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Hello Super Bowl junkies,

I’m Jeanine Poggi, Ad Age’s senior editor, counting down the final days to Super Bowl LV. Ad Age is bringing you breaking news, analysis and first looks at the high-stakes, Big Game commercials—all in our Super Bowl Alert newsletter. Sign up right here to get them in your email. 

Inclusivity scorecard

Super Bowl commercials will be viewed with an especially critical eye on Sunday as a tangible indication of how the advertising world has responded to the calls to fix the systemic racism that has long plagued our industry. Amid the re-invigorated social justice movement last spring, many brands issued statements of support for the Black Lives Matter movement and promised to do better. The Super Bowl represents a very clear opportunity to put those words into actions on the biggest stage of the year.

So Ad Age asked nearly every advertiser with plans to air in-game commercials about how they prioritized diversity and inclusion in the creation and production of their ads. While some brands had very clear action steps and outlined specific ways they implemented these practices in the conceptual and production phases of their ads, many others provided cookie-cutter mission statements that simply say they support the cause. Here’s a look at some of the biggest strides and setbacks in inclusivity in the Big Game ads.

Behind the work

Amid the hype and anticipation of this year's commercial bonanza, Ad Age caught up with some of the ad wizards that craft these messages, to find out how they come to life. We asked the creators of past and present Super Bowl ads to send us some stories about their experiences of making the ads for the big stage, which spots they love, and which ones they love that other people constantly put down. Additionally, they tell us some little-known facts about their previous work, ads they wish they had made—and, of course, the challenges of pandemic production.

Telecom wars (take two)

T-Mobile claims one of its Super Bowl commercials starring Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski was rejected due to a protected rights deal with the NFL’s official telco sponsor, Verizon. While Verizon isn’t explicitly mentioned in the commercial, which you can watch here, it is certainly implied.

What’s interesting is that T-Mobile and Verizon have certainly been much more overt in their criticism of each other in prior Super Bowl ads, but there didn’t seem to be an issue with airing those spots. T-Mobile’s 2020 Big Game commercial featured comedian Anthony Anderson switching his mother's cell phone plan from Verizon to T-Mobile because “it’s the only one to offer nationwide 5G.”

Re-watch those ads and more in Ad Age’s extensive Super Bowl ad archive.

Double take

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery … and on Super Bowl Sunday, two spots imitate each other. Indeed and Guaranteed Rate, both first timers, each pulled the same footage from Filmsupply showing a guy giving a kid a piggyback ride. It’s like wearing the same dress to the prom.

“This situation was an unfortunate one because the company does offer exclusivity for clients if they want it. Under these unprecedented times for commercial production, demand for Filmsupply’s clips has increased exponentially. In many ways, the duplication reflects a broader shift toward a new era of production amidst COVID-19,” a Filmsupply spokesperson said in an email.

The clip is a blink-and-you’ll miss it moment toward the end of Guaranteed Rate’s 60-second spot “Believe You Will.”

It’s a touching moment … and it also comes halfway through Indeed’s 60-second spot. Eagle-eyed viewers are already noticing the oops moment. Popeyes quickly used the footage—clearly marking it as stock—in a video it served up on Twitter on Friday, with the line “Does this mean we have an ad in the big game too, y’all?”

“During the commercial shoot, our team had to work through various COVID-19 situations to ensure the quality story was told. One of the production shots had to be cancelled and we were able to fill a specific need through a content house. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to confirm if other advertisers were able to use this clip, which is only about one second in duration. We do not plan to change the clip, or the ad, as the spirit remains the same, one of conveying hope and optimism to job seekers in their job search,” an Indeed spokesperson said in a statement.

Big reveal

It seems more brands than usual are holding back on their creative, and perhaps even announcing they bought in, until the game itself.  As of Friday afternoon, 33 Super Bowl commercials have been pre-released. While there’s still time for a few more commercials to trickle in, 43 ads were pre-released before kickoff in 2020. Watch all the ads released so far here.

Change the Whirled

Ben & Jerry’s, which has a vegan flavor—Change the Whirled—with Colin Kaepernick, is honoring the former NFL player’s activism with a mural and billboard unveiled in Tampa days before the Super Bowl, Ad Age’s Jessica Wohl writes. A 30-foot-by-90-foot mural shows kids, including one wearing a t-shirt that features Kaepernick raising his fist. Both pieces feature the line “I Know My Rights.” Artist-activist Brandan “BMike” Odums, a friend of Kaepernick’s, created the “Change the Whirled” mural.

“As we look back, it’s clear that Colin was on the right side of history,” Chris Miller, Ben & Jerry’s head of global activism, said in a statement. “His pre-game protests were before George Floyd’s murder; before the 2020 summer of racial reckoning. He knew a long time ago that we need to address the root causes of racism and the structures of our society that are so brutal to Black people. We wanted to be part of the effort to honor Colin’s courage and legacy because we share the same values.”

The effort from Ben & Jerry’s and Know Your Rights Camp, Kaepernick’s nonprofit organization, includes a drive-thru at the mural site in Old West Tampa on Feb. 7 where residents of the community can pick up a family meal, a pint of the non-dairy dessert, and gift certificates to a salon and barbershop. Also, four Tampa community groups will receive $5,000 each, Ben & Jerry’s announced.

War rooms go virtual 

Brand war rooms are certainly poised to look very different on Super Bowl Sunday. Instead of marketing, social and agency folks gathered inside a room, glued to their screens and passing around pizza, like everything else this year, those war rooms will be mostly virtual. Campaign takes a peek into these war rooms.

To keep track of all the advertisers running national spots in the game, bookmark Ad Age’s regularly updated Super Bowl ad chart.

That's it for today’s Super Bowl Alert. Thanks for reading and we hope you are all staying safe and well. For more industry news and insight, follow us on Twitter: @adage.

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