Madison Avenue's 2013 Super Bowl efforts can be described in two words: eye candy.
That's not necessarily a good thing.
Thecommercials for Super Bowl 2013 are so overloaded with eye candy - sexymodels, too-cute kids, wacky animals, magical happenings and effects -that by the time folks take them all in, many viewers will feel likethey just swallowed the entire bag of Halloween candy in one sitting.
No room for the chips and dip.
That,of course, won't stop an estimated 111 million viewers from watchingmost of the 50-some TV spots from 30-some advertisers.
A newsurvey by Nielsen confirms that: 91% of consumers say they are asinterested in watching the commercials as the game itself. At roughly$3.8 million per 30-second spot, Super Bowl marketers are expected toeasily top last year's record of $262.5 million, reports Kantar Media.
And we will test them all on Sunday in the 25th Anniversary USA TODAY Ad Meter - a consumer rating of the game's ads - to see which ad tops them all.
Meanwhile, here are the top 10 trends to track as you watch the ads:
• Cars that empower. Maybeit's that new-car smell. Maybe it's the octane in the gasoline. Ormaybe it's just Madison Avenue hyperbole on the ad world's biggeststage.
There's something about new cars in this year's Super Bowlcommercials that seems to utterly embolden whoever is driving them - oreven just sitting in them - to do things they never would otherwise.
Takethe Audi spot. A high school kid goes dateless to the prom. Even hislittle sister pokes fun at him. But then his dad hands him the keys tothe Audi - the hot S6 performance model - and everything magicallychanges. He drives to prom and brazenly pulls into the schoolprincipal's parking spot. Once on the dance floor, he bravely kisses theprom queen - even with her boyfriend (prom king) watching. OK, it coststhe kid a black eye, but, heck, he drives off in his Audi with promqueen in tow.
In a Hyundai spot, a kid is moved to strategically take on the neighborhood bully.
Then, there's spunky VW. Its new commercial takes placein a dysfunctional office that has but a single, happy worker. Turnsout the key to his happiness also is the key to his VW. Turns out thathis happiness is contagious - so long as you sit with him in his VW.
• Sex still sells. Sex never gets old on the Super Bowl.
It just gets weird.
Advertisersare fully aware that the single simplest way to snatch the attention ofjaded male or female viewers is to show a sexy babe or dude. Or, inthis year's oddest version, show a supermodel passionately kissing acomputer geek.
That's what Go Daddy has in store, with Bar Refaeli, a former Sports Illustrated swimsuitmodel, puckering up with chunky, totally nerdy computer guy. The storyline: Go Daddy's found the perfect match of brains and beauty.
Theaction gets even rougher in Kia's spot, featuring a former Miss USA,Alyssa Campanella, who plays a sexy robot who plasters a car-gawkingdude - who leaves fingerprints on and kicks the tires of a new Forte -with a punch that sets him flying on his can.
Speed Stick gets into the act, too, with a guy at the laundromat whoaccidentally finds himself holding a cute stranger's yellow panties.
But the sexiest battle may be that of the Sports Illustratedswimsuit models. In one corner, there's Go Daddy's Refaeli. In theother, there's supermodel Kate Upton, appearing in the Mercedes-Benzcommercial as a hopeful dude's dream date.
Maybe next year, some savvy advertiser will coax Betty White into a bikini.
• Ads with and by you.There was a time when Madison Avenue utterly ruled on Super BowlSunday. The nation's biggest and most powerful advertisers andadvertising agencies used to publicly wrestle to display who could wowTV viewers by creating the one TV commercial that everyone would chatabout the next morning at the water cooler.
But in a social-mediaage, not only is the water cooler empty, but so is the notion thatconsumers will idly sit by and watch whatever the advertising kingpinshave to show them.
These days, many folks want to be hands-on.With an assist from the big agencies and advertisers, some people willcreate the ads that air Sunday - or, at the very least, choose to voteon which ads appear. This is a trend that Doritos began seven years agowith its "Crash the Super Bowl" platform that lets real people competeto create the ads that air based on online consumer voting. Once again,the chip brand has two consumer-created spots in Sunday's game.
Others, will have the chance to actually appear in - or even have their tweets included in - Super Bowl commercials. Lincoln is broadcasting a dramatizationof tweets consumers submitted about their wackiest road trips. AndCoca-Cola is urging fans to vote online to decide which of threecommercial endings it uses in its ad. The ending to the Audi ad also wasbased on consumer input. And Pepsi asked people to send their photos for possible inclusion.
• Celebrity swarms.It just wouldn't be a Super Bowl without a couple of dozencelebrities - from A- to C-list - parading in and out of thecommercials.
But this go-round there's a twist: celebrity swarms.That's right, ads with celebs showing up in teams of three or more.The hope: Amid the crowd and frenzy of Super Bowl advertisers, the rightcelebrity might actually catch your attention.
Mercedes-Benz will flaunt three celebs: supermodel Kate Upton, singer Usher and actor Willem Dafoe.
Subway,too, loads its Super Bowl spot with familiar celebrities and jocks,including spokesman Jared Vogel, superstar quarterback Robert GriffinIII and nearly a dozen other athletes.
Samsung's spot featurescomic actors Seth Rogen, Paul Rudd and Bob Odenkirk, all trying tofigure what the next "big thing" is. It turns out, at least in thiscommercial, that the next big thing is someone who is arguably already abig thing: LeBron James. And, of course, James has a cameo in the ad.
• Weird wildlife.There was a time when putting a puppy or cute kitty in a Super Bowlspot all but guaranteed instant payback. But Madison Avenue beingMadison Avenue, well, it's rarely satisfied with what actually works.
So this Super Bowl, it seems, the domesticated, furry critters areincreasingly being replaced by the undomesticated kind. Goodbye catsand dogs. Hello wolves, sabertoothed tigers, rhinos, cheetahs - andgazelles.
ASkechers spot features a guy in a pair of Skechers who manages tooutrun a cheetah in order to save the gazelle that the cheetah is eyeingfor dinner. And the sabertoothed tiger joins a family for breakfast inan offbeat Hyundai spot.
Don't rule out a real dinosaur showing up next year.
• Ads go long.At $3.8 million per 30-second slot, it might seem that cost-consciousSuper Bowl advertisers would all try to ram their messages into a verytight time-frame.
Not this go-round. This Super Bowl comes complete with at least two, two-minute commercials, and several full-minute spots.
Chryslerhas done it before. Its two-minute spots at halftime last yearfeatured Clint Eastwood and the year before had Eminem. The carmakeris believed to have at least one, two-minute commercial in this year'sgame, but is keeping mum.
Samsung, however, isn't keeping mum.Its two-minute spot, featuring three comic actors and LeBron James, isall about trying to call attention to its own coolness factor.
Whilethe arguments for two minutes in terms of prominence and story-tellingare compelling, the risks are huge. Two minutes is an enormous amountof time to capture and keep the attention of a generation moreaccustomed to 140-character tweets and five-second sound bites. While a30-second dud on the Super Bowl can be a yawn, a 120-second dud can be abrand buster.
• Put up your dukes. It might seem thatthere's nothing new about fists flying during the Super Bowl -particularly during the commercial breaks. After all, a fight is afight, right?
Not this year. Some of the biggerpunch-outs aren't about guys fighting guys, but about guys fighting wildanimals - and women beating up dudes. These are all staged slapstickfights, of course, aimed at luring frazzled viewers to give a look.
Inthe Kia spot the former Miss USA as a robot basically pulverizes theguy, while in Coke's commercial, a Las Vegas showgirl beats the pantsoff a motorcycle dude.
Things get even weirder in a couple ofspots that pit man against beast. If the Skechers ad isn't enough,there's the Axe ad in which a hunk of a lifeguard beats the be-jeebersout of a shark that is about to attack a bikini babe.
Are you watching, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals?
• Name that tune.Savvy advertisers know that on Super Bowl Sunday, it's not just whatviewers will see that matters, but also what they hear. While all thecommercial images can become a blur, the right music can turn heads.
Music, also, is generational. Marketers typically use it to hitthe target they want. On Super Bowl Sunday, it's at the most focused.While Volkswagen, for example, is using famous YouTube rants to appealto Millennials, it's also reaching out to Baby Boomers with a musicalnod to their past: The familiar theme song to the Partridge Family Come on Get Happy, re-created by reggae legend Jimmy Cliff.
Taco Bell, meanwhile, is setting its spot to music - but with aSpanish twist. The commercial, about ol' folks breaking out theretirement home for a night of romping, is a Spanish language version ofWe Are Young.
Pepsi, of course, has Beyonce singing at halftime. And then there'sWonderful Pistachios, which convinced YouTube sensation Psy to pen new,nut-worthy words to his Internet hit, Gangnam Style.
• Guys as goofballs. There was a time when the guys who showed up in Super Bowl commercials were as tough as the guys on the field.
That was followed by a far different time, when the guys in the Big Game spots became touchy-feely wimps.
Now we're in yet another era: guys as goofballs.
Anad for Pepsi Next focuses on a father who's apparently more concernedwith the calories in his soda than his kid's party that's destroying hishome. A Kia spot features a dad who mindlessly spins an absurd tale forhis kid who asked where babies come from. A Century 21 spot stars agroom who literally faints at the altar when he's told his mother-in-lawwill be moving in.
• Wishing and hoping. There's apparently a new way to make dreams come true in 2013: watch the Super Bowl ads.
Thetheme embraced by several advertisers is the notion of one's fondestwishes being granted - almost in fairy godmother-like style.
Toyotais doing it with its "Wish Granted" spot, featuring actress KaleyCuoco. In the ad, Cuoco tosses clouds of pixie dust that appear to makewishes come true.
Likewise, Taco Bell latches onto the trend, magically giving a groupof senior citizens a very special, youth-driven night out on the town -ending up, of course, at Taco Bell.
Then, in a couple of Bud Light spots, rabid fans reach out for a magic touch to help their teams win.
Butthe real wishing and hoping Sunday night will be on the part of everySuper Bowl advertiser who wants to achieve lightning in a bottle.
But faster than you can say poof, most will disappear.
The roster of Super Bowl advertisers:
Anheuser-Busch InBev: Beck's serenade
Anheuser-Busch InBev: Black Crown coronation
Anheuser-Busch InBev: Black Crown celebration
Anheuser-Busch InBev: Bud Light journey
Anheuser-Busch InBev: Bud Light chair
Anheuser-Busch InBev: Budweiser Clydesdales
Audi: Prom-goer in dad's Audi
Axe (Unilever): Girl goes for astronaut
Best Buy: Amy Poehler seeks help
Blackberry (RIM): Blackberry 10 phone
Calvin Klein: Man vs. Machine
Cars.com: No stress car buying
Century 21: Groom faints at wedding
Coca-Cola: Who gets to Coke oasis?
Doritos: First consumer ad winner
Doritos: Second consumer ad winner
E-Trade: E-Trade baby returns
Gildan Activewear: Guy wants his t-shirt
GoDaddy: Model kisses geek
GoDaddy: Danica Patrick is pilot 30
Hyundai: Epic play date
Hyundai: Boy takes on bullies
Hyundai: Sonata turbo passes
Kia: Where babies come from
Kia: Robot woman gets tough
Lincoln (Ford): Wacky road trip
M&Ms (Mars): M&Ms sing
Mercedes-Benz: Kate Upton
Milk Processors Education Program: "The Rock" hunts for milk
Mio (Kraft): Change is good
National Football League: Players thank fans
Oreo: Cookie debate
Paramount Pictures: "Star Trek Into Darkness"
Pepsi: Party with Pepsi Next
Pepsi: Halftime introduction
Samsung Mobile: Seth Rogen, Paul Rudd
Skechers: Guy outruns cheetah
SodaStream: Soda bottles explode
Speed Stick: Guy folds panties
Subway: Jocks congratulate Jared
Taco Bell: Seniors night out
Tide (Procter & Gamble): Both teams featured
Toyota: Kaley Cuoco grants wishes
Volkswagen: Happy office worker
Walt Disney "Iron Man 3"
Walt Disney: "Lone Ranger"
Walt Disney: "Oz"
Wonderful Pistachios "Gangnam Style" star Psy