NEW YORK (AP) – Actress Scarlett Johansson gives SodaStream some sex appeal in a controversial spot; Kia revives actor Laurence Fishburne's "Matrix" character, Morpheus; and cute puppies and kids abound in an array of ads for brands like Cheerios and Anheuser-Busch.
Advertisers are planning to pull out the tools in their arsenal during the Super Bowl this Sunday – celebrities, A-list rock bands and cinematic story lines.
Of course, there will still be surprises on Sunday with major players like Chrysler and Coca-Cola staying mum about ads. But the ones that are already out there 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 cheap jokes and gags ruled supreme, says Kelly O'Keefe, professor of brand strategy at the Virginia Commonwealth University's Brand Center.
"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.
Here are 10 ads to watch for on Sunday.
1. Anheuser-Busch: The biggest Super Bowl advertiser has ad in the fourth quarter that shows an adorable Golden Labrador becoming enamored with one of the beer-maker's iconic Clydesdales to the tune of "Let Her Go" by Passenger.
Online: "Puppy Love"
2. General Mills' Cheerios: The cereal maker brings back an interracial family that starred in a prior spot. This one shows a father telling his daughter that they're going to have an addition to the family, a baby boy. Then, the little girl strongly suggests they also get a puppy. The ad airs during the first unscheduled time-out of the game.
3. Bank of America: The bank will promote its partnership with (RED), an AIDS nonprofit group, by having U2 perform its new single, "Invisible," between the first and second quarters. The song will be a free download on iTunes during the game and for the following 24 hours. Bank of America will donate $1 each time it is downloaded to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS.
4. SodaStream: The Israeli at-home soda maker has stirred up controversy on two fronts. Their fourth-quarter ad features "Her" actress Scarlett Johansson touting the health and environmental benefits of the soda maker. The ad first made waves when the company said it would delete its last line, "Sorry, Coke and Pepsi," at the request of Fox. Then on Thursday, Johansson resigned her Oxfam ambassadorship. The nonprofit was unhappy she was linked with SodaStream, which operates in Israeli settlements in the West Bank of Palestine.
Online:Sorry, Coke and Pepsi
5. H&M: The clothing maker's ad in the second quarter features nifty technology that will allow people with some Samsung Smart TVs to order soccer star David Beckham's Bodywear products with their remote controls.
Online: H&M Super Bowl 2014 Teaser
6. Nestle's Butterfinger: A suggestive teaser ad showed a couple, "Chocolate" and "Peanut Butter," in '70s-style couple's therapy talking about the need for "change" and "excitement." The full ad, airing in the third quarter, will have a related theme, and Butterfinger is expected to introduce its Peanut Butter Cups with some tongue-in-cheek double entendres.
Online: Butterfinger Peanut Butter Cups
7. Beats Music: In a spot introducing a streaming music service that airs in the third quarter, Ellen DeGeneres reimagines Goldilocks and the Three Bears.
Online: Ellen Reveals Her Beats Music
8. Wonderful Pistachios: The snack producer showcases comedian Stephen Colbert running amok in two 15-second ads in the second quarter.
9. Kia: In the carmaker's third-quarter ad to introduce the K900 luxury sedan, Laurence Fishburne reprises his "Matrix" role as Morpheus and displays some surprising operatic skills.
10. Chrysler: The automaker is bound to surprise. Always mum ahead of the game, Chrysler has produced some of the best-loved and most-remembered spots during the Big Game, from Eminem's "Imported from Detroit" ad in 2011 to last year's "Farmer" ad featuring scenes of American farmland and a voiceover by conservative radio broadcaster Paul Harvey. Look for another surprising spot or two this year.
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