If Super Bowl advertising is a mirror for pop culture, it appears that consumers long for the good ol' days — whenever that was.
This year, many Super Bowl advertisers are tapping into nostalgia with commercials and teasers that feature celebrities from the past, images of yesteryear and music that transports folks to another era.
"People who watch the Super Bowl want to escape — and looking back is very comforting," says Elayne Rapping, professor of American Studies at SUNY/Buffalo. Even if the past wasn't terrific, she says, memories are selective, "so you don't really remember it the way it was."
How some Super Bowl advertisers will grab for your attention with nostalgia:
• Embracing childhood. The Muppets may be the definition of nostalgia. On Tuesday, Toyota will announce that the Muppets will star in a 60-second Super Bowl spot in which actor Terry Crews picks them up in his Toyota Highlander after their bus breaks down. "Nostalgia gives you a reason to smile," explains Jack Hollis, Toyota's marketing VP.
• Bringing back Baywatch. VW on Tuesday rolls out its Super Bowl teaser spot with Carmen Electra, the former Baywatch babe, washing a VW Passat in a funny ad also loaded with elements of famous Super Bowl ads of the past.
• Filling up the house. Folks who remember the sitcom Full House will find a good chunk of the cast reunited in an ad for Dannon's Oikos yogurt, including John Stamos, Bob Saget and Dave Coulier.
• Channeling the '90s. Cool vibes from The Matrix spin through Kia's ad with actor Laurence Fishburne, who even brings back the red pill or blue pill bit from the 1999 hit movie.
• Reliving the '60s. The teaser for Butterfinger's Super Bowl spot has the parody look of a sex therapy session in the days of Dr. William Masters and Virginia Johnson.
• Reimagining our heroes. He's not showing up as the Terminator, but Arnold Schwarzenegger appears in Bud Light's Super Bowl teasers and a game ad as a ping-pong playing wild man.
• Putting gridiron icons in a new light. NFL stars from Mike Ditka to Terry Bradshaw to Deion Sanders will be singing and dancing in a Pepsi spot.
• Recalling your first (half)time. A Pepsi teaser ad features old-time football players — no face-guards — creating the first half-time when some cute girls show up with Pepsi.