By Barry Janoff
November 17, 2014: There is no doubt that upward of 100 million or more people will be watching all or part of Super Bowl XLIX on Feb. 1, 2015 in the University of Phoenix Stadium when it airs on NBC.
However, as unknown as the final two teams are at this point in the NFL season is the overall content that advertisers will be sharing with the viewing audience.
Humor is generally the lead ingredient in Super Bowl ads, but the number of spots relying on comedy could be impacted by recent events involving the NFL and its players, including domestic violence, child abuse and health issues related to concussions, PEDs and pain-killers.
Some 62% of the public-at-large and 65% of advertising professionals believe that these and other life-changing issues will define the content and attitude that will prevail during Super Bowl XLIX commercials, according to the just-released results of a compilation of surveys from industry group American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A's), handled in conjunction with research firm IPSOS OTX.
NBC has sold more than 80% of its inventory for the game, with 30-second ads going for upward of $4.5 million, according to industry analysts.
According to 4A's, ad professionals cited the Super Bowl as "an opportunity to be a platform for domestic violence awareness" and that companies should "strike the right tone and do something that feels genuine in terms of reaching out to women."
Among the results citied in the report, 34% of those surveys said commercials should be "more focused on families; 30% of the public and 37% of ad pros said ads should "address issues surrounding domestic violence"; while there should be more space allotted to PSAs, cited by 25% of the public and 38% of those in the ad industry.
While acknowledging these pressing issues, the 4As report also showed that people surveyed believe viewers "should enjoy the Super Bowl the same way now as they would any other year," a concept cited by 67% of the general population and 82% of the those in the ad profession.
Among other findings, the surveys showed that 35% of Americans rank Super Bowl ads as one of their top associations with football; "partying and socializing" rank as the main drivers for Super Bowl viewing for 36% of the general population and nearly twice as much — 63% — among 4A's members; and also that the controversies provide an opportunity for brands and companies to "promote positive social messages, according to 78% of the public and 73% of 4A's members.
"Brands and agencies have the chance to step up and use football's place in popular culture to take the lead in creating positive social messages."
"In some respects, football is in an ideal position," Nancy Hill, 4A's president and CEO, said in a statement. "Many millions of Americans love the product despite what they see as the shortcomings of the NFL brand. Whether the NFL is willing or able to deal with those shortcomings remains to be seen and could be a side issue because Americans engage with the game, not with the NFL."
According to Alison Fahey, CMO for New York-based 4A's, "Brands and agencies have the chance to step up and use football's place in popular culture to take the lead in creating positive social messages relevant to the context. This is a massive opportunity for creative ideas that convey the right message, with just the right tone."
Three parallel studies were commissioned by the 4A's (one among consumers that was handled by IPSOS OTX and two among 4A's members through Qualtrics.com) fielded in October 2014.
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