5.3¢ per ounce for Coke in mini cans, versus 2.6¢ per ounce for the same beverage in 12-ounce cans.

What explains consumers’ willingness to pay more for less soda? One explanation is that the mini cans are simply “freaking adorable,” as one source put it when speaking to the AP. She’s not the only one to think so. Last year, a marketing campaign deposited adorable mini kiosks—complete with adorable waist-high Coke vending machines selling adorable mini Cokes—in five German cities. Here’s a look:

The result of this experiment, in addition to enough adorableness to make your head explode, was sales that were anything but small. Ogilvy & Mather Berlin, the firm behind the campaign, said that the kiosks averaged 380 cans sold daily, 278% higher than your typical Coke machine.

Mini sodas aren’t selling like crazy just because they’re cute, however. As we’ve pointed out before, consumers are attracted to small sodas—and beer—because they come with fewer calories than the regular sizes. The great (or sad) irony is that research shows that consumers tend to buy (and drink) far more sugary drinks when they’re purchased in smaller packages. Therefore, whatever health benefits may have been gained via the small size is likely outweighed by the fact that you’re consuming as many or more ounces of soda overall.

In other words, as nonsensical as it seems, it may be healthier for you to buy soda in larger sizes. It’s certainly better for your wallet.

Read next: The Soda Industry’s Promises Mean Nothing

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

MONEY Sports

For College Football Championship, Ad Prices Soar While Ticket Prices Plummet

The NFC Wildcard Playoff Game between the Detroit Lions and the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on January 4, 2015 in Arlington, Texas.
AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, host of Monday's College Football Championship matchup of Ohio State versus Oregon. Ronald Martinez—Getty Images

Monday's Ohio State-Oregon college football championship is shaping up as a Super Bowl in terms of ad prices, hitting $1 million a pop. It's a different story, however, for ticket prices to the game.

With the price of 30-second spots in Monday night’s Ohio State-Oregon champion matchup on ESPN fetching up to $1 million, AdAge has begun wondering if the culmination of the first-ever college football playoffs amounts to a “New Super Bowl in the Making.”

Both of the playoff games that led to the championship—Ohio State vs. Alabama in the Sugar Bowl and Oregon vs. Florida State in the Rose Bowl—had better ratings than the 2011 BCS Championship game, which had held the record as the most-watched program on cable. Monday’s game is expected to trump them all. That’s why a recent Wall Street Journal story pointed out that, no matter which team is the eventual champion, ESPN is probably the biggest winner of all because it’s the network airing all of the playoff games.

“College football has always been in demand, but the playoffs have pushed it to another level,” the WSJ piece explained. Accordingly, ad prices for the game have soared to another level too. The asking price of 30-second commercials during Monday night’s game have ranged from $800,000 to a cool $1 million, 20% to 30% more than they were for the 2014 college football title game.

In terms of ad rates, the college football championship still has a ways to go to catch up with the Super Bowl, in which advertisers fork over $4 million (or more) for 30-second commercials. Prime-time ads during the March Madness NCAA Final Four basketball tournament can also be roughly 50% more than ads airing during this year’s college football championship.

But based on how much interest there’s been in the new playoff system thus far, and the way that Allstate’s series of ads airing during the games have been viewed as a huge win for the brand, college football is expected to close the gap in terms of ad prices. “I’m not sure if we’ll get to Super Bowl standards, but it will be similar to March Madness,” predicted Jim Andrews, senior vice president of the marketing consulting firm IEG, according to CNBC.

What’s somewhat surprising, however, is that soaring interest and ad prices for college football playoff games haven’t been matched with soaring prices to see the championship game in person. ScoreBig, an online marketplace for ticket sales, says that ticket prices for Monday’s game dropped 37% over a five-day span last week. Late last week, other ticket aggregators like TiqIQ were listing get-in prices to the game as low as $340.

Fans who waited until Monday can buy tickets to the game for less than half that price. As a Forbes post pointed out last week, the host venue for the championship, the Dallas-area AT&T Stadium—a.k.a., the Jerry Dome, home of the Cowboys—is designed to accommodate several thousand standing-room only viewers. Last Thursday, newly released SRO tickets went on sale for $200 apiece. As of Monday morning, the secondary market ticket site StubHub was listing general admission SRO tickets to the game for just $115.

TIME LGBT

Tiffany & Co. Jewelry Ad Campaign Features Its First Gay Couple

Tiffany & Co.

Latest major fashion company to depict same-sex couples

Jeweler Tiffany & Co. is featuring a same-sex couple for the first time in its advertising history.

The two men depicted in the “Will You?” campaign are a real-life couple, CNN reports. The campaign was shot by fashion photographer Peter Lindbergh and features six other couples.

The ads are meant to broaden the 178-year-old jeweler’s portrayals of marriage, Tiffany & Co. said. For example, another pairing shows a couple with their child during their wedding, a nod to people who have children outside marriage.

“Nowadays, the road to marriage is no longer linear,” a company spokeswoman said in a statement. “True love can happen more than once with love stories coming in a variety of forms.”

In recent years, several other major fashion companies have also featured same-sex couples, including Gap, Banana Republic and J. Crew.

[CNN]

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser