WATCH: 2014’s best, worst Super Bowl ads
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — Where did all the bikinis go?
The absence of such bro-centric staples from this year’s stable of Super Bowl ads, and a preference for multi-racial, patriotic and small business entrepreneurial themes, seems to suggest that America is growing more serious and more sentimental.
“GoDaddy – another advertiser known for boobs and babes – and what are they are showing? A small business advertising,” said Kelly O’Keefe, professor of brand strategy at the Virginia Commonwealth University Brand Center. He was referring to an ad in which actor John Turturro introduces an entrepreneur quitting her job to launch a company called Puppets by Gwen.
“She actually quits her job on the air, which is an interesting stunt, but what is every more interesting is that GoDaddy has abandoned their raunchy ways of the past,” he said.
He said that ads were more mature this year, seeming to abandon their adolescent themes of the past.
There were several ads that raised eyebrows for their high brow themes: a Coca-Cola commercial that emphasized the multi-ethnic nature of America including Muslims; a Bank of America ad that emphasized a U2-back fundraiser for AIDS treatment in Africa; and a Budweiser ad from Anheuser-Busch featuring a solder coming home from war.
“Emotional gripping messages,” said Derek Rucker, professor of marketing for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, naming the Super Bowl ad theme of 2014. “It’s time to be powerful in the ad. Companies are trying to get new messages to consumers.
“It could be that we’re coming out of a recession and advertisers are trying to re-embrace consumers,” Rucker added.
There was also a Cheerios ad from General Mills which continued with its theme of an interracial family.
“Multi-racial people are kind of the last frontier is getting realistic portrayal in advertising,” said Charles Taylor, professor of marketing of Villanova School of Business. He noted that the first Cheerios ad featuring the multi-racial couple was considered controversial, but the company went ahead and ran a similar ad on the Super Bowl.
“I think it’s conventional wisdom not to alienate any of the target audience,” Taylor said. “But we’re at a point in American history where multi-racial families are well accepted by most of the population and I respect Cheerios by not worrying about what a minority of the population is thinking.”
Fox, broadcaster of the football game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., charged up to $4.5 million per 30-second spot. So ad experts felt it was particularly important for advertisers to convey a message that was closely linked to their brand.
Rucker said that most the effective advertiser, on that score, was Radio Shack. The venerable electronics retailer, which has been struggling to compete with newer upstarts, said that it was leaving behind its older 1980s model. The spot featured ’80s icons including the wrestler Hulk Hogan, Olympian Mary Lou Retton, Dee Snider of Twisted Sister, the sitcom puppet Alf and the horror-show marionette Chucky of “Child’s Play.”
“I’m a child of the ’80s so it was great seeing all the characters,” said Rucker. “I remember seeing Alf. I remember seeing Hulk Hogan. I get what was the message was: Radio Shack isn’t the Radio Shack you think it is; it’s more modernized.”