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    Super Bowl alert: A QR code blitz is coming and brands get married—plus, what exactly is the ROI of a Big Game ad?

    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 is bringing 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.

    Cracking the code

    “Marketers haven’t ruined QR codes yet. America is ready for them this year.” That is what Nick Miaritis, executive VP of client services at agency VaynerMedia, told Ad Age this week while predicting that half the Super Bowl ads this year will have the codes.

    It begs the question(s): How much is too much? Will the QR code blitz be too much for viewers? Really, how much scanning will people do while they are drinking beer and eating chicken wings? The key, Miaritis suggests, is to make them useful, tied to giveaways and whatnot. That seems to be the approach Michelob Ultra and Netflix are taking with their joint Super Bowl ad released this week, which includes a QR code that offers an early viewing of the first episode of Netflix’s “Full Swing” golf docuseries.

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

    Collaboration nation

    Speaking of brand tie-ups, there are plenty of them in this year’s game, including Molson Coors hooking up with FanDuel and Netflix joining forces with both Michelob Ultra and General Motors. The streamer won’t be airing a separate ad as it seeks attention via shout-outs in the ads from the beer brand and the automaker.

    Read more here about GM’s deal, which includes an agreement to put the automaker’s vehicles in Netflix shows. While it sounds like good old-fashioned product placement, execs pushed back on that phrase at a media briefing this week, calling it a “strategic alliance.” Sure, but money is surely changing hands, although neither company will reveal who is paying for what.

    Plus: Inside the Super Bowl’s hottest ad trend—brand partnerships

    Serena times two

    Serena Williams has been a go-to star for advertisers for years, including in the Super Bowl. For this year’s game, she is starring in not one, but two alcohol ads—one for Michelob Ultra and another for French cognac brand Rémy Martin. While these are two very different brands, they could be considered competitors at some level, which made us wonder if either brand had an issue with this. A Rémy exec did not directly respond to a question about this but noted Williams was the liquor ad’s “singular star.” In Ultra’s “Caddyshack”-themed spot she is part of a larger cast that also includes actor Brian Cox, basketball players Nneka Ogwumike and Jimmy Butler, and soccer star Alex Morgan, among others. Ultra has not responded to a question about the Rémy ad.

    See the Super Bowl teasers released so far

    Finding the ROI

    For advertisers, the game behind the Big Game is making sure their expensive ads pay off. And the key to getting the most bang for the buck is what you do beyond the ad itself. “While having a spot in the Super Bowl now costs about $7 million per 30 seconds, the real media value in Big Game advertising comes from how the spot is amplified across a variety of channels,” Jed Meyer, senior VP, Media Domain at Kantar stated in a report this week. According to Kantar, 2022 Super Bowl ads delivered an average ROI of $4.60 per dollar spent, “with ads for T-Mobile, Verizon, AT&T, Disney+, Sam’s Club, and General Motors achieving the best results.”

    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.

    VHS and potty humor

    Of course, with the rise of social media, more brands have tried riding the coattails of the game, without actually buying an ad. Plenty of brands try it, but only a few really break through. Ad Age this week covered an ingenious effort from one brand—Blockbuster Video (yes, it still exists via a single store in Bend, Oregon.) “Is the world coming to an end or is Blockbuster releasing its first commercial in a really, really long time? Yes. See you on 2/12,” Blockbuster said via an Instagram post. To find out what the brand has in store, check out our coverage here.

    Another brand is turning to potty humor. Bidet company Tushy says it is back with its “second annual Super Bowel Monday campaign.” We’ll let the brand’s tweet speak for itself: “Our #TUSHYSuperBowel contest is back, baby! We’re serious. Submit your best post-game dump by Super Bowel Monday for a chance to win $10,000 and our Ace Bidet.”

    This day in Super Bowl history

    Super Bowl 42 was played on this day in 2008 when the Giants beat the Patriots in Glendale, Arizona at University of Phoenix Stadium—which is now called State Farm Stadium and also the host site for this year’s game. Thirty-second ads cost $2.7 million (compared with about $7 million today). This game marked the debut of the E-Trade baby, which went on to appear in consecutive games through 2013 and again in 2018. The talking infant made a comeback last year and is set to appear again this year.

    Also in 2008: Will Ferrell starred for Bud Light (he’s back this year for GM) and Justin Timberlake pitched Pepsi (and Timberlake MP3s at, while political rivals Democrat James Carville and Republican Bill Frist bonded over a Coke. The soda giant won’t be in this year’s game. As for political civility, well, that’s been missing for a while.

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

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