Navigating the Field: How Might this Year’s Super Bowl Ads be Different?

How will Super Bowl ads be different in 2021 and why? Read below to find out!

Expect the unexpected

The game isn’t the only reason people wait all year for the Super Bowl. In fact, nearly a quarter of the 100 million viewers watch the game for the commercials. It is a big day for the fans and the biggest for the advertisers.

It goes without saying that buying 100 million views doesn’t come cheap. Last year companies spent close to $500m on Super Bowl ads. It is a significant investment, especially since only 10% of viewers remember the ads and the brands advertised. The Super Bowl is the ‘Craps’ of the marketing world – there are big winners and big losers, more losers than winners, but everyone enjoys the show.

But the dealer has changed the rules of this craps table and all playbooks and best practices of a winning strategy have been wiped out.

With significantly diminished live audiences, some traditional advertisers sitting out, we can expect this year’s Super Bowl, and the ads, to look different and with people’s spirits bruised, and viewing scenarios being considerably different the ads will be perceived differently than ever before.

1. Opportunity for new faces as big brands pull out of the competition

We have grown accustomed to the usual suspects: Budweiser, Little Ceasars, Facebook, gracing our screens over the years, but without them, who will take their place? So far, only seven major brands have committed to airtime. Will this finally be the time for smaller players to shine?

We believe it could still be a great opportunity for an emerging brand to cut through if they can strike the right voice.


2. Different vibe as people watch the game alone or in small groups

Gone are the days of packed bars and basement parties; instead, we’ve all chosen to embody the tried and true “three’s a crowd.” It’s easier to laugh when everyone around you is also laughing, but if it’s just you and the TV screen, will the jokes land as well? Will we still be laughing on our own? Will the ads reflect the isolation we’ve all been feeling, or will they project a more optimistic perspective: a world where those woes have simply melted away?

We believe that the tone to strike this year is tricky – one that mixes emotion with humor – one that doesn’t look like another “in these unprecedented times” commercial, where the brand’s values are the saviors of our society.


3. Fewer distractions could mean more attention

Without the usual distractions of the next round of appetizers or the chatter at the bar, people will have more time and attention to spend on advertisements. Companies might take a stab at a more in-depth story arc at the prospect of people being more invested.

We’ve always recommended against using sound as a differentiating feature in SB ads because it simply wouldn’t be heard. This year, with the base level of noise significantly lowered, audio may even become a more important factor and a more important strategy than ever before.


4. Hitting the right tone given the country’s mood

With the fight for racial equality, a ravaging pandemic, and the economy the lowest it has been in years, advertisers must decide whether they want to respond to these conditions or provide an escape. After 9/11, we saw many brands paying tribute, but with the issues of this past year still ongoing, it may be too soon to respond eloquently. It’s an incredibly challenging tightrope to walk as the most innocuous messages could be taken as offensive, touching upon wounds that are still incredibly fresh. We believe that nuance will make brands stand out, and the only thing that will be more important than nuance will be authenticity. The negative of the above statement is also true – consumers may forgive a brand for the lack of nuance, but the brand will suffer for the lack of authenticity.


5. Normalcy, masks, and social distancing 

Will they or won’t they? Should advertisements stay true to reality? Should the people featured be masked and socially distanced, or should the ads offer some sort of escapism, showcasing a scenario where we can pretend everything is normal and there’s no pandemic dictating our lives?


A new, yet familiar, world

We believe that taking the time to acknowledge the current state of the world will be important while also offering the small human things that have and will continue to put a smile on our faces and keep us going.

Advertisers must consider these factors when creating this year’s ads. The bottom line, like most things in 2021, it is hard to predict the outcome.

Luckily, Neuro-Insight is here to help. We solve marketers’ most vexing problems by tapping into the deep and often overlooked reservoir of subconscious human motivations, emotions, and intuition that influence behavior. Last year 9 out of the 55 Super Bowl commercials were optimized by Neuro-Insight (Forbes article).

Check back with us again after the Super Bowl for a more in-depth analysis of the ads and how they were subconsciously received.

Full compass with layersAsset 3
Full compass with layersAsset 3

Come explore the human subconscious.

Whether you’re a brand, agency, or publisher, we know how to activate against your business objectives. We connect you to the deepest level of consumer decision-making: the subconscious.