Super Bowl 2014 ad trends bring surprises

This is the Super Bowl where ads may offer a bit less of the same — and a bit more of the unexpected.

As the price of ad time continues to escalate, advertisers continue to seek new ways — and new reasons — to stand out or even surprise. At a record $4 million per 30-second slot, “it’s the most expensive ad time on television by a wide margin,” says Jon Swallen, chief research officer at Kantar Media.

The Super Bowl, he notes, “marches to a very different beat than the rest of the TV business.” And so, too, must the advertisers who want to stand out during the Feb. 2 broadcast on Fox, which is sold out of ad time.

Here are some thing they are doing differently for 2014:

• More first-time celebrities. As usual, there will be lots of celebrities in Super Bowl ads, but more will be first-timers. Laurence Fishburne, the straight-faced star of the 1999 hit sci-fi film The Matrix, will show up with a humorous twist on the cult classic in a Kia ad showcasing its new K900 luxury sedan. In the 60-second spot, Fishburne reprises his film character, Morpheus, and offers a shocked couple — waiting for their car at a fancy restaurant — a choice that mimics the “red pill” or “blue pill” choice he offered Matrix co-star Keanu Reeves in the film. In a phone interview, Fishburne says this commercial puts Morpheus “in a completely unexpected context.” Super Bowl viewers who have “preconceived notions of who I am” may change their minds after watching this, he says.

Wonderful Pistachios, meanwhile, has dropped YouTube phenom Psy, and will feature funny man Stephen Colbert in two 15-second Super Bowl commercials. Why the change? “We wanted to deepen the enthusiasm beyond the Super Bowl with talent that resonates with our target (buyers) over the full year,” says Marc Seguin, marketing head at brand owner Paramount Farms.

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