Creating a Super Bowl commercial that 100 million people will both like and want to talk about with friends is difficult. Pulling it off amid high unemployment, intense political division and a pandemic that has taken the lives of 400,000 Americans? Even more so.
“At this very moment, if you’re very quiet and you close your eyes, you can actually hear the sounds of hand-wringing in every single edit bay across the country,” said Don Shelford, executive creative director at Swift, a Wunderman Thompson agency based in Portland, Oregon.
While no year is without hardships and pitfalls, the potential for advertisers to offend viewers by missing the mark during the 2021 Super Bowl is higher than most.
“This is the most challenging year to get it right,” said Derek Rucker, professor of marketing at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. If brands that typically run a spot during the Big Game were ever considering sitting one out, this would probably be the year, he added.
And some are. After six consecutive years of appearing in the Super Bowl, Avocados From Mexico is taking 2021 off. Hyundai is also out. So is Coca-Cola, which has run an in-game ad every year since 2006, with the exception of 2019, when it aired a pre-game spot.
“This difficult choice was made to ensure we are investing in the right resources during these unprecedented times,” reads a statement from the beverage brand.
A handful of brands have already announced plans to participate in the Big Game, scheduled to air Feb. 7 on CBS, and they’re taking precautions to ensure the $5.5 million price tag for a 30-second slot ultimately benefits the business, as opposed to inciting a backlash. A number of these companies are first timers that have never set foot on such a large stage before.
Fiverr, the online marketplace for freelancers, is scheduled to run its first Super Bowl ad following a year of strong demand for its services. The commercial will build on the company’s “It Starts Here” campaign, which premiered in September and focuses on supporting and celebrating small businesses.
“The script for this spot went through many iterations and reviews to ensure the tone we aimed to strike was coming through clearly,” said Gali Arnon, CMO of Fiverr. “We were hyper aware and sensitive to the fact that this would be something millions of people around the world would see, and there was always going to be more research, reviews and work put into it.”
Arnon added that, with everything going on in the world, she believes viewers are looking for “something that will ultimately make them smile, lift their spirits and help them feel hopeful about the future.”
Vroom, the ecommerce platform for used vehicles, is the first Super Bowl advertiser to release its full ad. The 30-second commercial, created by agency of record Anomaly, depicts buying a used car from a conventional dealership as tantamount to torture. The company has broadcast similar ads portraying car salespeople as belligerent and pushy in the past.
“We see the ad as comedic and hyperbolic, while also empathizing with consumers about their bad dealership experiences,” said Peter Scherr, CMO of Vroom, noting that Gallup surveys show people have a high level of dissatisfaction with the traditional car-buying process.
Vroom also did multiple rounds of consumer testing to make sure its Super Bowl ad was memorable and effective, and that its tone was relevant to viewers.