'Softer night of advertising' the rule during Super Bowl this year

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NEW YORK — Advertisers played it safe in Super Bowl ads this year.

There were no crude jokes. Sexual innuendo was kept to a minimum. And uncomfortable story lines were all but missing. And in their place, much more sedate ads.

From the light humor of RadioShack poking fun at its image with 80s icons like Teen Wolf and the California raisins to a Coca-Cola ad showcasing diversity by singing America the Beautiful in different languages, it was a softer night of advertising.

The shocking ads in years past have not always been well received (Think: GoDaddy.com’s ad that features a long, up-close kiss came in at the bottom of the most popular ads.) So this year, advertisers out of their way to be more family friendly themes.

CONNECTING WITH A CAUSE. Many advertisers played it safe by promoting a cause or focusing on sentimental issues.

Chevrolet’s ad showed a couple driving through the desert in remembrance of World Cancer Day. Bank of America turned its ad into a virtual video for singing group U2’s new single Invisible to raise money for an AIDS charity. The song will be a free download on iTunes for 24 hours following the game and Bank of America will donate $1 each time it is downloaded to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS.

Meanwhile, a Microsoft ad focused on how its technology helps people in different ways. The ad is narrated by Steve Gleason, a former prof football player who is living with ALS. He uses a Surface Pro running Tobii’s eye gazer technology to speak. And an Anheuser-Busch “Hero’s Welcome” ad was an ode to U.S. soldiers. The spot showed how Anheuser-Busch helped prepare a big celebration that included a parade with Clydesdales as a surprise for a soldier returning from Afghanistan.

AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL: Many advertisers took the safe route by playing up their Americana roots.

Coca-Cola showcased America’s diversity with a spot that showed scenes of natural beauty and families of different diversities to the tune of America the Beautiful being sung in different languages.

Chrysler debuted an ad starring Bob Dylan, who discusses the virtues of having cars built in Detroit, the theme that it has stuck with in previous ads with Eminem and Clint Eastwood. “Let Germany brew your beer. Let Asia assemble your phone. We will build your car,” Dylan says in the ad.

LIGHT HUMOR. Advertisers that typically go with more crude humor and scantily-clad women toned it down this year. Bud Light, for instance, showed an ad using hidden cameras taking a non-actor on an adventure, GoDaddy.com’s ad showed it helping a small-business owner quit her job and Doritos’ spot featured a kid playing a joke on a man by making him think a box is a time machine so that he could steal his Doritos.

“Women were fed up and parents were fed up and advertisers listened,” said Barbara Lippert, ad critic at Mediapost.com.

“A few years ago we had a lot of physical slapstick, this year there’s a lot less of that: less outright use of seniors and animals are still alive and well,” said David Berkowitz, chief marketing officer for digital ad agency MRY.


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