NEW YORK – Advertisers played it safe in Super Bowl ads this year.
There were no crude jokes. Sexual innuendo was kept to a minimum. And uncomfortable story lines were all but missing. And in their place, much more sedate ads.
From the light humor of RadioShack poking fun at its image with 80s icons like Teen Wolf and the California raisins to a Coca-Cola ad showcasing diversity by singing “America the Beautiful” in different languages, it was a softer night of advertising.
With a 30-second spot costing around $4 million and more than 108 million viewers expected to tune in to the championship game, it's was crucial for advertisers to make their investment count. The shocking ads in years past have not always been well received (Think: GoDaddy.com's ad that features a long, up-close kiss came in at the bottom of the most popular ads.) So this year, advertisers out of their way to be more family friendly themes: socially conscious statements, patriotic messages and light humor.
“Advertisers are getting attention but they're not trying to go over the top,” said David Berkowitz, chief marketing officer for digital ad agency MRY. “A lot of brands were going with the safety from the start.”
The safer ads had a mixed reaction among viewers. Keith Harris, who was watching the Super Bowl with friends and family in Raleigh, N.C., said he appreciated the safer ads. “The ads are less funny, but it's easier to watch the Super Bowl with your family,” he said.
But Paul Capelli, who lives in West Chester, Pa., found most ads to be dull: “The best spots were like a Payton Manning-to-Wes Welker pass play – they were there, but too few and those that connected left you wanting something a bit more spectacular.”
Here's a look at some highlights of the Super Bowl ad action:
Bob Dylan's Super Bowl: The legendary singer appears in the flesh for one of Chrysler's surprise ads for the night. The spot is reminiscent of the car maker's patriotic ad starring Eminem and celebrating Detroit in 2011. Dylan walks through the city streets explaining that “Detroit made cars” and that “cars are made in America.”
More patriotism – and a gay couple: Budweiser ran “Hero's Welcome,” which chronicled a soldier's homecoming in nearby Winter Park.
Meanwhile, Coca-Cola ran an ad with “America the Beautiful” sung in a seven different languages, with shots of scenic landscapes from around the country. A new development: the Coke ad shows a gay couple and their daughter. That marks the first time a gay family has been included in a Super Bowl ad, according to GLAAD, which advocates for the LGBT community.
A “Seinfeld” reunion ... sort of: Sightings of “Seinfeld” actors filming in New York City this week sparked rumors of a reunion. Now we know what it was all about: an ad for Jerry Seinfeld's show “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” on Crackle. In the ad, George gripes that he wasn't invited to a Super Bowl party. After some prodding, Jerry tells him it's because he “over-cheered.” After some more prodding, Jerry admits the real reason: it seems George “availed himself” in the bathroom of the host's master bedroom.
New York City gets a tune-up: Halftime sponsor Pepsi got one of the sweetest ad spots of the night, with a 30-second lead-in to the show starring Bruno Mars. The spot showed various New York City monuments at night being lit up and played like instruments.
Tim Tebow makes it to the Super Bowl after all: He may not be on the field, but he's still in the NFL spotlight. T-Mobile wants to win over customers — and who better than the former Broncos quarterback to show how great life can be without a contract?
Radio Shack has fun with its '80s image: The company poked fun at its outdated image by having pop culture characters from the past ransacking its store for an “ '80s Giveaway.”Among those spotted: Hulk Hogan, Teen Wolf, that evil Chucky Doll, the California Raisins and Alf.
Subway makes it to the dance: A new Frito-filled sandwich will be the star of Subway's ad, which the company says was secured in the 11th hour.
Chief marketing officer Tony Pace says Fox approached the company on Friday about a spot that opened up. Pace says Subway will be the only fast-food chain airing an ad during the game.
It's not the first time Subway is benefiting from a last-minute change. Last year, the company had two ads set to run. But because of the blackout, Pace says one of the spots was aired a second time at no extra cost.
So is Pace rooting for another blackout?
“Absolutely not,” he said.
Cheerios family adds a new member: If the faces in the Cheerios ad look familiar, there's a reason. The biracial family was also featured in an ad that made headlines last year after it sparked ugly comments online, later eclipsed by an outpouring of support. In the new spot, the black dad tells his biracial little girl she has a baby brother on the way.
If the ad is popular enough, perhaps General Mills will keep following the family's story line for years.
Bud Light's fear of missing out: How important is the Super Bowl to Bud Light? The beer has three ads airing during the game. In case that wasn't enough, it also has a massive party ship docked at a New York pier with the words “THE BUD LIGHT HOTEL” emblazoned on the side. The ship is on loan from Norwegian Cruise Lines and is serving as a base for more than 3,000 guests.
Stephen Colbert gets crackin': Goodbye Psy, hello “freeberty.” Wonderful Pistachios is back. This time, the 15-second spots star funnyman Stephen Colbert, known for making up words such as “truthiness” and “freeberty.” The ads launch a yearlong sponsorship deal featuring the tagline “Get Crackin', America.”
Roll Global, which also owns Fiji Water and POM Wonderful juice, says its Super Bowl ad last year starring Korean pop singer Psy was a huge hit, with sales up 18 percent year over year.
In Chobani's big game debut, the tune of “I Want You” plays as an angry bear ransacks a country store for something good to eat.
Meanwhile, Dannon's Oikos ad shows Stamos sitting with a woman who seductively licks yogurt from his finger, then his upper lip. The scene heats up when yogurt falls on his lap, but the moment is ruined when fellow Full House stars Bob Saget and Dave Coulier interrupt with offer to clean it up.
Scarlett Johansson's politically charged fizzy water: Who knew seltzer could be so controversial? SodaStream's ad starring the actress has already gotten plenty of attention. The ad prompted the “Her” star cut ties with Oxfam International, which took issue with SodaStream's large factory in an Israeli West Bank settlement.
Meanwhile, Oxfam is bringing attention to another issue: Pepsi's “land grabs” in countries such as Brazil and Cambodia, where it says the company's sugar suppliers have robbed farmers of their rights.