Super Bowl ads take sweet turn

AP Photo/Axe

Axe body spray has taken a different turn in its Super Bowl advertising, focusing on romance over confrontation.

As the Super Bowl approaches -- and commercials are revealed in advance of the big game -- one thing is clear: Women rule the (buying) world.

Per usual these past few years, we're seeing several advertisements geared toward women, which makes sense, considering that a record 51 million women watched the Super Bowl in 2012. And last year? A whopping 108.7 million people watched, power outage and all.

The trend from the ladies and gentlemen of Madison Avenue has been clear: Cater to women. A great deal.

In past years, Super Bowl ads have been criticized for being sexist and pandering to the female audience. But smartly, advertisers are tapping into what drives the holders of the purse strings.

This year, when you watch the ads, you'll notice a stark change, especially if you haven't paid much attention to Super Bowl commercials recently. The theme in 2014 seems to be pushing past the ultra-sexed-up version of women and instead introducing concepts of love and family.

"I think if you look at Axe, which has historically been positioned as very manly, a little bit focused on bro-kind of advertising, but ... if you look at their current campaign, it's a total change of pace for them," said James DeJulio, co-founder of Tongal, a leading crowd-sourcing digital ad platform. "It was beautiful women running through the jungle eight years ago; now it's conflict resolutions. It's not about getting girls or attracting the most babes; it's about doing something better and resolving conflict that could lead to love. If you look at that as a barometer, it's pretty interesting."

Indeed it is. Axe body spray isn't the only brand making that move. Luxury automotive maker Audi jumped headfirst into a trend it noticed -- the success of tentpole vampire films, a la "Twilight," among women older than teenagers. Two years ago, Audi played into the success of the "Twilight" series and did a play on vampires and its LED lights, which was a hit among ad spot watchers; last year, it had a fun spot featuring a sympathetic dateless prom-goer.

This year, Audi's ad focuses on its A3 car, and the spot, called "Doberhuahua," is a hilarious take on how, when people compromise, things can go terribly wrong. You know, the kind of thing that may happen to your neighbor. And it features a fun cameo by singer and activist Sarah McLachlan.

"Up until now, people were throwing these Hail Marys with their Super Bowl ads," said Matt Paget, a managing partner at Extension PR, an agency that counsels brands and sports league offices. "They want to make sure they're getting noticed. Everyone's audience is women. You need to understand what the audience really wants in an organic way. GoDaddy generally does much edgier stuff, but they know that they're looking to win over women. Danica Patrick is less sexy [this year]. ... That's going to make sense. TurboTax has John C. Reilly walking you through highlights of a birth and a wedding. Here's a guy from 'Step Brothers' showing a more sensitive side."

That's another trend to be mindful of on Sunday: the preponderance of celebrities. That's tactical too.

"This is the year of the celebrity. Almost all the ads are using celebrity spokespeople, and that's exactly targeted toward women," Paget said. "The female audience is who drives the People Magazine celebrity culture, if you will."

Related Content