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    Super Bowl alert: The game goes biblical, Apple Music reveals plans, brands deal with tough economy

    Ad Age is counting down to Super Bowl LVII. In the days leading up to the game, which will air on Fox on Feb. 12, Ad Age will bring you breaking news, analysis and first looks at the high-stakes Big Game commercials—all in our Super Bowl newsletter. Sign up right here to get them via email.

    Laying off … while spending big 

    There are two ways to think about spending on marketing during economic downturns. One is to hunker down and save money when times get tough. The other is to amp up advertising to spur demand when consumers might be reluctant to spend. Several Super Bowl spenders—including Google and Workday—are taking the latter approach this year as they shell out millions of dollars on media buys and expensive productions, even as they lay off employees and trim elsewhere. 

    “As we navigate this uncertain environment, it’s important we help ensure Workday is set up for continued growth for many years to come,” a Workday spokesperson told Ad Age this week after news broke that the maker of software for business tasks such as human resources was eliminating 3% of its global workforce.

    Read more: What layoffs and downturn mean for the Big Game

    In the auto industry—which is confronting challenges such as higher interest rates—brands are taking the hunker-down approach. Several automakers that previously ran Big Game ads are not returning. Kia is the only automaker to confirm a spot, although it is likely a couple more could follow. Still, spending is trending way down in the sector. Travel brands are also cutting back.

    Check out Ad Age’s Super Bowl blog for real-time Big Game updates.

    Movies and scripture

    Channeling classic moves is a classic Super Bowl ad tactic and it’s no different this year. For its ad, Rakuten has Alicia Silverstone reprising her role as the ultimate shopper Cher Horowitz from the ’90s hit “Clueless.” “Don’t bug, your girl is back,” she says in a teaser. Michelob Ultra, meanwhile, released its “Caddyshack” ad after teasing it for days. Serena Williams, a Super Bowl regular, takes a starring role. But fans of the 1980 flick might be more enthused to see her caddy—played by Michael O’Keefe, who was Danny Noonan in the movie. 

    Other brands confirming celebrities this week include Hellmann’s, which is enlisting Jon Hamm and Brie Larson; Squarespace, which is using “multiple” Adam Drivers; Uber, with a teaser starring Sean “Diddy” Combs; Melissa McCarthy, who will star for Booking.com; Planters, which has Jeffrey Ross roasting Mr. Peanut; and Anna Faris, who is poised to play Eve (yes, that Eve) in Avocados From Mexico’s ad. 

    That biblical reference means this Super Bowl might be the first one in history to include the Old Testament and New Testament—as originally reported last year, the Jesus-focused “He Gets Us” campaign will run two ads.

    Of course, Satan is no stranger to the game. Mercedes cast Willem Dafoe as the devil in this 2013 Super Bowl ad that showed him urging a man to convince give up his soul in exchange for a Mercedes CLA.

    See the Super Bowl teasers released so far

    Apple vs. TikTok

    When it comes to music stars, all eyes will be on halftime performer Rihanna. And this week, we got some fresh details on how sponsor Apple Music is trying to use the event to grow subscribers. On Tuesday, it made available to subscribers some of her songs in its Spatial Audio in Dolby Atmos format. On Feb. 9, Apple will host a press conference with the star that people can watch on the Apple Music app or on the brand’s social channels. It is also plugging special programming on Apple Music Radio, including “Halftime Hype Radio,” described as “a 10-part series reflecting on some of the most notable Super Bowl Halftime performances of all time.”

    TikTok has some counter-programming. Its pregame NFL TikTok Tailgate livestream will feature Jason Derulo and The Black Keys. As Ad Age reported this week, “the show is TikTok’s best chance to convince advertisers it is a destination for live programming with the full attention of Gen Z.”

    For a behind-the-scenes look at Super Bowl ad planning, check out Ad Age’s Super Bowl Playbook event on Feb. 7. It will feature brand leaders and agency execs behind the ads. Register here for the virtual event.

    This day in Super Bowl history

    Super Bowl 38 was played on this day in 2004 when Tom Brady (who announced his retirement today, “for good”) led the New England Patriots over the Carolina Panthers in Houston. What might have gotten more attention, though, was Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” during her halftime performance with Justin Timberlake. The incident was revisited last year in a New York Times documentary that explored how “issues of race and sexism mixed to consume one superstar’s legacy and propel another’s career to the next level.”

    In-game advertisers included AOL, which ran three spots from Wieden+Kennedy promoting the “Top Speed” feature of its latest version. The ads featured the Teutul family, stars of Discovery Channel’s “American Chopper” reality show. 

    For a complete look at Big Game commercial history, check out Ad Age’s Super Bowl ad archive.

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