Teasing Super Bowl Commercials

Curator's Note

Super Bowl commercials are now treated by the media industries and audiences as forms of entertainment on par with blockbuster movies and streaming television programs. In a trend that began in the mid-1980s, Super Bowl commercials feature big Hollywood directors and stars who normally may not be involved with US commercials, have large-scale production budgets, are previewed and reviewed by news outlets, and are watched by an increasing number of viewers who only tune in for the ads. Another indication of the elevated cultural status of Super Bowl commercials is pre-Super Bowl hype, especially as seen in the increasingly routine “teaser” ads for commercials that will air during the broadcast, or what Advertising Age calls “commercials for commercials.” Such ads are often aired on cable and broadcast television and made available on marketers’ websites, YouTube and other social media. One example is a cross-promotion campaign for Doritos and Mountain Dew (both owned by PepsiCo) that will air during the 2018 Super Bowl broadcast. Using the tag line “Doritos Blaze vs. Mtn Dew Ice” and featuring Hollywood stars Peter Dinklage and Morgan Freeman, a 15-second teaser ad was released in mid-January; the teaser had no dialogue, and ended with the date of the Super Bowl, “2.4.2018,” across a black screen. A second, longer teaser ad for this campaign was released a week after the first one. Such teaser ads mimic other anticipatory promotional paratexts like movie trailers and serve to symbolically elevate commercials on the cultural hierarchy as anticipated and beloved forms of culture. They also deflect from the “ad-ness” of Super Bowl commercials: masking their persuasive intent, enticing viewers to share, interpolating consumers as fans of the brand, and further eroding the distinctions between advertising and non-advertising forms of content. Sources: McAllister, M. P., & Galindo-Ramirez, E. (2017). Fifty years of Super Bowl commercials, thirty-two years of spectacular consumption. International Journal of the History of Sport, 34 (1-2), 46-64, DOI: 10.1080/09523367.2017.1336162 Poggi, J. (2018, January 24). David Schwimmer, Missy Elliott, Chris Elliott… It’s All One Bit Super Bowl Tease. Advertising Age. http://adage.com/article/special-report-super-bowl/schwimmer-missy-ellio... Schultz, E. J., (2018, January 17). Doritos and Mtn Dew Get Linked Super Bowl Ads Starring Peter Dinklage and Morgan Freeman. Advertising Age. http://adage.com/article/special-report-super-bowl/doritos-mtn-dew-plugg...


The idea that these kinds of teasers "deflect from the 'ad-ness'" of the commercials is interesting, as it seems to work in the other direction, too: the advertising bonanza that is the Super Bowl deflects from the "sports-ness" of the game. I notice that instead of pursuing something like "Doritos Blaze and Mountain Dew Ice perfectly complement one another" (like the "Coke and food" commercials), this ad is emulating a sportsy competitiveness that depends on the adversarial nature of the game that surrounds its airing, like a slightly less on-the-nose Bud Bowl. And of course the Super Bowl pulls in viewers who care nothing about football because the on-the-field game part of the event can be entirely inconsequential to one's experience, if need be. It feels like this Doritos/MD teaser is a good example of the cross-pollination of sports and advertising that conditions the Super Bowl.

Justin, thank you for this insightful comment. I definitely think your point about deflecting from the sports-ness of the game is valid, particularly given the extent to which, as you noted, the ads are an event with few barriers to entry. Further, I wonder if the combination of teasers for ads, CBS’ Super Bowl ad retrospective specials, and press coverage of the ads, particularly that which serves to rank or evaluate the ads on their effectiveness is helping foster a form of sports/advertising cross pollination that is successful specifically because it creates a competition whose presence within the news cycle is nearly as enduring and high profile as that of the on the field game.

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