At every other time of the year, the general public broadly views advertising as something to be choked down in order to see, hear, or do something fun, entertaining, or useful.
But then there’s the Super Bowl: The one day (or week) all year when the reaction to sitting through a TV commercial isn’t met with eye-rolling silent seething, or blatant dry heaving. Primarily this is because brands actually put a lot of time, effort, and money behind actively entertaining us all. The whole idea of a Super Bowl ad has become so much a part of culture that Super Bowl ads have started to become self-referential (see: “It’s a Tide ad.”).
Now Skittles and longtime Dexter star Michael C. Hall are using the occasion to create one of the most ambitious acts of major event advertising yet.
Skittles “Skittles The Musical”
What: A teaser for Skittles’ unique Super Bowl “commercial.”
Who: Skittles, DDB, Olson Engage
Why we care: As branded entertainment goes, trying to pull off a legit Broadway musical is as ambitious as it gets. Much like star Michael C. Hall, Skittles marketing execs must be feeling “a combination of intrigue, excitement, and fear.” Whether it works or not, it’s easily the Super Bowl ad I’m most excited to see how it turns out.
Budweiser “Wind Never Felt Better”
What: It’s the Budweiser Super Bowl ad.
Who: Budweiser, David Miami
Why we care: AB InBev’s been talking renewable energy for a while now, so it’s great to see the company take its flagship brand and tout sustainability on a stage as big as the Super Bowl. Also, c’mon, cute dog.
Expensify “Expensify This”
What: A Super Bowl ad prelude in the form of a full-on 2 Chainz music video.
Who: Expensify, JohnXHannes
Why we care: Not only is this is the expense software’s first-ever Super Bowl commercial, it’s the decade-old company’s first national ad. But what’s impressive here isn’t that they somehow convinced 2 Chainz and Adam Scott to rep for them, it’s how they made the entertainment itself an elaborate product demo. The video has receipts embedded in it that can nab users some pretty epic prizes, but the real winner may be Expensify’s brand awareness metrics after February 3.
Taco Bell “Nacho Fries: Retrieval”
What: Imagine if 2014’s Interstellar was actually about french fries dipped in nacho cheese.
Who: Taco Bell, Deutsch LA
Why we care: Fake movie trailers are not new. And since the novelty factor is so diminished, it’s actually much more difficult to create one that’ll get the chuckles going. It’s not the first time Taco Bell has dipped its tortilla into this territory (third time’s a charm?), but here, James Marsden goes full McConaughey for Mexican-spiced fries, and it’s pretty damn glorious.
Barclaycard “The Crystal Barn”
What: A cosmic ad for a U.K. banks card reader.
Who: Barclaycard, Droga5 London
Why we care: Okay, this one’s gonna be divisive. You’re either going to love it or absolutely hate it. I reside firmly in the former camp, so let me explain. Touting a bank card reader is no easy task–we’ve all seen the small-biz convenience spots over the years out of places like Square, PayPal, and others. It usually looks something like this: Cool indie coffee and/or vintage clothing shop proprietor extolling the virtues of their newfound ability to process payments. Here we get the same thing except it’s A CRYSTAL BARN filtered through a decidedly Tim & Eric lens. It’s the ad equivalent of a Black Tourmaline in your pocket. *whispers* CRYSTAAAAALS.