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Adding value through advertising: What brands can learn from Super Bowl LVII

by Nick Woodford

February 20, 2023

With its highest viewership in six years, Super Bowl LVII saw over 113 million fans tune in to watch the Kansas City Chiefs beat the Philadelphia Eagles. There was also plenty of action on and off the pitch during this year’s big game, with an unforgettable halftime show from Rihanna and, of course, a host of classic Super Bowl spots.

This year’s ad breaks saw appearances from some of the world’s biggest music artists, including Jack Harlow, Elton John and Missy Elliot, Diddy and Kelis, and Ozzy Osbourne. TV co-stars also reunited from Scrubs and Breaking Bad, and actors bringing back film characters from cult classics including Grease (John Travolta) and Clueless (Alicia Silverstone).

Aside from Super Bowl commercials being the most expensive ads of the year (30-second spots now approach $7m), there is something else unique about them. Rather than detracting from the viewing experience, they add value to the game. These ads have become features that people love to watch, with 43% of Americans even tuning in to the big game just to watch the ad breaks.

Although the idea of ads being complementary to the experience might be a new concept at first glance, looking back, the Super Bowl has been doing this for decades. Only in recent years have we begun to understand the power of using advertising to complement rather than disrupt. However, unfortunately, as we navigate the digital realm, disruptive and intrusive advertising can still be seen everywhere.

This has forced many to have a negative view of advertising, especially younger generations who are yet to become complacent with disruptive ads. A recent survey found that 99% of Gen Z will hit skip on an ad if it’s an option, and 63% use ad blockers to avoid online ads. However, new channels are helping to facilitate the shift away from this behavior towards a better future.

If we look at social media, Tiktok has been championing this form of advertising in recent years and has seen tremendous growth from brands with their infamous message of ‘don’t make ads, make TikToks’ to advertisers. The idea is that advertisers should create ads that complement the platform to engage users and embrace authenticity, which boosts their chances of being discovered and engaged with.

This is a shift away from other social platforms, which have traditionally used timelines and screen real estate to push ads to consumers. By encouraging this form of advertising, TikTok has helped brands to think outside the box and create advertisements that tell stories, shine a light on their operations, showcase exciting products, and even go behind the scenes, pulling back the curtain to let consumers learn about the inner workings of their brands to further humanize them.

Thinking about the 3D world

As we look to the future of advertising, we will continue to see a shift away from traditional 2D platforms to 3D spaces. This means the need for advertising to add to the experience will become even more important. Today, with over 3.2 billion players worldwide, advertisers everywhere are already bringing their ad campaigns to 3D environments to reach their audiences. They are no longer asking whether their customers are gamers, but rather, which platforms they are spending most of their time on and which games they are playing.

In-game advertising has become the go-to way for brands to reach players within these environments, allowing them to naturally reach their target audience in a way that adds to the gameplay. Intrinsic in-game ad placements are placed on 3D objects within the game — on the sides of buildings, alongside race tracks, and around sports stadiums — mirroring ads you would expect to see in the real world. This allows brands to engage with players within the 3D game environment, bringing a sense of realism to titles that would have otherwise used fake ads in their place. Anzu’s research found that 7 in ten gamers in the US are positive or neutral towards this form of advertising, with 50% of gamers aged between 25-44 saying it enhances the gaming experience.

Using advertising to complement and add value, rather than disrupt, is a trend that will continue to gain momentum, especially as consumers wake up to how they are being advertised to, along with what data companies are gleaning from them. We often look to the past to help avoid mistakes in the future. However, in the case of the Super Bowl, we should look at the success it has seen from its commercial breaks and remember that advertising doesn’t have to be disruptive and annoying. Ads can — and should — add value and elevate the consumer experience, no matter where they appear.


Advertising & Media