It’s Super Bowl time. Along with the Eagles and the Patriots going head to head, the Puppy Bowl and parties across the country, advertisers will again be debuting some of their biggest-budget, most over-the-top commercials and duking it out for this mammoth audience’s attention and dollars.
Historically, this audience has been predominately 18- to 49-year-olds, and the commercials, like all advertising, have reflected this viewership. However, the advertising zeitgeist in this country has undergone a pretty sizable shift as a significant percentage of the U.S. population has started collecting Social Security benefits. Commercials are now featuring older actors along with subject matter that jabs at and resonates with this generation.
Last year Peter Fonda made a resurgence onscreen driving a hot little Mercedes Benz sportster, instead of his classic “Easy Rider” Harley chopper. Peeling off down Route 66 to the strains of “Born to Be Wild,” he flashed a peace sign to the audience who still fancied themselves rebels, but who could now afford to take a ride on the wild side in a Mercedes.
While many of these senior-targeted commercials show seniors destroying stereotypes, some cleverly use these same stereotypes to get a laugh from both young and old alike (we seniors have absolutely no problem laughing at ourselves). Take the 2013 Chevy Cruze ECO spot, for example. When a group of seniors in a retirement community are watching a commercial for this car, none of them can quite make out what the announcer is saying at the end. “42 miles per gallon” becomes “42 wild Italians,” “Eco” turns into “eagle,” and one of them thinks the commercial is about a “cruise for plus-sized individuals.” At the end, one of the curmudgeons chides a young aide with a “Who asked you?!” for telling them what the announcer is actually saying.
And then there’s the hilarious Snickers commercial that was named by USA Today as the most popular Super Bowl ad of 2010. In this spot, a group of millennial guys are playing a rough game of pickup football on a very muddy field. Betty White appears as one of the players and is quickly tackled to the ground. When one of her teammates tells her that she’s “playing like Betty White out there!”, she humorously responds, “That’s not what your girlfriend says!” Ba-dum-bump-tss! By eating a Snickers bar, White turns into a millennial guy again. The commercial ends with the late character actor, Abe Vigoda, being slammed to the ground.