Super Bowl 51 advertisers are turning to stunts to stand out from the crowd

Some will air live ads, while others are simply courting controversy

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The Independent Online

She may be planning to perform on the roof of the NRG Stadium in Texas, but Lady Gaga’s half-time show will not be alone in vying for your attention during the this weekend’s Super Bowl between the Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots.

As is now tradition, advertisers from first timer 84 Lumber to veteran Hyundai are ramping up the marketing stunts in order to make sure their Super Bowl commercial stands out from the crowd during the big game. 

Some will air live ads, or at least teasers for their campaigns; one will even attempt to shoot its commercial during the game. Others are simply using that tried-and-tested method and courting as much controversy as possible.

The war for your attention 

Every year, more than 30 advertisers vie to create the most-remembered 30 to 90 seconds of the Super Bowl by stuffing commercials with celebrities, slapstick humor and cute animals. 

But now that so many ads get pre-released online or teased ahead of the game, advertisers have a harder time making a lasting impression. 

And with more than 110 million people expected to tune in on 5 February, and 30 second spots going for around $5 million, they need to scramble hard. So this year, marketers are turning to stunts.  

“It used to be, ‘We need a Super Bowl spot.’ Then, it was, ‘We need a Super Bowl spot and program,’” said Mark DiMassimo, CEO of ad agency DiMassimo Goldstein in New York. 

“Now, it's we need a Super Bowl stunt or event. It needs to be newsworthy, social and surprising — and it needs to be much bigger than 30 seconds.” 

Going live

Super Bowl 51's half-time show duties have fallen to Lady Gaga, who plans to perform from the stadium's roof (Getty)

Last Wednesday, Snickers revealed that it will air a live Super Bowl ad in the third quarter starring Adam Driver, Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ Kylo Ren. The Mars brand will also live stream the set of the commercial for 36 hours ahead of the spot. 

“The actual ad is only part of the equation,” said Allison Miazga-Bedrick, a Snickers brand director, who promises “over 30 hours of original content” streamed live leading up to the game. 

Similarly, Wix — an Israeli website hosting service— turned to Facebook Live and YouTube Live on to debut teasers for its Super Bowl ad. 

The teaser — which was prerecorded and only streamed live — starred Israeli actress and model Gal Gadot, who plays Wonder Woman in her own film later this year, and the English actor Jason Statham.

The company said it's the first time a Super Bowl campaign has been launched live. 

Betting on rejection 

First-time Super Bowl advertiser 84 Lumber pulled a vintage ad stunt when the company went public with claims that Fox rejected its original ad because it was too “controversial.” 

The Pennsylvania building materials supplier bought a 90 second ad during the game — a huge commitment for a regional brand. 

But Amy Smiley, the company's director of marketing, said its first ad was rejected because some of its imagery, including a border wall that supposedly prevented people from working in the U.S., steered too close to political rhetoric about the Mexican border from President Donald Trump. 

Fox declined to comment, ensuring that 84 Lumber got plenty of press well ahead of the game. 

Shooting on the fly 

In perhaps the biggest gamble, Hyundai is teaming with director Peter Berg to actually film a 90-second ad while the Super Bowl is underway. Hyundai said the ad will show “off the field” moments captured during the game, and will air right after the contest ends. 

Traditionally, ads that air before or after the Super Bowl itself aren't very successful at drawing eyeballs. But the on-the-fly aspect of this ad could make it hard to ignore. 

“The challenge for all of these companies is, 'How do you stand out?’”  said Tim Calkins, a marketing professor at Northwestern University. “As a result we're going to see this year people try some very curious approaches.” 

Dean Evans, Hyundai's chief marketing officer, said the shoot-during-the-game approach is all about buzz. 

“We wanted to test ourselves,” Evans said. “We thought we would have to do it in a new and nontraditional way to really show the U.S. public that we're back in the game.”