APR's Annual Super Bowl Production Take-Aways

Every year we at APR have our own Super Bowl, but it has less to do with the big game and more to do with the big-budget ads playing throughout the game. Some people may be enjoying the celebrity appearances, tear-jerking moments, and belly laughs—but we’re looking for different things. We want to know how the production went, whether or not the music was licensed, if there was diversity in casting, and whether or not there were special effects. Yes, we acknowledge that this is the biggest game of the year for the NFL, but this is also the biggest game of the year for ad production.

In particular, we’re looking for production trends—because if a brand is going to go all out on an advertising campaign, this is when they’d do it. We often hear about the cost of the ad spots themselves, but for Super Bowl ads, the production rivals what we see in major Hollywood films. They represent a bellwether of sorts about the production industry in general. It tells us, in many ways, what we expect to see from advertisers for the year.

What did we find? Well, let’s talk diversity first. This is an essential aspect of production that is often overlooked—not only in front of the screen but behind. We saw around 50 percent of this year’s advertisements demonstrated some level of diversity—whether it was a representation of people of color, women or LGBTQIA+, but if we're frank, that has not increased from last year. On the production side, this means knowing your audience and making sure they are all represented, and what’s more, giving diverse populations a seat in the director’s chair for a broader vision. There is more work to do.

We also found that advertisers will continue to use celebrities. Not only was there a 2% increase in celebrity-use over last year, but there were also some huge names both from Hollywood and the music world. It appears that A-list is the price of admission for the Super Bowl these days, even if not in celebrity power then in quality of production and use of music and special effects.

Humor is still the leading hook for advertisers, taking up 48% of the roster, but we did see an increase in emotional commercials which leaped up 10 points to 30% this year. The other strong trend this year is what we call the “puppy, baby, monkey index.” This is a metric that loosely describes the leveraging the power of “cute” in advertising. If we count mermaids (and we at APR do), then the index was rather low this year, only 7 for last year’s 8. We suppose that’s in an increase, but for those of us highly invested in this index, we’d like to see more. 

The 53rd Super Bowl showed that the levels of production required for the Super Bowl season surpass any other window of the year. Advertisers have raised the production bar to the point of A-list Hollywood films, and there is no indication that this trend will stop. Further, the Super Bowl season is starting earlier and earlier. A past time has risen to spectacle and is now the main feature—even when the game itself is a little “meh.”

Christy Vojvodich