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4 themes to watch for in this year's Super Bowl ads

Kevin Chupka
Executive Producer/Writer

If you have $4.5 million to burn, there may still be time to grab 30 seconds of commercial air time for this Sunday’s Super Bowl. Advertising Age got a sneak peak at many of the ads that will air during the big game and Deputy Managing Editor Nat Ives joins us with four themes his team says to watch for this year:

Fewer car ads
“For the last four years or so, you’ve seen what looked like a demolition derby really of auto brands,” Ives notes. Last year, automakers snatched up 11 ads, or about a quarter of the game’s available space. This year, that number is down to just six.

“Individual auto brands are saying is they don’t have a model ready this time of year this time,” Ives says. Still, those that do decide to write those big checks to NBC may have an advantage this year.

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“It was easy to walk away from the Super Bowl [last year] not really remembering which four-wheeled thing you saw advertised,” Ives suggests. With fewer companies advertising in 2015, perhaps those that do will be a bit more “sticky.”

Lots of new advertisers
This year will see the most new advertisers plunking down cash since the height of the dot-com bubble in 2000. Ives says there are 15 brands advertising this year that have never done so before. Names like Super Glue maker Locktite, iPhone accessory maker Mophie and Carnival Cruise Lines (CCL) are among the newcomers.

Ives also notes that Esurance, a company that found success with the first slot AFTER last year’s game, is now doubling down and moving its ad into the heart of the line-up during the game itself.

Dadvertising
Since upper middle class white men just never seem to get their due, Nissan (NSANY), Toyota (TM) and Dove are focusing their ads on dad.

“The big dad advertising that we’re gonna see this year is a little more affirming and more for the heart,” Ives says.

Related: Doritos' Super Bowl ad could make this guy rich!

While he notes last year's big theme was diversity (see Coke), this year those three companies are looking to build on popular mom advertising campaigns and see if they can capture dad between touchdowns too.

Ives says there is a feeling among many that “Dads get short shrift in ads. They’re portrayed as buffoons.” Three heartstring pulling ads with dad aims to change that. Keep an eye out.

A weaker market
The last theme isn’t what you’ll see in the ads but the ads themselves. NBC (CMCSA) notes that ad sales were slower this year than for last year's game (which aired on Fox). Still, the price for a spot is even higher, and Ives thinks even with a slow start NBC will fill all available slots.

Still, he says, it’s worth noting that even the Super Bowl is not immune to a changing media landscape.

“As audiences split and get harder to find in one place at one time, the remaining big audiences get more expensive...advertisers just have more options and they’re playing their cards closer to their vest.”

Another hurdle to keep in mind: advertisers who bought time in the later part of last year’s game, and even those who didn’t, may be gun shy after a Seattle’s blow-out of Denver prompted many to turn their attention away from the game.

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