Super Bowl ads loaded with celebrity star power

Author: Charisse Jones, USA Today

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For celebrity sightings, viewers had to look no further than the advertising during Sunday's Super Bowl.

This year's crop of commercials had plenty of star power, more than enough to even keep non-avid football fans tuned into the big game.

The small screen was filled with big-name stars from movies, music, TV and the sports world. LG Electronics brought Liam Neeson back from the future, talking to his younger self and revealing the company's cutting-edge TV technology. Helen Mirren gave a searing lecture about drunk driving in an ad for Budweiser. Christopher Walken touted Kia’s new Optima midsize sedan as the ideal car for those who want to stand out from others. And Steve Harvey poked fun at his Miss Universe mix-up in an ad for T-Mobile.

And that’s just a sampling.

At least 38 celebrities were slated to appear in commercials during the game, according to E-Poll Market Research. That's more than the 28 celebrities who popped up during game breaks last year, the 26 who starred in commercials the year before, and the 19 in 2013.

“There is a very clear increase in the number of ads using celebrities this year, and most of them are using a lighthearted tone,’’ Charles Taylor, a marketing professor atVillanova University who also edits the International Journal of Advertising, said in an email. “This appears to be a reaction to the more somber/serious tone of many of last year's ads."

During 2015's game, there were some solemn, and even unsettling ads, including one from Nationwide that showed a young boy explaining that he was dead due to a preventable accident. That led some observers to deem it a "sad-vertising" Super Bowl.

Current events may also have spurred companies to ramp up the humor in  this year's ads, Taylor says.

"It also makes sense that in an election year, with so much national discussion of politics and serious topics, advertisers might be tempted to lighten things up," he says

Bud Light capitalized on the political theme, creating an ad with Amy Schumer and Seth Rogen that spoofed elections and promoted the "Bud Light party." It riffed on the fact that we are in the midst of a raucous, often divisive, campaign season. The comic duo ultimately declared that there is one thing everyone can all unite around:  beer.

In a second T-Mobile ad, recording artist Drake couldn't get through a video shoot for his hit song “Hotline Bling” without executives from rival cell service providers suggesting he add lyrics about their extra fees.

Alec Baldwin and Willem Dafoe showed up in commercials for Amazon and Snickers respectively. And in a Skittles ad, Aerosmith's Steven Tyler instructed a talking portrait of himself - etched from pieces of the rainbow-colored candy - on how to wail like a rock star.

“We’re always looking for ways to entertain our fans in unexpected ways,’’ Matt Montei, senior marketing director for confections at Wrigley, which owns Skittles, said in an email. “We felt a celebrity really helped enhance the (advertising) copy to take it to the next level."

Hyundai featured comedian Kevin Hart, star of Ride Along 2, and Ryan Reynolds who will star in Marvel’s soon-to be released superhero flick Deadpool, in two of its ads.

Hart and Reynolds were particularly appealing given their current pop culture prominence, says Dean Evans, Hyundai’s chief marketing officer.

The premise of the ad with Reynolds: the fact that nearly every guy in town looks like him distracts two women cruising in a new 2017 Hyundai Elantra. But the car’s technology, which puts on the brakes when a motorist isn’t paying attention, saves the day. In his commercial, Reynolds played a policeman, the motorist the officer pulls over and a dog walker, among other characters.

Meanwhile Hart loaned his Hyundai Genesis to his daughter's suitor - then used the car's tracking device to show up wherever the young couple went that evening

The fact that both men have a tremendous social media following also helps to bolster Hyundai's big game buzz.

Hart has more than 25 million Twitter followers and Reynolds has more than one million. And just last week, Reynolds tweeted a link to his Super Bowl spot to social media fans.

The attention these actors get through their social followings is a big part of the promotion strategy, Evans says. And the attention the ads have gotten from entertainment publications shows "that the celebrities help you reach even more people, in fresher, newer ways," he says.

But does using a celebrity spokesperson actually help to improve a brand's image? The messages on that are mixed.

There is evidence that celebrity endorsers sometimes make a commercial more memorable, says Frank Germann, a marketing professor at the University of Notre Dame.

And he said in an email that some research "suggests that today’s younger generations are quite influenced by celebrity endorsers.''

Read the entire article on the USA Today website.