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$8.4m for 30 seconds: What to expect from this year's Super Bowl ads

During a polarised time, with the impeachment trial drawing to a close in Washington and the 2020 campaign at a fever pitch in Iowa, the commercials set to be shown during the year's most-watched television event are here to tell us that everything's going to be all right.

In one Super Bowl ad after another, Verizon, Sabra and other companies are emphasising — and celebrating — what Americans have in common beneath their differences.

Don't we all complain about the same things? Don't we all defy cultural stereotypes? And don't we all love hummus?

Those are some of the messages that will figure in the sunny portrait of a nation that will emerge from the more than 80 commercials scheduled to appear during the Super Bowl LIV broadcast on Fox, which is expected to attract an audience of roughly 100 million.

"We're at a moment in the country where it's important that we all contribute to things that unite as opposed to things that separate," said Diego Scotti, the chief marketing officer of Verizon. "It's a sensitive point — we're a big company and we have many, many customers, and our intention is in no way, shape or form to have a political message."

To fill advertising slots costing as much as a $US5.6 million ($8.4 million) for 30 seconds — a high — New York Life Insurance, Michelob and Snickers are among the brands with big-budget commercials showing a wide variety of Americans embracing their differences.

But politics cannot help but crash the annual TV party in a tense election year. President Donald Trump's reelection campaign has booked two 30-second commercials, and there will be a 60-second spot from Michael Bloomberg, the late-arriving Democratic presidential candidate who has set records for the amount spent on campaign advertising by dipping into his fortune to blanket television, radio and the internet with ads.

Another exception to the escapist fare is a spot on police shootings. Surprisingly, it comes from an organisation that has shied away from the issue: the National Football League. The spot shows the retired 49ers wide receiver Anquan Boldin reflecting on the 2015 death of his cousin, who was shot by a police officer, and it includes a dramatic re-enactment of the killing.

The commercial promotes the NFL's Inspire Change initiative, a social outreach program that the league has put together with Roc Nation, the entertainment company founded by Jay-Z. Colin Kaepernick — Boldin's onetime 49ers teammate — set off an uproar a year after the killing by kneeling during the national anthem to protest racism and police brutality. The NFL struggled with its response for years.

But the great majority of Super Bowl spots will be jaunty and optimistic. TurboTax has a commercial involving people of many races, genders, ages and walks of life dancing to a bounce-inflected earworm of a jingle, "All People Are Tax People."

The mood continues a trend toward tonally light commercials that became pronounced in 2018. In 2017, a year after Trump's inauguration, Budweiser and Coca-Cola, among other brands, touched on immigration, equal rights and fair pay.

A Bud Light Seltzer commercial scheduled for the Sunday broadcast posits that the brain of Post Malone — the pop star and songwriter known for melding disparate musical styles — is operated by a diverse group of technicians in a control room who all bear his distinctive tattoos.

The hummus maker Sabra cast two former contestants from "RuPaul's Drag Race," Kim Chi and Miz Cracker, making it possibly the first Super Bowl commercial to feature drag queens. One Million Moms, a conservative activist group that recently pushed the Hallmark Channel to pull ads featuring brides kissing each other, circulated a petition demanding that the Sabra spot be removed, to no avail.

The New York Times

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