The Super Bowl is the biggest advertising event of the year. It’s an opportunity for companies to get creative and grab the attention of the largest television audience available to them. As we approach this weekend’s game, we sat down with Chip Culpepper, principal and chief creative officer of MHP/Team SI, to discuss predictions for Super Bowl LVI advertising and past creative trends. Enjoy!
Caleb: Hey everybody. I’m here with Chip Culpepper, who’s the principal and CCO, chief creative officer, for MHP/Team SI, we’re here to break down some predictions for what kind of creative we might see in the advertising at the Super Bowl this Sunday, which is going to be pretty exciting. It’s the biggest ad show of the year. So, let’s kick it off!
Chip, last year’s Super Bowl had a bit of an understandably serious undertone because of the pandemic. Do you think that’s going to be back this year, or do you expect it to be more lighthearted?
Chip: I think that self-referential corporate responsibility message did play out big last year. I mean, that was kind of noticeable in everything. It ran through everything; it was on everybody’s mind. I think what you see this year is advertisers and viewers trying to find something that feels normal again. So I think we’re going to see big-budget, eye candy, funny, irreverent kinds of ads like you used to see – what everybody expects. I think it’s about life as normal as you can make it. So I think you’re going to see references to getting back to normal. I think you’re going to see travel ads – “let’s go travel, let’s do these normal things again.” I think those are going to be big this time around.
Caleb: What are the big trends you’ve been seeing over the last year that we might see played out on a larger scale this weekend?
Chip: Well, I do think that you’re going to see multiple brands packed into one ad. We’re seeing more and more of that across even unrelated brands. But I think big advertisers that have multiple brands, those house of brands advertisers, you’re going to see them put multiple products into an ad. I think that you may even see some co-branding with unrelated brands.
I know just in what previews that you can see now (which is a big trend that I don’t know if I’m in favor of – seeing the ads before you see the ads in the game) but like Pepsi, they’ve got a couple Mannings, they’ve got Terry Bradshaw, but they’ve got lots of different “chips and sips” brands that they’re putting together in one advertisement.
Caleb: So the Super Bowl’s a huge event and it’s mainly the biggest companies that are able to advertise there. You know, your average mom and pop shop can’t purchase a 6.5 million dollar Super Bowl commercial.
Chip: Yeah. That’s just the media.
Caleb: Right. But how do you think those creative trends that the big companies are putting together will trickle down to the smaller companies?
Chip: Well, again, I think that’s the trend of business as usual. I mean, with Anheuser-Busch’s back, you’re going to see a clydesdale ad for the first time in two or three years, I think. So I think that feeling of normalcy, that does trickle down to regular advertisers. They can’t afford the big budgets, but getting back to business as usual and feeling like business as usual, that is something that can be pulled all the way down to a local advertiser that can never afford this. You know, get back out there, start promoting again in every way that you’ve got available to you.
Caleb: How do you think a mom-and-pop local business could advertise around the Super Bowl without having the restrictions that come with not being able to pay for that large service?
Chip: You know, buying local time on a local, traditional broadcast station has always been a way that a local advertiser could get some of that inventory that maybe hadn’t been sold. But again those are local rates. They’re not the national rate. So, you know, finding a way to squeeze into some of those spots has always been a way to participate and be associated with the game. You know, having a local ad run during halftime on the local network station, that’s a big deal to a lot of advertisers. It gives you that look that you’re a player, even if you’re not paying the big boy rates.
Caleb: Sure, sure. When you think of Super Bowl commercials, what is the first one that pops in your head – the most memorable one?
Chip: Apple 1984.
Caleb: What happened there? Describe it.
Chip: That is probably on most of the experts’ list. That’s going to be number one of all-time. It’s the introduction of the Macintosh computer. It was based on the novel 1984. You know, “big brother is watching.” And this heroic, athletic woman comes into the scene and she takes a big hammer throw, and she throws the hammer into big brother watching you on the screen. And it explodes. And that’s the birth of the Macintosh computer. Computers were out of reach for anyone, but the super rich, you know, at that time in business. And here comes Apple Macintosh to level that playing field. That was the introduction to the world of Macintosh computers. That’s probably number one on most lists because it was so creative and so different from anything that had ever been done before.
Caleb: Wow, that’s cool.
Chip: Go back, Google it, find it. You know, I’m of the generation where I was blown away by it in real time. But go back and look at it. I don’t know if it holds up today, but for the time when it was done, it was revolutionary.
Caleb: Yeah. That’s crazy. Because looking at how Apple and Mac have taken over the market…
Chip: How ubiquitous that brand is now, this was the beginning of that. So this is the birth of Apple. And it was impressive.
Caleb: Would you also call that the best Super Bowl commercial that you can remember?
Chip: See, that’s such a subjective thing. I think for seeding a brand, by far that one sets the bar high, because it introduced something new. No one had ever done it. I’d say as far as a consistent advertiser, the best, you know, you gotta look at the beer advertisers, because they’ve been in the game, they’ve understood the audience from the beginning. Ads in the Super Bowl were always about breaking through the crowd noise, because, you know, you had a bunch of people over at your house, or you were watching it in a loud bar. And so that’s where the slapstick comedy and the, you know, minimal copy comes in. But they were doing sight gags and eye candy to draw you in, because as you couldn’t hear what was being said, you’re at a big party.
So I think over time the beer advertisers, Anheuser-Busch with the clydesdales, again, they’ve got a sentimental appeal, but they’ve also got a funny track, you know, an absurd track that they’ll play out during the same game for multiple brands, but they’ll find a different way to position the brand across the board. So I think they’ve always done a great job and it’ll be interesting to see them come back into the game this year in what they’re going to offer us. Again, I’ve read a little bit and I think we’re going to see a clydesdale in a 60-second spot.
Caleb: Okay, awesome. So, if you could film your ideal Super Bowl commercial, let’s say, a large, top-of-the-line company says to you and says, “Chip, we want you to direct our commercial.” What would happen?
Chip: After you’d pick me up off the floor from the offer? Yeah, I think that’s a really interesting question. I’m not sure I can answer it right off the cuff. Funny’s hard. Trust me. Doing comedy, it’s the hardest thing you’ll ever do. So I would hope that it was maybe more of an emotional spot that I was going to go for, rather than trying to hit the funny bone, because, man, it’s tough. But I think that a well-crafted script that can touch a heartstring, pull a tear, you know, those are the kinds of things. I’m an old guy. I like that stuff. I like the sentimental stuff. So I would hope that I had a chance to do something like that.
Caleb: Okay. Awesome. Last thing, what do you think about the halftime show this year?
Chip: You know it’s always a spectacle and I think this one is lining up to be the spectacle of spectacles. It’s a triple-threat kind of a thing. There’s something in there, hopefully for everybody. I always look at the production, not necessarily the artist and I’ve always been impressed with the way that they stage a show. Live shows like that are inherently difficult…anything can go wrong and sometimes have, but their big productions are really cool for me to watch.
I watch it differently probably than anybody else. Because I’m looking at the technical side of it. I’m looking at lighting and the sound and how they’re moving the stage around and getting those set pieces in and out. So I’m eager to see how they’re going to put these acts together and apart. That’s always cool to watch.
Caleb: Yeah. It was a big deal to get Dr. Dre as the producer a few years ago. So this has been a few years in the making.
Chip: Yeah, absolutely. And, it’s going to be epic in its own right.
Caleb: All right, awesome! Well, thanks for joining us and I’m really excited to see what happens on Sunday. In a couple weeks, we might get back together and discuss what happened creative-wise and break it down.
Chip: Yeah. Look for lots of celebrities trying to be funny and some of them are going to really succeed. Others are not going to succeed. Look for the big budgets. Look for back to normal stuff. That’s what I’m thinking when it comes to creative.