Actress Scarlett Johansson gives SodaStream some sex appeal in a controversial spot, Kia revives actor Laurence Fishburne's "Matrix" character Morpheus in its commercial. And cute puppies and kids abound in ads for Cheerios to Anheuser-Busch.
Advertisers are planning to pull out the tools in their arsenal during Super Bowl time this Sunday, including celebrities, A-list rock bands and cinematic story lines.
Of course, there will still be ad surprises on Sunday with major brands like Chrysler and Coca-Cola staying mum on at least one of their ads. But the ones that are already out use a variety of tactics to draw viewers' attention.
Overall, marketers are doing a better job getting their branding message across — while still entertaining — than previous years when a cheap joke or gag ruled supreme, says Kelly O'Keefe, professor of brand strategy at the Virginia Commonwealth University Brand Center.
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"This year there's much more focus on brand personality: the spot has to be both interesting and funny and link back to the core assets of the brand," he said. "I'm predicting a stronger Super Bowl than last year."
Advertisers are in the game to win. The Super Bowl is advertising's biggest showcase, with more than 108 million people expected to tune into the game. And companies are paying an estimated $4 million to have their ads be a part of the action.