There was, as you likely well know, a sports ball game last night. Not being someone who follows the National Football League all that closely (we don’t have a team here in Chicago, unfortunately) I’m a little fuzzy on the details but if I understood Twitter correctly, Tom Brady gave Adam Levine the final rose and the two are already planning the wedding. Which is nice.
Super Bowl LIII was, as has been the case for all the games since they were back in the Xs, used as a massive platform for brands of all types to hawk their wares and try to make an impression on the audience. Burger King showed Andy Warhol eating a hamburger, Bud Light had everyone Googleing “corn syrup in beer?” and Verizon tried to undo some of the brand reputation damage incurred last year when it throttled the wireless plans of firefighters in California. Oh, and there was [checks notes] chunky milk?
Movie trailers were once again a huge part of the game’s advertising package, with studios promoting some of the biggest and most anticipated films still to come in 2019. There were a few people were expecting as well as a handful of surprises in this year’s mix of films as well as some puzzling omissions. Most importantly, there were five lessons that became clear based on what movies were advertised and how.
1: Bring the Adventure
Marvel Studios brought a new spot for Avengers: Endgame to the broadcast, but the real winner was the commercial for Captain Marvel, starring Brie Larson. From the outset it’s made clear that she – and the audience – will be going “Higher. Further. Faster.” on a thrillride through outer space and back to Earth again.
So too, the trailer for Hobbs & Shaw, an extension of the Fast & The Furious franchise, looks like a ton of utterly ridiculous fun. The story seems incoherent, the premise outright ludicrous and the performances unbelievable. It’s not as inspirational as Captain Marvel but you can’t say it doesn’t look like a load of over-the-top fun.
Alita: Battle Angel sports some incredible behind-the-scenes talent, including director Robert Rodriguez and producer James Cameron. The commercial that aired only hinted at that pedigree but did try to sell audiences on a cinematic adventure they’d have to see in 3D to get the full impact of.
2: Bring the Scares
Writer/director Jordan Peele dropped a new one-minute spot for his new doppleganger thriller Us on Reddit just before it aired on CBS. The spot tells the same basic story as the full trailer from a few months ago, but exposed it to a new audience, likely intriguing at least some of them because of its creative connection to Get Out.
There were also two short teasers for Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark, the upcoming horror film produced by Guillermo del Toro. This is the first footage released from the film and while there wasn’t much shown in the brief spots they definitely convey the one of creepy mystery that should go over well with horror aficionados.
3: Bring the Cute
Wonder Park is an animated adventure coming from Paramount Pictures in a few months, a basic message conveyed adequately by the commercial that teased the new trailer. It’s not especially memorable and this isn’t one of the year’s more anticipated releases, but Paramount obviously is hoping to score a hit with an original feature, especially in light of a recent round of bad press.
By contrast, Toy Story 4 is on many people’s radar already and the new spot that aired just after the game ended. There isn’t much about the story that’s explained here, but it does show that the series’ sense of humor is still intact and that Woody is still needing to get Buzz out of tough situations. It’s also notable in that, when you add in the promo for the “Twilight Zone” revival coming to Apple’s streaming service this makes three commercials with Jordan Peele.
Netflix also promoted its upcoming documentary Our Planet, not only with a 30-second spot but it also shared GIFs from the program all night on Twitter as a light form of counter-programming against the game.
4: Bring It Everywhere
If, like me, you were following along on Twitter you still got the gist that the game was less than thrilling. It also means you likely saw that many of the spots mentioned above were placed as Promoted Tweets at the same time they premiered on television.
While that makes a certain amount of sense, particularly when you consider many of the posts included links to buy tickets or find out more, it also shows that $5 million doesn’t buy the guaranteed mass reach a “Big Game” spot once promised. It’s not essential that a super-expensive TV ad buy be accompanied by another ad buy on social media to promote the ad that was run on TV.
5: Leave People Confused
OK maybe this isn’t such a great rule of thumb for advertisers and movie marketing professionals to follow, but it certainly would explain a few things, including:
- Where was the Star Wars: Episode IX ad? We’re less than a year away from release and have yet to see a single frame of footage. Disney may have seen greater value in promoting its two Marvel releases for this year, but a Star Wars trailer drop would have been epic.
- Where are the X-Men? Fox (not long for this world as an independent entity) has two X-Men movies coming later this year, but neither of them made any noise during the Super Bowl. Given both have been pushed back repeatedly this would have been a strong show of faith in them, so maybe that was the point.
- Where’s Ad Astra? This science fiction film stars Brad Pitt and Tommy Lee Jones, is directed by James Gray and has a May release date but there’s been no marketing for it at all so far.
- Where are the comedies? The genre had a rough 2018, but usually the Super Bowl has at least one straight forward comedy advertised. Perhaps this is a sign that people now prefer their laughs when they’re coupled with action sequences.
- Where’s the instant buzz? Last year Netflix surprised everyone by dropping the first commercial for The Cloverfield Paradox just hours before the movie was available in full on the service. There was no such stunt this year, (Amazon promoted the availability of its first episode of “Hanna” ahead of time) but this would have been a great yearly tradition.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I made queso.