The Super Bowl is still several days away, but viewers are already deciding on which commercials are scoring touchdowns.
With the game representing both a big investment and a significant gamble for advertisers, many try to help their odds for a win by pre-releasing either teasers for their commercials or the actual ad. It's not hard to see why brands try every trick to get people to watch their spots, given that the price of commercial time during the Super Bowl has surged 76 percent during the past decade, according to Kantar Media.
Aside from the huge investment, brands also have their reputation on the line. Since 2010, the game has drawn more than 100 million viewers annually, making it a reliable ratings winner. Many of those viewers are just as interested (some of them even more) in the commercials as the game, a rarity in TV. As a result, memorable ads can secure a brand's reputation, while misfires can seriously damage it -- and even lead to lawsuits.
Many of this year's most-buzzed about campaigns include celebrities, which is a good way to grab attention but doesn't always pay off, said Carl Marci, chief neuroscientist at Nielsen Consumer Neuroscience.
"One of the things we learned by looking at the Super Bowl over the past several years is having a celebrity is not a guarantee of success," Marci said. "The celebrity has to be tied into the story of the ad. Celebrities in and of themselves can't overcome issues with the creative."
This year's game will pit the Carolina Panthers against the Denver Broncos on Feb. 7 at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California. The contest will be aired by CBS, the parent company of CBS MoneyWatch.
Teasers aren't the only way to get viewers watching. What Amobee principal brand analyst Jonathan Cohen calls "legacy associations" can help bring eyeballs to some brands' commercials, such as Budweiser (BUD), which has aired popular Super Bowl ads featuring puppies and Clydesdales in the past few games.
"Budweiser has had the most popular Super Bowl ad two years in a row, and while they're not returning to the cute puppy well again this year, there have been rumors that Mac, a newborn Clydesdale horse is going to make an appearance," Cohen said.
That type of suspense can get viewers to stick around to find out how brands that produced prior years' favorites will tackle this year's Super Bowl. Legacy associations can even help companies that aren't planning to advertise in Super Bowl 50. Amobee found that both Nationwide and GoDaddy received significant buzz in digital media last month, even though neither are returning to the game this year.
Read on to learn about nine campaigns that are already generating buzz before the game.
Super Bowl 50 is on Sunday, Feb. 7 on CBS.
This teaser features comedians Amy Schumer and Seth Rogen as they Spanx-up for "The Bud Light Party," which presumably will be unveiled at the Super Bowl.
While Schumer and Rogen have plenty of fans, the ad takes a "warts and all" approach -- showing Rogen's hairy back and Schumer plucking her eyebrows -- which may turn off some viewers. "It could leave a bad taste in people's mouths," Marci said.
The beer brand, which is making its Super Bowl debut with this ad, released an extended 90-second cut of its commercial last week. The spot features comedian T.J. Miller trading insults with its mascot, Wedgehead.
The humor and suspension of reality make it stand out, Marci said. But he added that the ad felt "a little too long."
Actor Liam Neeson plays a man from the future in this teaser that seems more like a movie trailer, which may be because director Ridley Scott is the ad's executive producer. It marks Scott's first return to the Super Bowl since his iconic "1984" ad for Apple.
While flashy, the teaser may leave consumers confused about what LG is trying to sell, Marci said. "Even in the teaser it's not clear," he said. "This is something that LG needs to think about."
The candy brand continues its "You're Not You When You're Hungry" campaign in this teaser, which features Marilyn Monroe singing "Happy Birthday" to mark the Super Bowl's 50th anniversary.
The only problem with her performance? She's not exactly herself, given that her voice is on the masculine side. Whether the campaign scores with viewers may be an issue, Marci said. "Is this jumping the shark?" he said. "I'm curious, but not that curious."
The carmaker is relying on actor Christopher Walken to add some intrigue to its campaign. The teaser features Walken sitting in a walk-in closet and offering beige socks to a beige-clad man.
The game-day ad will include Walken and a colorful sock puppet as they promote Kia's 2016 Optima, according to AdWeek. The teaser, though, felt "off-brand" for a car company, Marci said. "You have to engage people, which you can argue that the ad did, but you also have to tie it to the brand."
Last year's Super Bowl ad from website-builder Squarespace missed the uprights. Actor Jeff Bridges' turn as a sleep therapist confused some viewers rather than providing enlightenment about the brand. But this year's entry stars comedians Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele as as a couple of bumbling sportscasters, according to a teaser.
The pair will also live-stream commentary during the Super Bowl, although they don't have rights to the game, so they can't actually talk about what's happening on the field, according to AdWeek. The live-stream will be found here.
While celebrities are no guarantee of success, the campaign has the potential to be "hot and timely," Marci said.
Website-builder Wix.com struck a partnership with DreamWorks Animation (DWA) for its new Super Bowl ad. The commercial stars Po, the panda bear at the center of the "Kung Fu Panda" franchise. In one teaser, he uses fireworks to try to advertise his father's noodle shop. When things go awry, Master Shifu suggests building a website would be more effective
"I can't remember a brand using a movie theme that powerfully," Marci said. The campaign is "unique, engaging and ties in with the brand."
Pokémon is marking its 20th anniversary with this glossy commercial, which celebrates the ability of children to achieve their dreams. The ad features children playing chess, winning sports games and striving for their goals, but ends with a father watching a TV screen and whispering to his son, "You can do that."
Yet the message is slightly unclear, Marci said. "What are they selling?" he asked. "It sounded like some sort of game tie-in." As for the scene with the father at the end, he said "it felt flat to me."
One teaser for Amazon's (AMZN) Super Bowl ad scores by featuring not just a celebrity -- actor Alec Baldwin -- but a real football star, legendary ex-Miami Dolphin quarterback Dan Marino. The pair are brainstorming ideas for Baldwin's football party, leading Baldwin to ask the Amazon Echo to define "snack stadium."
"We finally have a celebrity who's also a football player, which certainly ties into the actual game and gets that halo effect," Marci said. "It engaged us and left us wanting more."